Learning to sit with the unknown is a practice I have yet to master
“My dad passed away from cancer and it was so incredibly hard.” This was the response given to my husband and I at a recent party when he mentioned that he’s currently going through chemotherapy. Completely appalled at hearing this, I had to stop myself from literally stepping in between my husband and this man to create some sort of barrier of protection. But the words were already said. The unwelcome reminder of the worst possible outcome hung in the air, helplessly and regretfully. The recovery was quick and, of course, the desired intent was one of care but it was another example of things better left unsaid that my husband has had to contend with over the past year and half.
As it happens, Kurt takes these comments with a tremendous amount of grace. He rationalizes that he knows the statistics and understands that people are just sharing. I, as the comparative dramatic in the relationship, am the most freaked out by it. He is handling the reemergence of this cancer, which has now moved into early Stage 4, with a level of humor and mental fortitude that leaves me in awe. No one looking at him would know what he is going through. He doesn’t look like he has cancer, whatever that is supposed to mean. Hearing the word cancer still feels fresh and shocking, despite the time we’ve had to sit with it. He is scared. I am scared. He is angry. I am angry. This is all ok.
I do know what people mean when they share these stories. They’re trying to reach out in solidarity. It’s an attempt to make the shock of difficult news more palatable. I get it because I’m pretty sure I’ve done it too. The thing is, intention doesn’t actually mean all that much if the impact is damaging. Hearing your biggest fears articulated back to you in the form of a cancer that actually killed someone you love is not helpful information at this time, thank you kindly. As my husband says to me (in the voice of Sir Robert Crawley) when he’s done listening to some request I have for him “good day to you!” And then when I keep going, as I do…. “I SAID GOOD DAY!”
We tend to be so incredibly awkward around the mention of illness, struggle, or death that we often end up blurting out the wrong thing in an effort to fill the space. Sometimes the focus is an attempt at sage wisdom by way of bringing up…