When my mom was diagnosed with advanced cancer and I had a newborn with a potty training two-year-old, I had a friend who truly listened.
She isn’t a friend who I see often. She isn’t even a friend who I talk with often.
But she’s a friend who asks the tough questions and then just shuts up.
You see, when my mom endured cancer and my life did a 180, a lot of people were concerned—genuinely. However, few truly listened.
They’d say things like, “God only gives you what you can handle,” or “Everything happens for a reason.”
Or they’d tell me about their grandma or aunt who survived, or didn’t survive, cancer—quickly making my pain about themselves.
But this other friend, she just shut up.
When my mom was first diagnosed, she called me on the phone as I was driving alone. “How are you holding up?” she asked. I gripped the steering wheel and told her how my biggest fear was that my children would have no memories of their grandmother. My eyes became blurry as I tried to see the road.
She didn’t try to diminish my pain or make it about herself. She didn’t try to shine a stupid rainbow when there was a monsoon in my view.
Later, after months of being a stay-at-home-mom and caring for my mother, she asked, “How are you really doing?” I painted a smile on my face and told her I was fine. She gave me THE LOOK—you know, the don’t BS with me look.
So, I told her that there were times I’d escape to my bathroom just to cry. Again, she just stayed quiet.
She wasn’t there to give me advice or give me some silver lining. She sat there with me in my pain and let me know that it was okay to have it.
The irony is that this friend apologizes to me about not being a good friend because we can’t physically be together a lot. But she doesn’t have to be.
Because to be a good friend, all anyone has to do is shut up, let you express your pain, and never, EVER, try to throw rainbows at it.