When someone is confronted by illness, we can’t resist being intrusive and speculative
This month my dear friend died from cancer, leaving behind a young family. A continent apart, we talked about her illness and what it meant. She told me that she wasn’t afraid of dying and I believed her because she knew the rich legacy she had created. But in the aftermath of her death a post her daughter released tore me asunder. In it, my friend recalls the reaction of strangers to her illness.
“How could you contract this disgusting illness?” one wailed. “You could easily have another five years,” shrugged another. (She just made it past one.) An acquaintance was angry at not having been told sooner. Another was perplexed by her equanimity, leading to an ambush at the elevator: “You know this is terminal, right?” Someone wanted to know the exact site of cancer. Another recalled the relative of a relative who died of exactly that kind of cancer not so long ago.
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