Several years ago one of my husband’s best friends died. Cancer. I vividly remember the evening he (the friend) told my husband and I about his diagnosis. I remember visiting the friend in the hospital after his first surgery, and I remember many of the tasks both my husband and I did to try to help and support this person.

I also remember many of the feelings I had at various points during the friend’s illness. Frustration, irritation, and impatience were only a few among them. I helped the friend from time to time; but I could have done more. I took care of some tactical items for him; but I wasn’t always the best at the emotional side of things. I provided quite a lot of strength when it was clear to me that someone needed to step up; but it would have been helpful if I also shared compassion.

Now, please don’t misunderstand. I wasn’t heartless; but I was assertive. Firm. Blunt. And sometimes, that’s exactly what is needed. But at other times, a soft shoulder and tight lips are best. Overall I think I offered too much of the former, and not enough of the latter.

It’s been four? five? years since our friend died – and I still think about him. In the time from then to now, I have done a lot of personal work, and parts of me have changed – some deeply and profoundly. Intellectually, I now understand that I did the best I could at the time of our friend’s illness; that if I had known a better way those many years ago, I would have done better. I learned all of this intellectually, but emotionally I still carried quite a bit of guilt and remorse around with me.

This morning, I was putting away the notes that were re-discovered in the big basement clean-up from last week. I’m not a collector of stuff, but there are a few mementos I have retained over the years that I do hold dear. I opened the bag that holds these treasures, and as I started to put last week’s notes into the sack, I saw a card from the friend I described above.

I opened the card, and re-read it. And though the message was brief – just a few sentences – I finally understood the meaning embedded with the words that were written. Our friend knew me better than I knew myself; and in the card he wrote me, he let me know that he got it. He knew that I was just as confused as he was. That I was struggling like he was. That I was hurting, and was doing the best I could – even if my “best” didn’t always look so good. He got it. He understood. And in the note, he forgave me.

Now, in his lifetime, our friend was a big fan of subtlety, nuance, and implication. It’s one of the things that frustrated me about him; I told him on more than one occasion to just “Say what you mean already!” But that wasn’t his way. He liked the gray, the shadows, the hints. The card I held in my hand was the only one he ever wrote me; and now I know why. He knew that I wouldn’t be able to really hear what he had to say before he died; but when I was ready, he wanted to make sure I got his message. So he wrote me this note, confident that one day, I would “get it”.

That day is today. This morning, I randomly encountered his card – and my heart was ready.

My friend forgave me. And this morning, *I* forgave me.

And damn if that isn’t the most amazing experience I could ever hope to have.

Thanks friend.



About Stef

A "serious" gal who is trying to remember to lighten up and smile.
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4 Responses to Dissolve

  1. Touch2Touch says:

    It’s clear to someone “outside” reading this wonderful narrative that the friend’s death has been at work in you all this time, that a seed was planted back then which has been growing and growing ever since because you allowed it to, wanted it to, carried and encouraged it, all subterranean.
    “Finding” the note, then, was the unexpected flowering, and what a wonderful flower, a beautiful gift to the unwitting gardener!
    “The full meaning of anything is not released in the present moment –”
    A very wise man, a monk, once told me that. I believed him then, and years later I know it’s true.


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