Every time I hear the phrase “support group” I have an image of a plain, flesh colored brassier, C cup, no lace: useful, voluntary and sometimes necessary.
The past three months the real meaning of support group has been an ongoing presence in my life. It has to do with the much too early death of a young man, just fifty–one years old. The death was ruthless, unexpected and quick. He died from a stomach cancer, much belatedly diagnosed.
That’s the tragedy. The beauty was in what surrounded the six weeks from his first hospitalization until his death at home. It began with the visits, cards and calls from his many friends in a twelve-step program. This progressed to a web site that kept all informed of the situation and enabled the dozens of postings for him each day. Through the computer he was able to read the good wishes of his friends. The wishes extended to food when he returned home, not just for him, but for his parents, two brothers and sister who came to take care of him through the last illness. There were errands run and chores done during those weeks. The hospice team included one person in his fellowship. Of course, there were other friends, most notably the men’s group at his church.
The services were marked by the nearly one hundred people who made the effort to say goodbye and remember the young face with the incandescent smile.
As I write this, his support group is responding to a call to help clean out his house and assist his parents who have came back to the East Coast one last time to finish the sad chapter.
Only people who really are a part of a support group, many of whom have had their own brush with death can truly appreciate the dynamic of what went on there and continues, day by day. For people who are dedicated to saving their own lives by saving their fellow sufferers, helping through the end game is no great stretch.
“Support group” has become a cliché and “twelve-step program” a gag line. Members of the fellowship laugh loudest of all, because they know the truth.
With friends like that, there are no enemies.