Conscious Aging: Call from Rochester

A dear friend from Rochester has called with the news that their 47 year old son, a non-smoker, has been diagnosed with lung cancer. The first cancer treatment he received did nothing to knock back the tumors; he’s now in his second trial. They’ll know something by the end of August.

My friend, who will turn 80 in the fall, and her husband of similar age were just back from an extended trip when they got the call. They literally dropped their bags and made an airline reservation for the city where their son and his family live. We never stop being the parents, no matter the age of a son or daughter. He needed them; they went.

I have other friends of similar age, formerly Rochesterians now living on the Cape, who lost their mid-50’s son to prostate cancer. The loss about did them in, and they are both strong people.

Some things are easier as we age. We have more perspective, and know a real crisis from a bump in the road. We’ve weathered more, and trust our resilience. We have deep friendships built over time that can sustain and support us. But the death of a son or daughter, or a life-threatening illness, is not easier. A threat to the life of a child — whether five days old, five months, five years or fifty — tears at the very fabric of our identity as parents. Above all we are supposed to protect our children, keep them safe. And then cancer comes calling, leading everyone into terrain where there is no safety.

I’m heartbroken for my friends. They are deeply religious people, and have a wide network of people praying for their son. I offered my support in terms of loving energy sent his way, and theirs. I’m glad she called, to allow me to be part of the trusted friendship group who can offer support. I’ll call in early September, to see if there is any hopeful news.

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