In those nerve-wracking few days between my diagnosis and my surgery, I announced to my husband, “We need a pastor—and I don’t mean you!”
I think he could tell by the distraught look on my face that I was serious, so he called our good friend David Dunn, pastor of a sister church in a nearby town.
In my mind’s eye I can still see the moment David and his wife Carolyn walked into our family room. David headed straight for Ralph and Carolyn moved toward me. Her extended arms enveloped me in a warm embrace as I lay my head on her shoulder and released my soul-aching sobs.
I can’t tell you how long the four of us stood there huddled with only wordless weeping. David and Carolyn did not try to cheer us up in their delightful Maine accents. They did not quote any of the hundreds of Bible verses they knew so well. Neither shared any wisdom garnered from living longer on this earth than either my husband or I had.
Instead…they felt our pain. Their embraces spoke volumes to us: we love you and we are here holding you up as long as you need us.
I count that as my first lesson in learning how to be a patient advocate and walk with a friend in the dark.
My friend Ken says the presence of a friend usually meant much more to him than the words of a friend when
he was facing a diagnosis of tongue cancer many years ago.
His advice to friends and family of patients facing serious illness is to “just BE!”
“Be a friend,” he says, “Be a shoulder. Be a hugger. Be an asset. Please just BE there and God will BE there. If you do this, you will BE the giver of the greatest gift a suffering friend needs—presence without fixing; love without agenda,” he adds.
Helen Keller walked in the dark from the age of 19 months when an illness struck her blind, deaf and dumb.
She later did learn to speak, but lived the rest of her nearly 88 years without benefit of sight or hearing. Still Helen prized friendship so much that she thought it preferable to be blind and have true friends, than be sighted and have none.
Won’t you pray today for God to send true friends into your life? Whether you are the patient or the caregiver, resist the urge to go it alone. You need a loyal friend who will love you regardless of your situation. Swallow your pride and allow people the privilege of walking with you in the dark.
And if you are the caregiver for someone facing a life trial, won’t you please pray to be the kind of friend who offers your presence as the most important gift? Don’t be concerned that you might not know what to say to your hurting friend or family member. Your actions will say much more than your words as Proverbs 17:7 makes clear:
A true friend loves regardless of the situation,
and a real brother exists to share the tough times. (The Voice Bible)
Friends love through all kinds of weather,
and families stick together in all kinds of trouble. (The Message Bible paraphrase)
And never forget that God longs to walk with you in the dark and empower you for your journey.
You light a lamp for me.
The Lord, my God, lights up my darkness.
In your strength I can crush an army;
with my God I can scale any wall.
Psalm 18:28-29 New Living Translation
Excerpted from Peace in the Face of Cancer, copyright 2017 by Lynn Eib
View in your browser to be able to hear the music video below “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” by Matt Maher