I was surprised when John,
who helped save my life, came
down with liver cancer. He had
no interest in going through this
the way I did. He didn’t want to
talk. He just stared at me for hours.
I so wanted to be there for him. All
I could do was sit with him in silence.
I read books while he slept, held his
hand, tried to slow his breathing when
he was agitated. All this to say, keep
your friend company the best you can.
Give your heart to what you sense
brings her relief. If she likes to be
with dogs, be with dogs. If she likes
to smell lavender, smell lavender. If
she likes to watch The Iron Chef,
watch The Iron Chef. Ask gentle
questions, expecting nothing. Listen
for her remaining aliveness. Mist
those tender roots with time, the
one thing she doesn’t have. Love
her into some small adventure
the two of you can enter, like
chasing light or watching the
first silent film. To be a second
self is a vaccine against despair.
A Question to Walk With: In conversation with a friend or loved one, describe someone who has been a second self for you.