When a friend is dying

There can be no words to describe the feelings that accompany the sense of impending loss when a close friend is terminally ill. Logically you know that they are here now, and will not be very soon, but it can be difficult to accommodate this knowledge at a deeper place. The more mundane side of offering support to close family members, such as providing practical help in the home, or pre-prepared meals, can act as a focus while the loved one is struggling to survive their last few days or weeks. But this can really only ever be a buffer to what we know we have soon to face. This person who has played such an important role in our life, is going to leave us shortly, and we are powerless to prevent this.

Thoughts of our own mortality loom. No one is exempt from dying. We have known other people who have moved on in the past. This wonderful person that we know and love is only facing what one day we will all have to face. But the pain of trying to imagine a world where they no longer feature is impossible to bear, and difficult to imagine. 

Sitting with this friend, in quiet and loving moments, is a privilege that not everyone gets to experience. Their family members have allowed us time to share just with each other. We talk of times we have laughed and cried together, of how we have valued our friendship and what it has meant to us, and perhaps of certain requests that have been entrusted to us for the future after they have gone. There is a sense of time slipping away, and of moments needing to be appreciated. And herein lies the pot of gold.

It is not about the past, it is not about what the future holds, it is about the two of us now, in these precious moments, doing what we have always done - being at one together, without the need for words. Our friendship transcends the limitations of spoken language. We will leave this place, not so much recalling the last words that passed between us, but remembering the powerful sense of love and friendship that has helped to shape who we now are. So when we visit, perhaps for the last time, we can hold to this thought, knowing that this treasured friend has enriched our life in unspoken ways, and in letting them move on, we carry them always with us in our heart.

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Written by Noëlle Rorke Dip Couns/Coach MBACP BEd Offering Online Counselling

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