2 degrees of separation


"What are your weekend plans?"

I was just explaining to my husband before driving to this late night grocery run how much this diagnosis has changed everything. I used to know how to navigate conversations; to keep things just real enough to be meaningful, but to not make the other person uncomfortable. 

But this grief? 

It's invaded everything. It's like the 2 degrees of separation thing where you're just two handshakes away from a famous person... But instead I'm two questions away from sadness and from paralyzing the other person with not knowing what to say. 

What do you say to someone when they tell you their 5 year old has cancer? 

What does that someone do when everything in their life revolves around how their 5 year old has cancer?

So I ponder a second before answering her question. It gets a bit weird. How hard can weekend plans be? 

Instead of something casual like "oh, laying low." I choose honesty. 

"My son has cancer and has chemotherapy tomorrow. So, this late night grocery run is to try to buy him all the foods he might like to get him through the weekend." 

I've learned to quickly tack on an escape phrase. "Good thing is he's doing well! Only a few treatments left." 

I see them sigh relief. "Oh good. Hope he feels better soon!" 

But one cashier didn't take the escape route. She looked at me and didn't look away. Then she got flowers and chased me out in the parking lot and said "I hate that that even exists in the world... but keep going. You've got this." And I cried. And her eyes began to match mine. 

It wasn't an anthem. It wasn't a trite "you got this." It was a gentle shared hope. 

I balled all the way home. Yet again, I shook hands with sadness. 

I've been tempted to wear the mask of okayness, but then I'm building a fortress that might keep out more than I bargained for. 

I'm perpetually two questions away from tears. But, sometimes, I'm two questions away from kindness.

I'm two questions away from sharing gutting news. But I'm also two questions away from shared hope. 

This week, both were wrapped up in weekend plans. 

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