We’ve probably all said it, “I know how you feel,” but do we really? We’ve no doubt said it to a friend or relative at one time or another when they felt compelled to share a burden they were carrying or some pain they were experiencing. We might have even made that supposedly soothing statement to a stranger in the grocery store or out on the street.
We say it with all good intentions, in the most well-meaning way, but we can hardly really know how another is feeling.
I’ve been at the home of a family friend for the past five days now because he did not want to be alone. He lives about 70 miles or so from me, so I can’t just dash right over there at the drop of a hat, besides the fact that I need to have my daughter take me there since I don’t drive. I still have my license, but due to the ramifications of an old and unusual accident, I do not drive any longer. So my daughter drove me here, and I am here to stay “for the duration.”
Our friend — since he is a friend of our whole family — believes he is in his final days. Who is anyone to say he is not? He is extremely weak, nervous, upset, physically limited, and more, and that’s just how he feels. How he is perceived by others can only be told by the others as to how they perceive him. And how he really is may not even be known by him.
Right now and probably for the duration — which means until he takes a big turn for the better or another turn toward that final day — I am here for him, while my daughter does all the shopping and running of errands — since, believe it or not, there are things he needs to have done and they can’t be put off — and the making of meals when she is here. And we all need to eat, even if his appetite is hardly like ours.
But back to “I know just how you feel,” and comments like that. I, too, have felt weak and physically limited on more than one occasion, as I imagine many if not most people have, but I have never felt like my time was near. I kind of knew what was going on with me, and felt time and rest were my best friends at a time like that. As a rule, I
don’t get nervous or upset when I am not at my best physically; I probably just want to be left alone to sleep unless I need something that I’m not up to doing for myself. Then, I either let someone help me or do without. Our friend has no one to be with him except for when he calls on my daughter, and hopefully, she will be able to drop everything and go to check up on him (which isn’t always possible).
But lately, it is a bit different. Fortunately, no one really depends on me so I am free to spend my days here if need be. And with my computer and cell phone, I won’t ever really be out of touch.
We might say that everyone is different, even though many may exhibit similar behaviors. He may be mellow and quiet for most of the day, but let anything at all be out of whack — like he can’t find a certain cup, or the sink faucet is not spraying right, or he spills his coffee — and he is stirred up just as much as if someone had rammed into his car. While I certainly can’t say I know how he is feeling at a time like that, I’d have to say that whatever is going on in his body needs an outlet of some kind, and it probably feels somewhat better to let it out in a string of socially unacceptable words than to suffer in silence.
By the way, suffering in silence is not really the same as silently suffering. This is the first time I’ve been with him for 24 hours a day and I can imagine that there is a lot of silent suffering going on with him. He sits in his chair silently for hours at a time, sometimes watching — or pretending to watch — TV, often with the voice turned
off. From the look on his face, I’d say there was suffering going on, even if at the times I see him, there is no particular pain going on.
When he suffers in silence, on the other hand, he is looking like he’s suffering, and really is, but just not saying anything.
I know there is plenty of pain going on at times, because of his condition and what he tells me. The pain more or less shows in how he walks, sits, and breathes. But he pushes on to do whatever little things he can do, mainly because if he can still do them, he’s not as close as he might be to never doing them again. He needs help getting
from one place to another, but he soldiers on. He rests after the shortest walk. He takes about five naps a day.
Most of the time, at least in between everything else, he is thinking about his problems — real or imagined — and possibly making his recovery, if there is to be one, slower and further down the road. But with all the positive energy around him now from both my daughter and me, some of that may just seep in deep enough to chase away those dark and dreary feelings of his and give him another round of one, two, three, or even more years of life. We shall see.
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Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.