Relive your Memories
Since starting to write about my cancer journey I have met several people who have had to face journeys of their own, for most of them their journey has been in the form of supporting someone they love to fight their cancer battle. I am often asked to keep people’s loved ones in my thoughts and prayers. But what does that look like, “keep them in your thoughts and prayers?” Does it mean that everyone holds out for a miracle? No, at least not from where I stand.
I am a praying person so, at the precise moment of being asked to say a prayer for whoever is suffering, I do just that, I say a prayer. I also say a special little prayer of peace and comfort for the person asking me to pray. That person, after all, is obviously in turmoil right alongside their loved one.
But what happens if the person who needs the prayers is nearing their end of life? I thought about that today as I heard from four different people in the past 24 hours with their request for prayers of gravely ill people. What first came to mind in each of these situations was one word – memories.
When the end of life is near there is no time for bucket lists or last-minute this or that. There is only time to relive memories and relish in the moments you all have left. Sugar coating or avoiding the inevitable will do no good and will likely steal your last chance at real, meaningful conversation with your loved one. They know their time is near and they need you to be real and honest. Your loved one needs you present and focused on what matters – memories. That is all you will have to hold on to when they are gone.
I don’t know what it is like yet to hear the words hospice in regard to my diagnosis. And I don’t know what my thoughts will be when I only have days left to live. But I do know what it is like to be gravely ill and when I was, all I could do was think. I thought about my family, my friends, what made me happy, what I thought I would miss if I were gone. I thought about memories.
I know from that place of incredible sickness there is a desire to find peace and stop the pain. An absolute intrinsic need to simply rest in whatever form that "rest" means. And I also know that more than anything else I wanted my family and friends to remember me if I died. I wanted to know they thought good of me and held fond thoughts. I wanted to have a sense that my time had mattered for them. There was no arrogance or ego on my part I just simply wanted to know that I had worth.
So to those who are facing the last days with their loved ones I will say to you, relive your memories with your loved one. Relish in the moments you all have left. Remind them of how happy your life has been with them in it; the fun you recall and the moments big or small that you will always hold dear. They don’t need to hear about how to “keep fighting” and how “you got this”. They need to know that they have not failed because cancer has ravished their body beyond what they can fight. They need to know they have made an impact here and that it is OK to move on. They need reassurance that they fought hard and no one expects them to do the impossible.
What cancer patients need when faced with horrible circumstances is hope, encouragement, honesty, love and above all, acceptance of the reality of their situation as it is, not as you want it to be.