This I Believe

Sheila - Portland, Oregon
Entered on January 5, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: death

IF THERE’S ANYTHING I CAN DO…

My husband recently died. He was young, just 53, and he left my daughter and me in a world of uncertainty and despair.

The most consistent phrase I heard during the weeks following his death was this “If there’s anything I can do, let me know.” It’s a polite, unoffensive phrase, one I’ve offered myself so many times when I’ve been unclear exactly how to help. The truth is, it doesn’t help. What did? The people who offered nothing, but did something. One neighbor showed up every night with a hot dish of italian food. Another friend showed up and announced he was going to clean out the garage. A former business partner called on the day I’d planned to drive myself to have my husbands remains cremated. I’m forever grateful for her steady hand on the wheel. My co-workers arrived with a living Christmas tree during a week when I’d been dealing with the sobering details of funeral arrangements..My sister in law scrubbed my bathroom so many times I can’t count.

I’m forever grateful. I was so in shock from the extreme stress of unexpected death, I didn’t have the time or energy to come up with a list of what needed to be done, for me, or my daughter.

The people that saved me were the people who anticipated the need, then did it. Recently, a co-worker was diagnosed with cancer. As we discussed her decision to begin radiation immediately, I found myself close to these words “If there’s anything…”

Instead, I sent a cleaning crew to her house.