I have a friend who is currently going through the type of health-related family anguish you should never know... but given the way life (and death) works, you probably will at one time or another.
While I won't reveal his identity for obvious privacy reasons, my friend is strong, brave, and dealing with his troubling time in a most open and frank manner.
Over the past year or so, he's been outlining the status of his situation via a series of poignant and elegant emails... and the last one, which detailed the sad prognosis none of us wanted to hear, left this recipient choked up and at a loss for words to reply.
However, given the guts, courage and presence mustered up by my friend to explain his predicament to us all, how in the world could I not find a mere fraction of the same fortitude within me to reciprocate?
That was the easy part. The hard part was saying something with meaning. It's one thing about not knowing what to say in a difficult time, quite another to ensure what you eventually blurt out doesn't sink into clichés or is mired in maudlin.
But I think I found something -- and in the process, found this week's learning -- in the most un-profound of places.
Because the best thing I could wish for my friend was a speedy return to the mundane.
While I thankfully have never faced the same gut-wrenching situation as he is currently, I remembered similar experiences watching both my parents pass away relatively young (quite young in my mom's case, at 59) to slow, degenerative diseases. I remember the emotional house visits, the countless medical appointments, the incessant calls to and from numerous doctors, and the recurring hospital trips.
And when the end came in both cases, I recall the strange feeling of being on display at large funerals and having to almost put on a nightly performance over a week for the influx of well-meaning visitors to the shiva (click here if you are unfamiliar with the traditional Jewish mourning ceremony).
But the thing I remember most is that during this time -- and others -- when my life was in unbalancing disarray, all I wanted was to pay a phone bill, or go to the cleaners or do something equally as everyday and nondescript.
In other words, I longed for a return to the mundane.
I told my friend that the time will come -- the sooner the better -- when he'll be preoccupied with the fact that his new iPhone still hasn't arrived, when he'll swear a blue streak because he spilled a bit of coffee on his tie, when he'll be wasting time standing in line at an airport or at a bank machine.
In other words, the time will come when the trivial will be important.<
And that'll be a good sign.
Because it'll mean that the grip of gloom will have eased.
And that, without compromising his love for his family, it'll mean that he has moved on to a brighter place.