Cancer had systematically taken all the color and freckles out of her skin. Chemo left behind only small and thin traces of her thick flowing red hair in its path of destruction.
I held my head in my hands as I saw a beautiful friend reduced to a brittle shell of a physical body.
Our Father… Hail Mary… Please God, don’t take her. If you must, then I will understand. Our Father… Hail Mary… Our Father… Hail Mary…
A nurse entered the room and gently fumbled with the variety of tubes and wires that draped her patient’s body.
The activity stirred Tammy. She fought through her exhaustion and struggled to focus her eyes on the person at the end of her bed.
In a barely audible but obviously surprised voice she acknowledged me, “Peeeete. Hiiii.”
Tammy told the nurse, who was emptying syringes of pain and anti-nausea medicine into an IV line, “This is my friend, Pete. We go way back.”
“Really? Any good stories to tell?,” she asked.
I replied, “Oh, I’ve got plenty, but you don’t have enough time to hear them all.”
Tammy looked at me and worked out a smile. Although she didn’t have the strength, I could hear her laughing on the inside.
In that brief moment, the time it takes to form a smile, there was no pain in Tammy’s life or in mine. I was flooded with images and memories of those good stories, those times when we were “lost” friends in high school, the young-adult times when we we thought we knew everything.
I’m pretty sure Tammy experienced the same thing, the same memories, the same Spirit of Love for a friend. Her eyes told me so. It was just a moment – one that could have been easy to overlook.
My hands returned to hold my head and I fought hard to conceal the tears that were forming.
As a team of healthcare workers began to do their rounds and check on Tammy, I realized my calling to see her that day had been answered.
That calling? Be a friend. Be not a doctor. Be not a deliverer of bad news. Be someone who can make her smile, even if only for a moment.
I approached Tammy’s bedside and told her I was going to leave. I started to get emotional and she asked me, “Pete, are you going to be okay?”
Once again, she was worried about the well-being of someone else while she is fighting the toughest battle of her life.
She stretched out her arms to hug me and I returned her generosity.
“I love you, Tammy. We all love you. Just keep on fighting, okay.”
“Aww. I love you too, Petey. Thanks so much for coming to see me. Are you sure you’re going to be okay?”
Cancer and chemo are destroying my friend’s physical body. However, nothing will destroy her Spirit of Love.
I ask you to please give someone a moment of your time. It’s not a lot to ask – just a moment. You may never know how much of an impact that your genuine smile, your how-are-you email, or your warm hug can help someone through a dark period.
Be the Spirit of Love you want to see in the world.
Be Kind. Be Thankful. Be Significant.
image credit: slideshare.net