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A Friend Died…

…and I feel guilty. 

My friend Maria, who I never met, died on Friday morning.  We met online about three years ago.  She ran several lists in which we exchanged graphics for Paint Shop Pro and Photo Shop and another list exchanged eBooks and links to download a variety of files.  She was about 6 years younger than me.  She had a number of chronic conditions.  Last January she developed a severe pain in her side which did not respond to pain medication.  Two days later she was rushed to the ER in excruciating pain.  She had no health insurance and no money.   She and her family had just driven across the country from Alabama to Washington state for a better life late last fall and they had not yet completed the paper work to go on state aid.   She was sent home with stronger pain medication.  A day later she was taken to the ER again, this time with more severe symptoms.  They kept her for some tests.  It turned out that she had cancer in her stomach, intestines, liver, kidney and colon.  She needed surgery and treatment but because she had no insurance, she got the run around and was sent home again.  Finally, she had to be rushed by ambulance in really bad shape.  She was admitted. That was the last week in January.  She never went home after that until a week ago when she was released because she and her family had decided not to go through chemo which would only buy her a matter of months with no quality of life.  Her husband has kept us all updated, almost daily.  On Thursday he reported that she could not talk, only moan.  She could not eat or drink or swallow.  She was in pain.

This morning the email came.  She died in her sleep, with a slight smile on her face.  Her pain is over.

Why do I feel guilty?  When she wrote us the group email telling us about what they thought was wrong with her (which ended up being only a part of what was wrong) and the prognosis, Maria talked about her 12 year old daughter and how she was just out of her mind worrying about what would happen to her daughter.  Her husband cannot manage her on his own and the older daughter is not dependable and lives in another state.  She’s 18.  Not exactly  mother material.  And I said nothing other than to scold her and tell her not to give up and to remain positive.  What I wanted to say was that I would take her daughter.  That’s what I would normally say and do.  I would gladly take her daughter and raise her and look after her.  But I didn’t say it. 

Why didn’t I?  I feel older now.  Too old to take on a 12 year old girl who has lost her mother; a girl who has been home schooled for the better part of the last three years because she has some social problems.  I felt selfish, too.  I am just at the point where my youngest is leaving home for school in a few months.  In a way I am looking forward to having my turn in my life.  I haven’t had that before.  Somehow it has not ever been my turn.  And so I didn’t offer  Maria the peace of mind that she needed and wanted.    I wanted to.  I almost did.  I typed the email but didn’t send it.  And now  it is too late.  She’s gone.  I really do feel guilty.

It isn’t like me to not have offered willingly.  And that bugs me.  Am I growing selfish in my older years? I certainly hope not.  I certainly don’t mean to or want to.   I know that someone else’s child is not my responsibility but I still feel so guilty.

And I miss Maria.  Before she got sick just over two months ago, not a day passed when we didn’t exchange email or instant messages.  I know I never met her but I still feel the loss as if she had been the kind of friend that was in my home daily. 

In a way, she was.

 

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