Imagine a list. On this list are the people you could count on to bail you out of any situation, no matter how foolish or dire the request. You could call, and regardless of what you’re interrupting, or the distance required to save you, they would be there. No questions asked. Would you have anyone on the list?
I had a friend once who kept such a list. It was short. I can remember the day he told me I was on it. I had equal feelings of pride for being such a stellar friend, and anxiety- should he decide to interrupt my honeymoon because he needed to be broken out of a Beirut prison. Many things in life are bittersweet like this... I can remember my friend and I toasting to my newfound place on his special list and I immediately began to think about who might be on mine. It is also a very short list.
A few years later, this friend had a horrible series of misfortunes, starting with a cancer diagnosis. Under normal circumstances, the people on his list would have run to him to aid in whatever way they could. We would have been there to prove to him that we were honored and deserved to be on the list. But we all know that 2020 has not been normal by any stretch of the imagination. COVID kept nearly everyone on the list at home, checking in periodically, but unable to do much to assist, other than cheerlead from afar. Fortunately for this friend, there was someone who had been holding court in the number one spot on his list for 2 decades, and she was there. She was with him when he coughed up blood for the first time. She was there when he was frantic and hopeless, but she was also there when he was smiling and optimistic. She earned her spot on his list in a way that most people wouldn’t be able to stomach. She did it without complaint and completely out of love.
I forgot to mention, when you get put on the list- according to my late friend, you cannot be removed from it. So, deciding to put someone on the list in the first place must be done without an inkling of doubt. If you wouldn’t be willing to help this person relocate on a whim, or clean up their body fluids, or drive anywhere they needed you to in order to get the things that would sustain them, then you would have no place on the list. If you wouldn’t be willing to watch them as they traverse through a myriad of emotions, physical degradation, and ultimately take their last breath, then the list wasn’t the right fit.
In the end, there’s a good reason why his list was short. Because there was only one person who deserved to be on it. She steadfastly occupied her place on her dearly departed’s list with grace, patience, and dignity. She helped him accomplish his dreams. She thinks she could have done better because that’s the kind of person she is. But I know that she was an angel on earth for one of my dearest friends. I hope one day she will recognize that she WAS the list.