My best friend is sick. Not a little sick. Really, really sick.
It started about six weeks ago. She'd been sick for about two weeks before I even knew she was struggling. Part of that was because she is a private person and didn't really let anyone know. Part of it was because I was pretty sick at the time. And part of it is because I take her health for granted.
Two months ago she was the healthiest person I knew. She's a little older than me, but much healthier. She had more energy. She was a doer. She was always on the go, ate well, never got sick. I just assumed I hadn't heard from her because she was busy. And I was too miserable to worry about anyone else.
Then I found out she was sick. That kind of rocked my world. She doesn't get sick; how is this possible?
I was on my way out of an illness. I tried to check on her every day, calling or visiting. Little by little she got worse. She lives alone so there was no one there to monitor every day at first. As we realized this was for the long haul, her friends started stepping in. Weeding her garden. Doing her shopping. Washing her dishes. Cleaning her house. Preparing her meals. It was a beautiful chorus of service. All of us doing what we could to help.
I did a little. I wanted to do more. I wanted to move in and take care of her. But that wasn't possible. I wasn't well enough and it wasn't what she wanted.
Another friend did step up and take over the lion's share of the load. I will be forever grateful to her for that. She gave with her whole heart and soul to a woman I love as dearly as if she were my own sister. Every act of service she performed felt like it was for me, because she was doing for my friend what I couldn't.
My best friend continued to decline. She doesn't believe in traditional western medicine and was taking a more natural approach. It was difficult to watch her not heal faster and respect her feelings on her care. She was hurting a lot. Swollen. Sleeping 20 hours a day. Losing her appetite. Losing weight. Severely fatigued. It broke my heart to see her because she was so altered.
Then she started to improve. For a couple of weeks she seemed to be getting better. The pain and swelling went away. She was able to move easier. As gradual as it was, it seemed to be getting better. And we continued to respect her desires for her care. (There were some who tried to convince her to see a doctor, but those of us closest to her supported her. Out of love and the belief that she has the right to choose for herself.)
But last week she took a turn for the worse. An obvious downturn. And it was scary. And when it got to a certain point, the person she sees for her healing told her it was time to consult a doctor. The doctor told her she needed IV fluids and lots of tests, but she could choose to do them on an outpatient basis or be admitted to the hospital. The decision was hers. She chose to be admitted.
So I have spent the last two days in and out of the hospital. Helping her get admitted and settled. Speaking on her behalf because it's just so hard for her. And trying to comfort her, if only with my presence in the room.
And the feeling I am overwhelmed with is gratitude. I am so grateful that I am not that sick. I am so grateful that her caretaker was humble enough to ask for help. I am so grateful she was willing to take a new direction, one that was so hard for her, and that the decision was hers. I am so grateful for all the people who have helped her every step of the way. I am grateful that all the medical personnel now involved have been respectful of her choices up to this point, never chastising her for waiting to involve traditional medicine.
But the thing I am the most grateful for is that I am well now. I couldn't be there in the beginning and not much in the middle, but I can be there now. When it's the darkest. My health and life are allowing me to spend hours and hours by her bedside or running her errands. My family supports me and hasn't complained of my absence once. I get to be with my friend. The way I want to be.
And she is improving. I am so, so grateful for that. I will never take her for granted again.