Shame on me if I’m no good for you

Friday, 3. July 2009

This 2004 thread relates to time I spent in the waiting room of an oncology outpatients’ clinic. There were many sad faces in there, including a young mum with her baby, surely too vulnerable to withstand whatever cancer she has? Some were clearly hanging on by a thread, unlike a friend of mine who has come through five cancers and is still fighting. We saw very little optimism, despite the busy NHS service being given.

Many of the patients (presumably all on radiotherapy and chemotherapy and therefore going through living hell) – many of them had their partners with them and in every case it was easy to tell which one was sick and which was just plain terrified.

One couple I could lip-read and overhear. She was the patient and she looked very pale. She was trying to talk to her husband about the options facing her, them, their family, her job, more chemo, etc. – and she was also trying to dig deeper into matters of the soul that were coming up for her, matters of destiny and making life count and being precious because it might soon be over… In her vocabulary, she had lost her inhibitions and was digging deep because she was in contact with layers beneath the trivial.

Her husband, in his business shirt and tie, was reading nature and motoring magazines, showing her pictures of rare birds, fending off everything important she tried to say and generally doing anything but show empathy or be with her.

That day I saw such pain on this woman’s face because her deepest need to be heard was being blocked out…

Can we help each other in times of hardship? Does “being there” for someone mean anything. Or am I just deluding myself with the thought that if that man entered into the illness with his wife and shared some of her burden she would have a far better chance of survival?

5 Responses to “Shame on me if I’m no good for you”



  1. Abdo Says:

    Being There at the time of hardship is simply everything. When life treats us well, we should expect people to be around us for different reasons. The real friends or people who cares for you is those who stand beside you at hardship.

    I can say that it’s a type of personality, some people are caring and others are simply not. Even some people who you might exert effort to support at hardship, turn their back on you when they get well.

    - Abdo



  2. Cora Says:

    Perhaps being capable of ‘being there in hard times’
    starts with the foundation of your relationship.
    I don’t mean by language, but by gestures, by sharing intimacy…



  3. Steven Holmes Says:

    It is extremely difficult to “be with” another person in really hard times and you can damage yourself by trying it. Most of us end up keeping too much distance to be of any use and the person we are trying to support feels more alone because we lift none of their burden but may even add to it by having needs. But the man in my example wasn’t even trying.



  4. jeremy_dent Says:

    It’s a moving metaphor, the magazine ‘distance’. I am sure I’ve been guilty of this in the past. And the present.

    I tried to be there for both my dying parents. My mother never let me in and didn’t want me to share her pain and desperation.

    My father similarly but, in his final 24 hours, I sat with him right through the night and we discussed his being tortured by the Japanese at Changi, his hopes and fears for his grandchildren, his regrets, his smoking and drinking and womanising. I had never got so close to him but was it close enough?



  5. Cora Says:

    I’ve read somewhere that parents love their children more than children love their parents. Because children should be more future-focused, and they want to live their own life with their own decisions, apart from their father and mother. I don’t know it this comparison does hold in any case, but perhaps in general it has an element of truth.

    And somehow I can live with this idea: that your parents do love you unconditionally, like the love you feel for your children, no matter how their journey in life will be.
    For me it creates space…

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