Compassion and illness

I visited a friend of mine in the hospital the other day–she had elective surgery and had no one to visit her that afternoon. So I popped by with a girlfriend of mine and brought some flowers to cheer up the room. It sure made a difference to her too, she was smiling ear to ear.

Unfortunately, I have had a fair share of relatives and friends whose lives have been touched by illness–cancer to be specific. My grandma has loved and lost quite a few to this disease. I asked her once if there was anything I could do for someone we care dearly about who is fighting it. She said something very wise:

Visiting the sick is very important. It helps the person heal, or deal with their situation. But visiting can be tiring for the sick, too. It takes a lot of energy to chat with someone when so much of his/her strength is being used to fight an internal battle. Grandma suggested, when visiting someone,  that we try to provide a service as well. For example, bring a ready-made snack and clean up afterward. Insist on taking care of the dirty dishes. Pick up some groceries on your way over. Sweep up some crumbs. Take out the trash. Fold up the blankets. Weed the garden. Mow the yard. Fill the bird feeder. Offer to help out in a way that contributes without taking away the person’s pride and sense of independence. 

A lot of times, this might include helping the person’s caretaker/loved one. It is hard for the loved one to be strong all the time for the person who is ill. Sometimes they might need a break from the dishes or the cooking. Offering your help may be all they need to feel supported and loved. Suggesting something specific is often a surefire way of ensuring your contribution is taken seriously. Just make sure that when you offer it, you mean it.

 

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