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  • I went to a colleague's house this evening to deliver dinner.

    His wife is dying. Terminal cancer, hospice care at home. I was terrified.

    I walked in and chatted with her mother, said hello to her father. I'd planned to give my friend Michael a kiss on the cheek and be gone. Did I mention that I was terrified?

    Michael and I made small talk for a few minutes, discussed the rowing machine in the center of his living room. He looks incredibly fit for someone in his predicament. He told me that this is how he is surviving - by taking good care of himself, in preparation to soon be the solo care taker of his kids.

    He is one of the most calm, composed people I know, Michael. He has a zen-like nature about him, though he was actually raised Catholic and is now Quaker. I've never seen him raise his voice, curse, get reactionary or over emotive about anything. He rides his bike to work everyday with his little son on the back. His voice is always calm, his manner soothing. Today things were different.

    "Can you stay? Talk with me awhile?" He motioned toward the sofa.

    "Sure, of course" I answered, somewhat terrified. (I think I mentioned this feeling...)

    We sat down and he launched right into it.

    "Fuck" He said matter of factly. "This is really, really hard Kim. I don't know what I am doing. I think for a minute I do, and then I don't. Clearly I don't. My kids....." and he stopped, composed himself. "As a parent, can you help me? Can you tell me how you think I should handle this?"

    I took a deep breath and then we discussed it all - his 13 year old daughter away at camp, his 6 year old son who has never known his mom as anything but sick. We settled on some possible strategies around getting the kids home, the best ways for them to say goodbye, probable outcomes. How to step out of now and project forward - consider what these children would remember about this years from now. It was humbling, grounding, and at the core, beautiful too. In the midst of all the fear and wreckage, this couple was focused and thoughtful, centered on their children. On the humans they had lovingly, willingly brought into this world.

    I realized an hour had passed, it was now 7:30 and I needed to get home to my own boys who were waiting for me to feed them dinner, famished. He walked me out to the car.

    As we hugged goodbye I offered up "You know, this does suck" I said matter of factly. It wasn't poetic or in any way profound, but it was true. Gritty and true, like their situation. "It doesn't get much more high-drama than this. So let yourself have at it. If you want to scream or howl or rant or anything just do it. Do it! And you can call me whenever you want, OK? To watch the kids, go with you for a run, make phonecalls or just listen...whatever it is that you need. OK? OK? " I repeated, wanting to make sure he knew I meant it.

    He clung on to me a little tighter then, and I did too.

    I hope he does do all of it - scream and cry, shriek and howl. And call me. I think he might. I left feeling a little less terrified, alot more capable. I hope that he did as well.
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