We hadn’t seen one another or spoken in quite a while so a year and a half ago we set up a lunch date to reconnect. When he walked into the restaurant he was noticeably thinner. But those friendly, smiling eyes were unmistakable. He was inquisitive and began by asking all about me, my life and family.
Then we shifted to him. He shared that shortly after his mother and brother passed away, he fainted at work and hence began a daunting series of paperwork, lab tests, appointments and phone calls. He had been diagnosed with stage 4 appendix cancer and chose not to pursue surgery. I remained empathetic, silent, and asked what support he needed. The response was; hope, presence, love and an ear. It’s hard to conceive the unimaginable courage to make and/or not make such a complex decision. At the end of our lunch I inquired if he was absolutely certain. I don’t recall the answer, but wondered if the question would linger with him.
I had an upcoming trip to South East Asia for an MBA class and shared I would pray for him at every mosque, temple and prayer wheel I encountered. I climbed the 272 steps to the highest temple at Batu Caves and offered intentions for my friend. The flower and medallions were given to me by a Hindi priest, one for Mike, the other for myself. Right before my traveling, he found out about a rare treatment called HIPEC, that was available and upon my return learned he was eligible. The surgery was the beginning of a valiant journey.
He was balancing tending to the needs of his 85-year-old father, while learning how to take care of himself and the test of time was not easy. He didn’t want to always talk about the cancer, or the fight, or time. He was growing weary and it was teaching us the importance of being fully present and accepting. We had so many meaningful discussions those last few months and sometimes, we just sat in comfortable silence.
When a person is not well, it seems perplexing to wonder: Why is it hard for so many individuals to ask for help? We can tell that they need and want people to step forward, yet they hesitate to solicit or allow support out of shame or fear of being a burden, appearing weak and helpless.
But I’d like to submit there is a different lens through which we should see.
We need others and asking for help is healthy, takes courage, and is a way to take care of ourselves. Showing up gives us the gift of humility and teaches the valuable lesson that its okay to be imperfect. It is human, and builds community because it brings people together. That is a beautiful thing.
Perhaps it doesn’t occur to us that asking for help is a gift to the person being asked. So why does it seem easier to give than to seek help?
My time with Mike was a treasure and we learned different life lessons from one another. I miss him, but I celebrate his life by carrying his memory in my heart because we talked about it. It is what he wanted, and that is a good thing.
So I leave you with this question and ask you to comment below. Do you know someone or have you been in a position such as this? What does it take for you to ask for help and how does that play into “taking care” of yourself? Please share.
Written in response to The Daily Prompt: Take Care “When you’re unwell, do you allow others to take care of you, or do you prefer to soldier on alone? What does it take for you to ask for help? Photographers, artists, poets: show us HELP.”