Dr. Seuss knew what he was talking about

While answering question #10 yesterday, I mentioned feeling blue about something and promised to post about it today.

I live in an area that might be called the exurbs. We are about 50 miles away from A Big City, and we live on the outskirts of 2 small towns. It’s not country living; we don’t have a large piece of property –just under one acre– and we do have neighbors. Our neighborhood doesn’t have street lights or sidewalks, and everyone has our size of lot or larger. The house to the east of us is actually quite close, which is a little odd considering the expanse of property, but whatever.  An older couple lives there, semi-retired. We don’t see them very often but we are friendly with one another. When we sit on our deck in the summer, we can’t see anyone’s house and no one can see us.  It’s the illusion of being alone and private.

About 6 months ago, the husband was diagnosed with lung cancer. His wife had already nursed 2 relatives as they died of cancer, so she knew what was coming. -D- had been a smoker for nearly all his life, and despite his illness and chemo, he didn’t quit his habit. After the first round of chemo, he was looking pretty good and his hair was growing back, but certain symptoms sent him back to the doctor by late fall. The cancer had spread. They returned to chemo treatment for alleviation of painful symptoms, but it was just to keep him comfortable.

SuperDad saw -D- about a month ago and thought he’d be with us until Spring. I went over to visit a few days after Christmas and I also thought he had a few months left. We chatted with extended family over the past 2 months, asking how -D- was doing and if there was anything we could do to help. But mostly, a family member would drop by in the morning or early evening and even if I was outside, I didn’t move quickly enough to flag him or her down to ask.  And, I admit, constantly asking seemed kind of morbid.  We knew that -D- was terminally ill.

Tuesday night I was putting out the recycling when their son-in-law pulled up in his truck. I moved quickly and was able to call his name loudly enough to halt his quick steps.
KC: “How is -D- doing?”
him: “How is -D- doing?!?! ……. We buried him 2 weeks ago!”
KC: [awkward silence accompanied by shocked facial expression]
him: “Didn’t you know?”

Um, no, I didn’t. And I felt awkward and insensitive. I know it wasn’t the family’s duty to inform the neighbors; that was probably the last thing on anyone’s mind.  I do try to pay attention to what goes on around me, but I don’t spend my days watching out the windows.
There had been a lot of family and friends visiting over the Christmas and New Year holiday (and yes, we figured some were there to say their goodbyes). When I saw a number of cars there again a 2 weeks ago, I assumed it was for a birthday party (for -P- or -D- or perhaps one of the grandkids) … because it was my birthday and I selfishly had birthday on the brain.

On my part, it was a failure to truly live in community.

Now I’ve been given another chance: I found out yesterday that a friend of mine has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

17 responses to “Dr. Seuss knew what he was talking about

  1. I’m so sorry 😦

  2. I’m so sorry.

    When my mom died, there were a couple of people I just forgot to tell. I know they weren’t happy about it, but you forget things at a time like this.

    It may sound morbid, but this is why I read the obits. I have been surprised and dismayed more than once to see the funeral notice for an acquaintance, but at least I was able to send a card.

  3. Oh Karen, what a shock. I know you were embarassed but it really wasn’t your fault. I am so glad you didn’t ask the wife though. That would have been much worse.

    And you know the widow is going to be grieving for a long time to come, so you still have many opportunities to lend comfort and aid. Bake her some cookies. Go over and listen to her memories. Let her share. Many people will stop listening after a month or two. they will expect her to have moved on, but of course she will still be healing.

  4. I’m sorry to hear all this. Nothing was your fault on this my friend. Just be there as a friend and listen…:)

  5. I´m so sorry about your friend! That must be hard to take. And don´t feel too bad about your neighbor. How could you have known…. I can imagine the same thing happening to me, because we have very little contact to our neighbors.
    I agree with Quilly, just go over now and share your sympathies.

  6. Wow. So sorry. It is totally not your fault, but you can’t help to feel insensitive when things like that happen.

    Doesn’t anyone read the obits in the paper? I glance over them almost every day, but I know others in my neighborhood and family read them religiously. That is a good rule of thumb. Also, the mailman always knows what is going on in the neighborhood. He will often tell us when neighbors have a baby or pass away.

  7. I’m so sorry about your friend… Don’t beat yourself up over the neighbor, though. It’s a thin line between caring and intruding. You can still “be there” for the widow now.

  8. I am so sorry that you had to find out in such a manner. No, it isn’t your fault for not knowing either. Having buried both my parents, I know there are always people you forget to inform and I am sure you said the right things once you knew.

    I am sorry that your friend has BC too, but if it is early stages, it will be rough, but is survivable.

  9. oh man. i agree, though, this isn’t your fault. it’s no more appropriate to be constantly inquiring beforehand, which basically amounts to “is he dead yet,” you know? i also agree that it’s not too late to be there for your neighbor and offer her comfort and support. i’m so sorry to hear about your other friend, too 😦

  10. Thank you — all of you. ♥

    I do read the obits in our local papers (they are weekly papers) but nothing has been there. Time-wise, it should have been in last week’s paper, but I don’t think the family put anything in there.

    I’m making a big pot of soup this afternoon and I will take some over to -P- this afternoon.
    I’m also taking dinner over to my friend and her daughters this evening. It is easier to be a help to her, since I know more of what she needs (transportation for school activities, for example).

  11. i totally understand the embarrassment, but it is not your fault, i think you did the best a neighbor in that situation could do, dont get down on yourself for it…

  12. Oh Karen… I’m so sorry. I totally understand how you must have felt … You could not be expected to know though… how sad… Of course his widow will still need ministering to for quite some time. Maybe you could have her over for dinner sometime… or something like that.

    As for your friend… I will pray for her – I hope they caught it in time and that she will soon be healed and on her way! My friend, Judy, was diagnosed with breast cancer just a year after her own son died of cancer. It was a tough time, but all she ever said was “Scott went through sO much more.” … and he did. But that didn’t negate the fear for her own life and the possibility of leaving two more young sons behind. Fortunately she WAS diagnosed early and never even had to do chemo! She was treated with a mastectomy and radiation and she has been fine for the past 5 years. I pray it continues! And I pray the same happens for your friend!

  13. Wow, that really came around full circle. I have empathy for you, for how it must have felt to realize that he’d died.

    I am glad that you can be there for your friend. xo

  14. People who live near do not make a neighborhood. There has to be common interests, visiting and concerns. It doesn’t seem as if that is what they wanted. So don’t feel guilty.

  15. I know how you feel. I’ve learned of some family tragedies that happened to acquaintances who were not close friends, and I always felt torn about whether to intrude or not. It is a dilemma.

    But your thought of offering soup is a nice one. Also, thinking about my mom after my dad died – your neighbor might enjoy a dinner or lunch invitation – nothing too formal to put her on the spot, but a nice way to have company.

    One thing that seemed to help my mom when she was widowed is having her neighbors entrust her with tasks when they were gone traveling, like feeding a cat or picking up the mail. Perhaps you might ask your neighbor if she could keep an extra key for your house, offer to do the same for her?

  16. I found out my grandmother died reading the obituary. I swear.

    I’m so sorry.

  17. I’m so sorry, KC. But of course it’s not your fault for not knowing. Things just happen that way sometimes. I hope your friend had a much better outcome to her cancer.