Friday, December 16, 2016

The best we can

I was visiting with a friend recently. Her husband died not too long ago and she was planning his memorial. She asked me to help, knowing I had to do the same for Kevin. She wanted to keep it small so we were talking about whom she might invite.

"What about so-and-so?" I asked.
"No, I don't want her there," she replied with real vitriol. I was surprised, last I knew they had been close.
"Why not? What happened?"
"When my husband was sick she never called to see how he was doing. Alright, she called a few times but not very often. And then when I posted on Facebook that he had died she liked the post. She didn't tell me she was sorry."

I didn't know what to say. I know the friend to be a considerate person so I was sure she had done the best she could, that she probably was at a loss for what to say or do. This seemed like a small thing to provoke such anger. Then I remembered how crazy I was when Kevin was sick and shortly after his death. The small things that cut me, things that now I wouldn't even notice or could at least laugh off.

I kept my mouth shut and we continued planning.

As I've thought about it since I am reminded of one of my life's truths, one that is easy to forget.
We all are doing the best we can, most of the time anyway.

My friend was so raw, in so much pain, that everything was magnified. I remember feeling that way. I remember being racked with guilt because I chose to spend a night at home instead of in the hospital with him, even though I desperately needed the rest. I remember seeing snuggly couples and being enraged that they held hands in my sight, because I was never going to be able to hold Kevin's hand again. I remember trying desperately to control everything I could because the thing I most cared about in the world was entirely out of my control. I remember being that raw and in that much pain. Everything hurt and I was hungry for some way to direct it. I did the best I could to be sane but I know I wasn't, just as my friend has been doing.

And I remember being that person (though not as much in recent years) who didn't know what to do, so did nothing by default. It wasn't that I didn't care, I wasn't concerned and wishing I could help, but that I felt unable to do anything constructive, so I figured they would ask if they needed anything, and I was silent. Now I know, of course, that reaching out and admiting my concern and inability would have been far better, but at the time, withdrawing seemed like the best thing to do. I did the best I could, just as my friend's friend did.

When Kevin was diagosed and later died I was acutely aware of people struggling with how to help. Some people disappeared, reappearing later when it seemed as though I was through the worst. I assume they were frightened and didn't know what to do. It helped me to remember that I have been frightened and unsure, too. Others were present and giving. Sometimes this was enough. Other times I just wanted to scream at them. They did the best they could and were loving enough to forgive me when I snapped. They were doing the best they could. I did the best I could, too.

It's certainly not always enough, not always the right thing, but I think most of the time most of us do the best we can. We often just don't know what to do and we are afraid. If someone you care about is having a rough time, letting them know you are there even if you don't know what to do might mean the world to them. And if you are the one in pain, when you come back to yourself try to remember that those around you did the best they could, even if it wasn't enough.

As we move through the end of this year and into the next, I hope we can remember that we are each trying as hard as we can. We are trying to be kind, compassionate, present, aware; we will succeed and fail every day. All we can do is try again and recognize the effort when we see it.

(c)2016 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

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True Stories, Honest Lies by Laura S. Packer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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