I am waiting to board my flight to Lincoln, Nebraska, to begin a week of recital touring with my best friend of over thirty years, Diane. Our Amicitia Duo did a Florida tour last semester, and now it is time to take on the Midwest. This trip has some different challenges, though, as now my best friend is dealing with caring for her mother who is facing health issues- right after coming off of her own battle with breast cancer. I am grateful that I can be there to offer support in anyway that I can. Diane has done the same for me so many times over the years. I would do anything for her.
Having been through all of this with my own mother recently, I am glad that I can share some of the things I learned that might help Diane and her mother along the way. Everyone’s experience is different, but I remember how grateful I was when people reached out to share the things that helped them through similar times. There is so much on my friend’s shoulders right now- she has a very full career teaching and performing, a husband, a large and beautiful home to maintain. I know how hard it is to try to juggle everything, how you begin to put everyone else’s needs first and you become sleep-deprived, forgetful, and weepy. You begin to feel like a shadow of yourself…Did I put on deodorant? Did I lock the door? Did I pay that bill? Did I eat today?I was a basket case in the months before my mother passed.
Heavy D and me….
I can’t make Diane’s problems go away, but I can hug her and hold her hand through some of it. I can visit her mother and do any chores she needs taken care of. I can also just listen to her as she thinks through the next steps. It is all so overwhelming, so difficult to watch a parent go through serious health issues. You have to fight hard to live in the moment and not live in fear of losing them every single day. You have to fight hard not to be completely overwhelmed with all the details of the healthcare system for the elderly. One of the hardest things is giving yourself permission to take care of yourself…you can’t pour from an empty cup. I told her to enjoy every moment with her mom, take photos and videos. No matter what, she will be grateful to have those memories saved. Hopefully she will have many years to enjoy her mother, a wonderful woman that I call ‘Mom Cawein’.
The other thing I can do is what Diane and I do best together- help her to laugh and to heal ourselves through the power of music. It has helped us both so many times in so many ways. We will do our best to focus our scrambled and tired brains on the task at hand- bringing our duo music to several universities and ending with a performance at Diane’s Midwest ClariFest at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. As Dan reminded me this morning, we are professionals. We play through joy and sorrow. We find the strength in ourselves, lean on each other when we need to, and we keep going. Being there is the gift that I can give my best friend…just as she has been for me in my own times of need. Friendship is so precious- and something I will never take for granted.