Mom came to visit Rick and me when we moved into our tiny house in Sterling. It was Memorial Day and scorching hot. Jack was turning two on June 4th and they were there for the party. We had air conditioning,, but it didn’t seem to help either of my parents, just knowing it was hot outside made my mom hot.
My mother’s philosophy of visiting was “always make a good showing; don’t come empty-handed". Whenever she came to visit us, she brought little trinkets for Jack and Michael and a little something for Rick and me. On this particular visit, she brought a black-framed poem. It had a lacy-looking design on the outer edges of the poem with burgundy behind it; the writing was done in black on a yellowed white background. It was probably a hundred years old. The poem was entitled, The Friend Who Just Stands By; I loved it. It hung on our wall for many years in the living room until I needed it.
I had so many people to thank for supporting us in so many ways while Rick was sick and dying. The entire staff at my school sent food, money, the dinner after the wake, letters, and cards. I tried to think of an idea to send thanks and then I remembered the poem that my mother had given many years before. I was amazed that it said everything I needed to say. I copied and printed the poem to give to everyone in my school.
When trouble comes your soul to try,
You love the friend who just "stands by."
Perhaps there's nothing he can do.
The thing is strictly up to you;
For there are troubles all your own,
And paths the soul must tread alone
Times when love cannot smooth the road
Nor friendship lift the heavy load,
But just to know you have a friend
Who will "stand by" until the end,
Whose sympathy through all endures
Whose warm handclasp is always yours
It helps, somehow, to pull you through
Although there's nothing he can do.
And so with fervent heart you cry
"God bless the friend who just stands by'!"
My self-inflicted therapy for grief was writing personal notes to the medical professionals who cared for Rick. It was easier than I thought it would be; I just sat down and got writing. I wrote to every doctor that treated Rick, including the Grim Reaper. Being the teacher that I am, I felt I needed to structure him for success in the future by imparting my thanks to him.
I met the Grim Reaper about eight years after Rick’s death and he seemed gentler; perhaps the years had softened his bedside manner. He was young when he walked into Rick’s hospital room with that awful news.. I often wonder how someone chooses that career path; it has to be depressing. He’s the numbers man - glorified bookie, tells you your odds and what the games of chance are available to play. I hope he continues to soften further over time; life has a way of rounding out our sharp edges.