by Daphne Price
No. This isn’t a blog post about my mission to find happiness by dropping out of my life and traipsing across the world, alone, to feed my body and soul. It’s not about being self-absorbed. It’s
about the importance and impact of friendship and community at a time of crisis.
Those who know me know that I had a pretty rough 12-month stretch. During that year, my mother (who lived in another country) became ill and had to undergo cancer treatments (first, in that country, and then three states away from me). Also, during that year, I sustained a knee injury, had to have reconstructive surgery and suffered through a ton of grueling physical therapy. At the end of the year, my mother succumbed to her illness and passed away. Combine all that with the usual
hectic lifestyle of a full-time working mom of two, and you could often find me screaming “Calgon, take me away!!!”
Thank Gd for my friends! Of course, thank Gd for my husband, kids and our families – but this post isn’t about them. Words cannot do justice in describing just how supportive they all were (are!). You expect that of family – but sometimes, your friends and your community fall short of your expectations. Not this time. Here’s how an utterly unbearable year was made more manageable.
Eat. Sometimes my friends would check in on me by meeting up for coffee, lunch or dinner. Other times, when I was physically incapacitated, my friends made sure my family and I were fed. Because I had an intense travel schedule while visiting my mother and attending medical appointments with her, my friends always made sure my family was fed in my absence. And at the end of that year, when I returned home from shiva, too exhausted to be productive, dinners once again magically showed up at my door. There was never a hungry moment – and all those times when I couldn’t be there, my greatest comfort was knowing that my family was being taken care of.
Pray. During the darkest moments of my mother’s illness, people asked what they could do to help. I suggested prayer (and/or finding the cure for cancer!). “Prayer” included adding my mother’s name to their synagogues’ list of people in need
of healing and recovery, reciting a chapter of Psalms, or just taking a moment to send good, hopeful thoughts her/our way. I never underestimate the power of positive energy. It’s true that ultimately, my mother passed away anyway. Even so, I believe our prayers did not go unanswered – it just wasn’t the answer we were hoping for. In hindsight, despite the outcome, I wouldn’t have asked for anything different. When there was nothing else 0to do medically, prayer was something anyone could to do. My friends run the gamut of religious observance – and for me, their prayer reinforced my sense of community.Love. Throughout the year, the outpouring of concern was, at times, overwhelming. Whether people called or emailed, sent an actual letter, or visited, I was moved by every kindness. Some checked in with me once, others more frequently. People touched base daily or weekly or monthly, or randomly when I crossed their mind. No gesture was insignificant. And everyone understood if/when I wasn’t immediately responsive. There was never a moment when I felt totally alone.
Eat. Pray. Love. Get it?
This post is not just a mass shout-out to thank everyone for everything – big and small. (Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!) It’s also my .02 cents of advice for those who aren’t sure what to do to help a friend (or even an acquaintance) in need. You don’t have to do it all – and you don’t have to do it all all of the time. File this away: If you ever find yourself in the position to offer any of the above, I hope you’ll take advantage of the opportunity. It will go a long, long way. I promise. And if you should ever find yourself in need, when help, friendship and support show up at your door in any form, let it in. If you’re proud and stubborn like I can be, it won’t be easy, but it will be well worth it. I promise that, too.
Daphne Price is a wearer of many hats (literally!). She lives in the Modern Orthodox world and works for Reform Jewish Movement. When she's not busy working, being a spouse and a mom of 2, she trains for races and spends time in the kitchen playing around with different recipes to make mealtime more exciting for her family. You can read some of her other blog posts on http://blogs.rj.org/rac/