What Can I Do for You?

Let me know what I can do for you.  This is a statement I received from several people recently after my husband’s stroke.  I feel blessed to have so many people who care and who want to help.  I have also found myself asking the same question recently to friends, colleagues and acquaintances as people face various traumatic events – illness, death, accidents, unemployment,  general brokenness…

What follows  is my musing aloud about this.

There’s been a crisis.  Friends and family contact and descend.  They ask: What can I do for you?  Let me know if there’s anything you need.

I know I need , but it’s hard to organize my needs to ask. I know I need something but I don’t feel close enough to you to accept your help.  I have registered your offer and I offer my appreciation even if I know I’m not going to follow up.

What can you do?

Erase – Can you erase this challenge, this breach in the comfort and safety of my world?  Help me hit the reset button. Turn back the clock to the days when we were happier than we even realized (blissfully ignorant, silly, unappreciative humans that we were). Well, this is not a real request I can make, is it? It’s a wish, a fantasy, a running away from reality.

What can you do?

Provide me a shoulder and some arms.  A full body embrace – long and hard enough that I relax into it, a shoulder to lean on, permission to cry, a moment to collapse, collapse, cry a little more, just for a few minutes until I can regroup.

What can you do?

Come home with me. Spend the night.  I don’t want to face the emptiness of the house (this only happened for about  10 days but, it was difficult.)

What can you do?

Answer the questions, the cross-examinations for me – the how did it happen, when did it happen, did you do this or that?  Answering these questions repeatedly gets draining and a simple post for the entire world to see just seems to generate more questions (plus there are lots of folks who don’t read their emails or look at Facebook and who are determined to hear  the new straight from this horse’s mouth). The inquiries come via phone call (home & cell), text, email, and in person. Damn.  We know a lot of people.  We know a lot of people who care…thank you.

What can you do?

Send up your prayers and positive thoughts.  They do help.  They create an energy bringing relief, peace, and sometimes healing (but not, alas, all of the time).

Remember us later, after the newness of this trouble wears off and the initial flurry of interest ebbs.  That’s when it’ll get lonely and isolated.  That’s when a thoughtful act might help.

What you did do:

  • A friend left a $100 bill with a short note in the mailbox.  Use this however it will be helpful and don’t you dare think of giving it back. She also distracted me by picking me up and takin me to a yard sale.  Those couple of hours meant so much!
  • Another friend called and went on a serious mission to get us into the rehab we were seeking.
  • A friend knows about my reluctance to drive on the highway and drove me to rehab and familiarized the route for me so I will do it on my own.
  • So many folks sent cards.  The cards are a tangible way to show us your love and care.  We display them and feel embraced every time we look at them.Another friend surprised us with flowers – unexpected and so welcome.
  • Three friends send a basket of delectable  – also welcomed – and we noshed appreciatively.
  • A cousin made a tremendous offer.  (Stunned me to silence, my husband to tears).

The most important response of all was from the friend who answered  this concerned wife’s call and went to the house immediately and took my husband to the hospital.  Words can never express my gratitude for that friend.

What shouldn’t you do?

  • Do not just show up at the house or the hospital.  Sometimes, especially in the initial days,  it’s too many, too soon, too often.
  • Don’t  ask the ill person to repeat the story yet again.
  • Don’t call every day (or more frequently) unless you’re really, really close.

But, on the other hand, don’t not make contact at all.

  • Don’t compare what happened to us to what happened to you or someone you know.  There’s no comparison of pain/crisis. It could have been worse  and we are thankful  that it wasn’t, but it was still traumatic and scary.
  • Don’t tell us about the multiple strokes your friend or loved one had. (It doesn’t help to hear that so and so had several strokes after their first one.  We’re trying not to go there.  Our research and doctors will tell us that but we didn’t need to hear that so early in what we were going through.)

Take care of myself?

Thank you for your suggestions that I take care of myself.  I’m trying, but really, how?  How do I do that?  The work, the obligations, none of that stopped and in fact, the demands have increased.

What can you do?

Understand.  We will return calls, emails, and inquiries when as we can.  Thank you notes have gone out – more will go out as we can.  Continue to pray and believe. Take care of yourselves.   Never miss a chance to do joyful things.

Know that you are loved by us and we appreciate the love you’ve given to us.

From this experience, I will definitely be more thoughtful in my responses to others in their time of need.

Love,  Candelaria

About Candelaria Silva

Candelaria Silva-Collins is a marketing, community outreach and programming consultant; writer; and trainer/facilitator who lives in Boston, Massachusetts. She has designed and facilitated workshops on a wide variety of topics including communication, facilitation, job search skills, team building, and parenting issues. She currently coordinates the Community Membership Program of the Huntington Theatre Company. Her work as Director of ACT Roxbury was profiled in several publications, including The Creative Communities Builders Handbook. Candelaria’s children’s stories, short stories, essays and reviews have been published in local and national publications and she is an active blogger. Her publications include the booklets, Handling Rejection; Pushing through Shyness: Networking Tips when You’re Shy, Slow to Warm Up or Just don’t Feel you Belong; and Real Questions about Sex & Relationships for Teens: A Discussion Guide for Parents. She has served on the boards of Goddard College, Wheelock Family Theatre, Boston Foundation for Architecture, and Discover Roxbury. She is currently Chair, Designators of the Henderson Foundation.

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