For the past couple of weeks, I have witnessed a friend of our family struggling as his mother fights for her life and a warrior of family and friends (and acquaintances) join the bandwagon. I understand Vince’s compassion, love, and heartache and there is no word to offer other than you are not alone and please let us and your spiritual beliefs help you through this. Sadly, despite all the wonderful joys of life comes sadness, and what I have learned we must hold on to the incredible joys if not we too will slip away and if it’s not our time we will cause pain to those who need us most.
Yesterday, Vince posted the following:
“I’m so grateful for the people in my life who care and show support and love. I’m blessed, and my family is blessed. I choose to focus on this above all else in this time of intense grief. I’d rather be appreciative of those people, then angry over the people who can’t even wish a happy birthday, ask how you are, or God forbid even speak to you at a get-together. I will keep my focus on the kind people, in which these last two weeks we have been blessed with so many in our lives during this fight. Please know that it means the world to my family!”
I responded to Vince that I understand this statement all too clearly. I have lived in Cleveland since 1982, and from the first day I moved in with Rich to begin our life together I opened our door to family and friends. Interestingly enough, as long as our door was open everyone walked through it, no one ever asked if we could afford the food on the table we were serving or not. They came in; they sat down, they ate, they participated in the conversation and left, only to return again. However, the invitation was not reciprocated and my loving husband Richard convinced me it was OK. In fact, at one point, Rich thought maybe I was intimidating people because I kept such an immaculate house (not the most expensive furniture or fancy things) and I always cooked and baked from scratch and sent food home with our guests. We learned through whispers that others did not live this way, many even asked when I had time to work, raise a child with special needs and maintain a home, and do all that I did? Soon, the open door closed, people stopped coming. In fact, the word on the street was they felt I had too much on my plate, but no one was offering to help, even invite us over for a Bar BQ or to meet for dinner at Mickey D’s.
When my mother got ill this past summer, I knew I had to move to Michigan and stay with her. I left Richard and Alex here in Cleveland. It’s true they are two adult men but at no time did anyone ask, what can we do to help. I was gone for 2 ½ months and 2 grown men (both on the spectrum) it would have been nice if someone, anyone, would have stepped up and invited them for dinner, brought them a dinner, or suggested meeting them for dinner. In Detroit I had support, my brother Joel, my nieces (my niece Sue was just minutes away when not at the apartment,) my cousin Kayla, my elementary school friends Cheryl, Dennis, and Blanche, and my cousin Nancy. Also, all the friends my mother had made in the five years she had lived at Hechtman II at Jewish Senior Life, reached out to me daily as I would walk through the facility. I was fortunate, my mother’s care workers from JCare the afternoon shift became my support system. Each lady had a different personality and caring method both for my mom and me, and to this day I keep in touch with their director, Karen (cute name.)
Vince is correct, we must focus on the positive and not the negative because during this time and the days of ahead negativity will try to influence the reality of the day. Vince and other like him and me will want to scream, and blame and point fingers for what we felt YOU should have provided us, but in reality, we have no control over what you do. If we have to ask you or tell you how to express friendship, compassion, human need that apparently, for now, we too must move on. At this moment in time for the McKee Family, the hashtag remains #fightmariefight
Sometimes we separate ourselves from family or friends to refresh our relationship and when we reunite we become stronger. We must believe there is a reason and plan for everything in life, but whatever the plan is we must still pray, wish, and hope for what is the best for ourselves. Begin by caring for another so they may care for you!