I haven’t been fully open with my readership about what is happening with me this summer, but today I am going to open the curtains and tell people where I am.
I am refusing to turn away from a friend who has a brain tumor.
I flew across the country on short notice, and I am here for two months, not just to support, but to witness.
I’m making a conscious choice to look at her, and to see what happens.
Many people turn away, because they are afraid of what they will see when their friend is sick. Many turn their backs, because their grief terrifies them.
My fear and grief does terrify me. There have been nights recently where I have been paralyzed with my fear. Where all I can do is cry into my pillow.
All I can do is let my tears fall, and face the scary dragon of death.
I lost my father to AIDS – and all I can think about these days is how he died. In many ways, I am grateful for the grace and honor with which he chose to die. He was not swallowed by his illness.
I hope that with looking at my friend, my family, and without turning away that I can face not only the future with bravery, but to face my past.
In some ways, this has made me feel grateful. It has made me struggle to hold my head up, and discover that i can tread the water of fear. I won’t drown.
I made a choice. A very important choice.
I made the choice to look. To witness. To BE there. I made a choice to not run away when it was easy. Not to abandon my family. Even if we’re not bound by blood, we’re bound by the ties of kindness, of community, and now we are tied together in this challenge. We’re challenged to face up to mortality.
So for the next few months, I’ll be taking photos of my friend, I’ll be writing about what it is like for me to look, and to witness, and to participate in the healing.
I’m asking my readership to look on with me, to witness with me. Because now I’m reporting the story of what it means to face up to your fears and to truly stand next to someone you care about during something you may not be able to face.
We don’t know what this road looks like from here on out. But I’ll be walking it.
(Editors note: I’ve sat down with my friend and asked her permission to write about this openly and honestly, and to share photos when I take them. She’s on board. Because she’s a writer too.)