One of the most important elements that make up the spectrum of friendship characteristics is ‘helping each other out’.
This is on my mind today because I saw one of the saddest sights of my life this afternoon. D, the friend who died last week, was in many ways a very private person, even to her closest friends. I am a friend by association so I was not very close to her, although we did have some deep conversations over the years. M, who I am closer to, was D’s best friend and until today was the only person in D’s entire circle of friends who had ever been inside her house; and that had only happened during D’s last weeks when it was obvious that the end was near.
D claimed the house was messy and she was embarrassed to let anyone see it, even M. I accepted that explanation for a long time and wrote it off to the possibility that D was just easily embarrassed by things. This situation, however, is far more complicated than that. The only house I have ever seen that was in more deplorable shape than this one was my sister’s house after three weeks of sitting in ten feet of Hurricane Katrina flood waters during 90-degree heat. D’s house was almost as bad as the houses in that TV show about hoarders. Stuff piled on top of stuff piled on top of nearly every flat surface; three bathrooms, each without a working toilet; food in cabinets with expiration dates from 2005; dirty dishes in the sink, dishwasher and piled up in a corner of the dining room. That’s just the inside; the exterior has peeling paint and a few missing siding pieces.
My house is pretty messy so I will not criticize anyone for an unkempt abode, but this was far worse than merely unkempt. Reasons? Part of it seems to be that she just didn’t consider most of this to be a priority. She was busy with work and with her main non-work passion. Then her cancer returned. She seems to have been in denial about the effects of her illness and let things get further out of control. As her health deteriorated, she was less able to do even the simplest things, including replacing burned out light bulbs and washing the dishes. Cleaning the cat litter box appears to have also been a challenge.
She experienced physically debilitating problems for several months before her eventual hospital stay but never once asked anyone for help. The four people in her closest circle would have dropped everything to help her. Each offered many times. She never accepted help nor did she ever ask for help till the very end. Even then, she asked for very little and continued to hide the serious nature of what she was going through.
I usually try to find a learning opportunity in difficult situations and the one I found here is this: ask for help. If you have friends, and you need help, just ask. If you are the kind of person who will give help, do that too. There is a cosmic, perhaps holy balance in giving help and receiving help.
To add one more thing for my close friends who read this blog: if you need my help, ask. I will be there for you. You know that already but I reinforce it here. And you have often said the same to me and you know I am often reluctant to ask you for help. Not after seeing this. I know you are there for me too and one day I will take you up on your offer.