Over time, Libby and I experienced both side of same equation, whether receiving tragic news while others tried to comfort us or attempting to comfort others when they received bad news. I recorded some thoughts about that process in the following story posted on Caring Bridge in January of 2014:
We’ve all heard the stories of the first responders such as those in New York City who ran into the Twin Towers on 9/11 to help others. In my mind, Libby has always been like those First Responders (absent the helmet, yellow coat and baggy britches) because anytime we received bad news about a family member, close friend or even an acquaintance, Libby responded by going to them immediately, she wanted to be there next to them to hold their hand, comfort them and pray for them with such a concentrated focused that she skipped meals, forgot appointments and focused only on the well-being of the one hurting.
I, on the other hand, have always reacted a little different when I heard tragic news about someone, I’ve always been more of a Non-Responder. Now, don’t get the wrong idea here, I too felt the compassion and empathy for the person who was hurting, but unlike Libby my first thought was not to go to their side immediately. I did, however, try to think of ways in which I could offer practical help from a distance by doing things like mowing their yard, picking relatives from the airport or going after pizza for the group.
But before you judge me, I have my Non-Repsonder reasons:
- I wouldn’t know what to say to someone; words (especially my words) seem futile…
- What they really need is some time to be alone to process…
- There will be a lot of people at their house and I will just be in the way…
- I promise that l would go by later when all of the people are gone and they really needed me…
- And the coup de grâce; I am married to Mother Teresa! By just driving Libby to their house I do more than everyone else!
As I tried to justify my actions (or lack thereof) I was reminded of the WWJD bracelet fad several years ago reminding us, “What Would Jesus Do?” As Christians, our goal should be to become more and more like Christ, Colossians 3:12 (NIV): Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. It’s that part about compassion and kindness that is particularly troublesome to me because I have already justified my actions (see
excuses reasons 1-5 listed above).
Libby and I have learned a lot of things during her five-year battle with breast cancer. We have learned what is really important and how to respond to others who are hurting. We also learned how we want others to respond to us and I can tell you from firsthand experience that during some of our toughest times we have been blessed with family, a church, friends and a community who are truly First Responders, they love and pray for us daily and we were very thankful for that.
I am fully aware that each one of us has different gifts and because of that we have different methods of response but when you receive the worst news of your life, you will want friends and family who will respond like Libby. You will want a First Responder.
P.S. But don’t worry about supper, I’ll bring the pizza!