Being the Bearer of Bad News

Today, because the stars did not align properly and circumstances demanded it, I found myself telling a close friend that her mom had died in California the night before.
It was not a sudden death. Her mom had been on a respirator for ten days, and when there was no hope of survival, she was taken off life support. She lingered seventy-two hours and went peacefully.
I was on my way to meet my friend when I received a text message with the news from her room-mate, who had been alerted by my friend’s son, who in turn had learned of the death from his grandfather. None of them had spoken directly with my friend, whose phone service had been erratic for a few days. They had left voice messages that had not gone through, and texts that had vanished in the ozone. I would be the first to see her. I pulled my car into a side street and parked.
I’d never done anything like this before. I was scheduled to take her to lunch, then to visit a house where she might become a renter. It would be impossible to simply pretend nothing had happened.
I went to pick her up. She saw me and smiled. I closed the space between us quickly, hugged her and said, “I’m so sorry, love. Your mom died last night.”
She pulled back with an incredulous look and then her face fell apart. I‘m pretty sure mine did too. We both sat on a nearby bench wiping at our eyes but not saying much. I thought of clichés best left unspoken.
I knew her mom, an amiable woman who suffered from fibromyalgia and had been house bound for several years. There were other health issues as well, and I think she simply gave up. Life was painful, unbearably so, with no hope of getting better. Her husband knew this. My friend knew this. She and her mom had spoken a couple of weeks earlier, just days before life support began.
We didn’t visit the rental house. I drove her home where we drank diet Cokes and told a few tales about her mom. She called her dad and they spoke a long time. She said he seemed all right; his wife’s suffering was over, and that was good. I suggested my friend come to my place and stay there the night if she wished but she told me her son would be coming, and she wanted to be with him.
I drove home a long circuitous way trying to persuade myself that I had done the right thing by breaking the news to her. I tried to reach a few of my friends, but people were at work, or headed out of town for the long weekend. I couldn’t find anyone to talk to, so I wrote this.

About epiphanettes

Writer, songcrafter, possibly the best French pedal steel guitarist in Virginia.
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