This past week I had the experience of learning that someone I know well is much sicker than I thought. His cancer jumped suddenly from stage 1 to stage 4 in a short and unexpected period of time. As a reflection on how far we have come since biblical times and the era of Jewish rabbinic publication of books like that Talmud, today our “community” can include “friends’ on Facebook and other social media. In this case, my friend is a former employee who I know well, yet had moved to a different city. Facebook became a way to keep up with his journey and how I learned of the significant change in his cancer.
Perhaps wishing people well on Facebook is a form of Bikur Cholim or caregiving. If so I would put "Facebooking" at the bottom of a list of the best ways to care for or visit someone who is ill. Yet posting to a Facebook page or simply writing an electronic post or message can give a person the feeling that people care for them. A personally written note that is mailed would be higher on my list of acts of caring, but isn’t a fast or as immediate as the electronic note. Just seemingly more personal. In the world of electronic caregiving I would prefer virtual visits – Skype or Face Time. The highest form of Bikur Cholim in my book is showing up at the door – being there in person.
Since my friend lived in a distant city I called on the telephone. We had not talked since the bad news of the metastasis of the cancer. Surprising or perhaps not so surprising, the call was healing and helpful for me and my friend. And in the conversation we found gifts for each other; good memories of the times when we had worked together, the successes we were each having in our work. My ability to share the healing insights from my journey with The Actual Dance. His insights on what it was going to take to be sure he recovered.
A special moment for me came as he talked about how his recovery is going to be based on good medicine and his decision to believe in his recovery. “I do not want anyone around me who isn’t fully committed to my beating this thing.” When he said that, Susan’s words echoed in my head. Susan recently related her own story of survival for a storytelling video about our journey that is going to be released on December 10th. When she was asked what was going through her mind in 2000, she said “I had just decided I was going to beat the cancer and I told people I didn’t want them around me if they didn’t believe I was going to beat it.”
Telling my friend the coincidence of Susan and his words being virtually identical and that Susan has survived 14 years, way beyond the time that doctors had predicated gave him I think some comfort and perhaps even a deeper belief in the truth of his own vision of a full recovery.
Being a care giving is also about giving hope, sharing stories, making phone calls, even just “Liking” a posting on Facebook Doing any one of these is good, and no single one is sufficient.