My experience has been that some of life’s most difficult moments come when we are searching for the “right” or “correct” words to speak to those who are going through a season of great difficulty. It may be a friend or family member who is mourning the loss of a loved one. A coworker or neighbor who has just heard the doctor share a diagnosis that nobody wants to hear. Whatever the situation we feel compelled to say something. When the moment comes there are no words, or what we speak sounds hollow or empty. A couple of experiences like that and we become experts at avoiding situations where we might have to speak to someone who is grieving or going through a difficult time. We see them across the room and head out the side door…simply to avoid what we see as an awkward conversation. It is human. It is reality. We are not alone as we have those feelings…yet for the sake of those who are struggling we must learn how to speak words of health, healing and hope.
I remember my first conversation with my brother after my diagnosis. Kevin had been in a car accident, a very serious one, a few years ago. It is a miracle that I can talk to him today. During our talk he said, “Dan, people are going to say some of the dumbest things to you as you walk through this.” I thought it an odd statement. He continued, “People are not going to know what to say and they are going to say things that do not respect the reality and truth of what you are going through and some of their words are going to ring very hollow and empty.” “You are just going to have to smile and go with it.” I thought it was an odd piece of our conversation but his words have rung true.
I do not believe any words spoken are meant to be hurtful or harmful. I do believe it is people who care for me, at different levels, coping with and dealing with the reality of my Cancer in their own way. If you treat it in a casual, “Hey, no big deal, you will walk through this and get better” kind of way you do not have to deal with the very real truth that (unless God does something miraculous…which I pray for daily, and I believe He can do) there is no cure for the Cancer within my body. We will, in the words of my doctor, “prolong and have quality of life”…but ultimately this Cancer is going to win. Treat it in a casual way and we do not have to deal with that reality.