Wednesday, June 15, 2011

My Dear Friend Betsy

Today I went to visit my friend Betsy. To say it was an emotional visit would be an understatement. I did all I could to stay strong and not cry, but three times I couldn't help it. Once when I saw her (the nurse had wheeled her away so thankfully she didn't see me cry), the second when she read the card I gave her and SHE started crying, and lastly, when she played inspirational music on her iPod.
I met Betsy years ago, when our children went to the same school. She was the mom who headed up all the fundraisers, she was a den mother and extremely involved in both the Boy Scouts and our church. In fact for the longest time, whenever I mentioned Betsy's name to my mom, she would say, "oh yeah, she's the tall lady in the Dr. Seuss hat" (her ploy in grabbing family's attention during fund raising events).

When Mike was diagnosed, she stepped into high gear. She got all the moms together from the school and made sure we had dinner delivered once a week (our Angel Dinners), and as her boys got older, they went to a different Catholic school which had a service club that helped families with extenuating circumstances. She made arrangements for our living room to be painted. Throughout the years, I would get "Thinking of You" cards from her giving me hope and inspiration. One night her and her boys showed up at my home with what looked like a huge scarf. She hand crocheted us a "prayer shawl" to wrap around all of us so we could pray together. Even after she became ill, her husband delivered food to us and when I asked why, he said, "You know Betsy, she's happy when she's helping others".

Yes, that's Betsy.

A few years ago, she was diagnosed with PLS - a slow progressing "cousin" of ALS. Each time I saw her, I noticed her decline. First, her trouble walking, then talking. Last summer she fell and broker her leg and that was it. Since then her decline has been even more rapid and on Memorial Day Weekend she sent an e-mail to all her friends informing us that her PLS had become full blown ALS and her time was limited. In the e-mail she said she was going to use her good china every day and not waste a moment. Even in relating such heartbreaking news, she remained true to her faith.

Two weeks ago I asked if Courtney and I could go and visit her today, because I had a 1/2 day at work. We'd bring dinner (which she needed pureed, but that was OK because I am all too familiar with that), a funny movie to watch and something sweet for dessert. On Monday, she e-mailed me and told me she was in an in-patient hospice facility because her husband was called away on business and she had to cancel today. I asked where she was, and although the hospice was 45 min-1 hour away, I decided I was still going, to visit her.

And here I am, drained from an emotional day. As I was leaving I began questioning everything. Mike was a person who would give the shirt off his back for anyone. Betsy was the same type person, yet here they both are prisoners in their own bodies. I work with an attorney who wishes that all his annoying clients get stomach cancer, and despite his "kind words", he has a boat, house in Vermont and vacations in Tahiti. How do I wrap my mind around this - how is this justified?

I have no answers now, but I know that one day we'll find them.


Kathy Knowles said...

What a blessing you are to your friend, Betsy. Your questions are such good ones...why do great people who do so much for others get so ill and suffer so much? I certainly don't have an answer, but I am witness to many good folks who have experienced this, and I've learned from nearly all of them that their faith always became stronger instead of weaker...a great testament to that faith. I know you were blessed by your visit today as much as Betsy was. Stay strong.

trish said...


Thanks for sharing the story of your friend Betsy, it brought tears to my eyes. Praying for your continued strength.