A very good friend of mine called me the other day, his voice on the phone not his usual joyous tone. He sounded terrible, stuffed up, and spoke slowly and deliberately, taking deep breaths almost before every other word. I knew immediately why he sounded the way he did.
“How’s your dad, dude?” I was almost afraid to hear his response.
“Val,” his voice trailed off and I knew he was composing himself to continue.
His dad had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a few months ago. No cure, no chance for any medical breakthough to keep his old man with him just a little longer. I thought it was the call I’d been dreading, the call to tell me his dad had passed.
“Dude,” he tells me. “It’s not good…Complications.” He goes on to tell me about a procedure they’d done on his dad and how while during the surgery they had uncovered yet another byproduct of the disease. One which, no matter what, was not only unstoppable but further exacerbated his condition.
“Doctor says a week. Maybe two, tops.”
My heart lumped in my throat. I wished, at that very moment, I hadnt answered the phone. I wished I were someone else or so far away that no one could ever reach me. I fought the tears back and begged my mind and heart for words, but none came.
“Dude. I am so sorry man. So sorry. I can’t even begin to find the words.” What do you say to someone in that situation? Nothing I could possibly say would help ease his pain. I could hear him fighting back the emotions over the phone.
“Dude,” I tell him, “if theres anything I can do, anything, just say…”
“I know Val,” he sighed. “There is actually something that, it’s gonna sound a little weird but…”
“Dude, whatever you need from me man. Whatever.”
“Well,” he took a deep breath, “Like I said, it’s gonna sound a little weird but, I.. I just don’t think I can do it. I mean, I know what I want to say but I’m not good with words and… I know this will sound fucking strange but, can you help me write his obituary?”
I didn’t know what to say again.
“If it’s too much to ask,” he was almost apologetic. “Don’t worry about it, man. I can have …”
“No no, man. It isnt too much to ask. I just don’t know if something I can write will do justice to you father man. You know? I mean, it’s your old man, dude. I can help you write it but I don’t think I can possibly say about him what needs to be said.”
“I really would never put this burden on you Val, but I just…” He trailed off again. I knew he was crying. “I just can’t do it Val. I can’t.”
“Dude, no problem, man. I’ll help you write as much as you want. But you will need to tell me what you want to say. I know your dad is an awesome dad but…you need to write it and I will help you put it into words befitting him.”
“I have started to write some stuff,” he said. “I’ll finish adding everything and I’ll email it to you..”
“Ok. When I get the email and have read it I’ll call you.”
I recieved the email this morning, read it, cried, picked up the phone and almost called my buddy to tell him that I couldn’t do it. In my mind I was thinking I would tell him that it was perfect. That it said what needed to be said.
But it didn’t. I know his dad. I know the kind of man he is. I know the kind of friend my buddy has been and, I know what he wanted to say about his dad.
So I helped him write his dad’s obituary, and it’s the hardest thing to write I have ever written.