There are a lot of things I remember in the last year of my dear friend Mary’s life.
One of the ways we were such good friends was that we bore witness to each others struggles and held the advice in check – most of the time.
When Mary was first diagnosed with leukemia she was showered with well meaning advice from people who cared.
She and John made their own decisions about the treatment path she would travel and those of us close to them honored their choices.
Mary supported me as much as I did her.
We always asked each other ‘how are you feeling’ and then listened.
Bear witness and just be there. That’s the heart stuff.
Our responses to each other were empathic rather than advice ridden.
When Mary felt crappy [physically and emotionally] we’d talk about it and sometimes that was it.
She just needed someone to hear her.
If either of us wanted solutions to something that was giving us the shits then we’d ask each other ‘ what do you think?’ or ‘what options do we have?’ or just plain ‘help’
That’s the brain head stuff and we ADORED exploring ideas, solutions and options.
We did that a lot when we were trying to deal with the dreadful food at the hospital.
Depression has been a part of me and my life and there were times when Mary was in hospital and I’d be visiting during a depressive space.
I was honest about how I was feeling and that I still wanted to be with Mary because she always respected authenticity and vulnerability in people.
She bore witness and we spent quiet time together. She respected that I’d gotten out of bed and on a bus to be with her and me just wanting to be with my dear friend.
No advice wanted or given. What a gift between friends.
Mary trusted me and knew I had my own strange and resilient ways of living with depressive times.
When Mary was frustrated, scared, pissed off and just in pain I bore witness even when I wanted to scream at the unfairness of it all and throw a blanket of advice over her just in case some miracle treatment would cure her.
Shit, I would have trod down any weird and wonderful treatment path if it would have kept Mary with us but I had to honor her choices because it was her life.
Bearing witness to a loved ones struggles and hearing their heart is one of the greatest gifts of love you can give them.
So, did we ever give each other advice?
Anyone that knew Mary was in awe of her energy and action and just the way she did a million amazing things in the time it got me to roll out of bed!
As her treatment rolled on her energy depleted and that was really frustrating for her in the beginning.
We’d talk about how she felt and I shared with her something I tell myself when I’m living in a depressive phase where energy is very low:
work with the energy you have right now – not the energy you used to have or would want in the future
It became a bit of a mantra between us.
Keep it simple was advice we gave each other a lot because we both adore/d complexity and creating sensate and beautiful experiences.
Before Mary went in for her bone marrow transplant she decided to have a gathering of friends ‘just in case’.
She asked me to help her plan it and we had to keep saying to each other ‘keep it simple and work with the energy you have right now’ – and we’d laugh.
I remember we smiled and laughed a lot together.
One day in the hospital we talked about an app we could build together and I showed her the Musing Cards I’d created and we talked about how they could be recreated as an app.
I went into what I thought was a simple kind of layered functionality and she looked at me and said:
‘Lizzy, I love how your complex brain works but just keep it simple!
You love complexity and it looks simple to you but it’s not.
Listen to me and KEEP IT SIMPLE’
I laughed then and I’m laughing now at the memory because she was right and I needed that advice and focus.
It was the last piece of advice she gave me before she died.