How do you help someone who is going through probably the roughest time of her life? What can you say to lift their spirits? To make them smile? To tell them, in all honesty that, while you don’t really understand how they feel, you want to try. And then, what can you do to try to really empathize with them? So your words aren’t an empty, “call me if you need anything.” Is it possible to even try to help take away someone’s suffering?
My friend, Joan, has cancer. I hate cancer. It’s cruel and selfish. It takes what it wants and doesn’t care who it hurts. But, with my friend, Joan, it picked the wrong person. She isn’t cruel and she isn’t selfish. I was trying to think about how long I have known her. It’s’ just been a long time, since our kids were really young. This girl is the smartest and funniest woman I know, with a wit that is fast and sharp. She sees puns everywhere. Even in her pain, she sent me a picture of something she found on an invitation, showing me the pun. Always searching for the happy side of things, the humor in life. And, she finds it.
Joan has taught me so much. She has been an amazing example to me of being a good mother and wife, of putting in the extra time to make a homemade meal instead of cheating and getting it pre-packaged. Of not being afraid to work hard and pay your dues. She is a nurse, both a physical and a spiritual nurse. There was a time when she helped me nurse my wounds after I was hurt through gossip and the choices of others. Her counsel was witty and honest. For a long time we shared scriptures, quotes from famous scholars, and my favorite, Shakespeare passages. One summer, Joan taught my kids how to play tennis. It was a blessing for my children to get to know her on that level. She was patient and encouraging, positive and fun. It was a great experience for them.
I believe people come into our lives for a reason. I knew Joan in high school and even had her brother for my English teacher. But it wasn’t until she moved into our neighborhood and we became friends that I really got to know her. She has taught me a lot. She has been an example to me of how to be patient when things are tough. How to see the humor in every situation, because at the heart of it all, there is humor. How to make really good Jell-O when you’re pressed for time. How to be yourself even though other people might not agree. How to support your husband in his church assignments, even though it might be a sacrifice at home. How to really love the Lord and be humble before him. We have helped each other through some tough days and tried to see the silver lining. Something we used to talk about a lot was “it will all come out in the wash.” It’s funny how that is actually true. She is an example of how to be an amazing daughter; the way she has taken care of her elderly mother is truly an example of charity and love.
Right before Thanksgiving, we went on a small adventure to the local drive-in in a neighboring town where we both are from. It’s called Kirt’s and they still have car hops there. As we sat there on that warm November day and enjoyed milkshakes and onion rings, I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for this woman, my friend. Even though I know she was in pain, she was all smiles. We even went on a little shopping jaunt to Smith & Edwards for some penny candy and kitchen gadgets. I watched her tear around the store on her crutches like she owned the place and I knew this thing called cancer was not going to get the best of her.
Like is always the case with Joan, she asked about my kids, about me and my husband. She genuinely wanted to know. She told me of her triumphs, even small ones, and beamed when telling me about her children, husband, and missionary son. She glowed brightly as she shared stories of her faith with me. It was a time to be cherished. She taught me so much that afternoon, just like she always has, but this time it was special because I knew she was going through a lot. To still be able to take the time to inquire about others is one of her gifts. I felt her love for me through her smile, through her excitement at seeing the fancy gadgets to cut a pineapple into the perfect ring, and as we rifled through the penny candy and loaded up our shopping cart. It is a day I will always treasure.
This is what I mean when I say, how can you help someone who is suffering, when, in spending time with them, they help you in your own suffering? In trying to cheer up my friend, I was the one who probably benefited the most. This is what it’s like to be a light to the world. To be able to be kind, generous, patient, uncomplaining, happy, and even funny, even when faced with adversity. To all who know her, I know you will agree. Joan is a strong lady. She is noble and honest, faithful, true, and loyal. If you tell her something in confidence, she won’t share it with anyone else. She is fearless and grateful. Happy and hilarious. Possessing charity and compassion, wisdom and grace. She is my friend. I am blessed because she is my friend.
I know God is a God of miracles, that his promises are sure. That when we are humble and ask with sincerity and real intent, he answers our prayers. When we bend our will to his, we are blessed. I know that God knows best. After all, he is our Heavenly Father. I know that Jesus Christ is God’s literal son, that he is our Savior and that through him we can live eternally, forever with our families. I know that faith in God and Christ can make miracles occur. I know that if a miracle is what is best for us, then we will get the miracle after much fasting and prayer. My prayer is that my friend will have miracles. A miracle of healing, a miracle of no more pain, and a miracle of a speedy and full recovery.
If there is anyone on this planet strong enough to go through what she is facing, it is Joan. She is one tough lady and cancer should never have even thought about messing with her. She is an inspiration to all who know her. She can beat this and then what will cancer have to say for itself? It will say, “never mess with Joan—she kicked my butt!”
To all who have or have had cancer or loved someone with cancer, I know you understand. Prayers for all of you and prayers for a cure. I’m sure one day soon there will be one. Until then, let’s get this thing done! Cancer, get out of the way! Didn’t you hear? My friend Joan is in town.
Click and watch the music video below. This one is dedicated to you, Joan. Love, Gean