Of course, it was never about me anyway

I later realized that part of the reason we got along so well was because she made me feel special.

She never exactly told me that I was “special”. It was just a “way” she had that made a person feel valued and supported and… well, special.

Well maybe that says something about me and my ego – subconsciously pleased that my boyfriend made me feel special. I actually think everyone likes to be felt that way, and why not?

With all the negativity in the world, it’s nice to get a boost here and there.

“Alice”* was around 80 and we spent a lot of time together, especially in the last months of her life. She was in hospice and we all know what that means.

I’m intentionally vague due to health privacy laws, but I was one of the caregivers who helped her. We knew each other before she became terminally ill, so it felt like helping a longtime friend instead of doing a job.

Of course, she and I had a lot in common, so being friends was easy.

We talked about everything from politics to religion, dogs (always dogs!) and sex to all current affairs.

She was perceptive – just a super smart person.

She even put up with my puns and hackneyed sense of humor. She grew up in the Chicago suburbs; I grew up in the Central Illinois countryside. I didn’t know her until late in life, but she seemed a bit sophisticated and sort of “decent”. She wasn’t snobby about it.

“Dignified” is an excellent word to describe her.

We were both Catholics and she had a soft spot for the Jesuits.

We sometimes communicated via walkie-talkie so that when I was in the other room, she could get help immediately. For example, when I started leaving her room to go to the kitchen, I would usually remind her, “If you need anything, just yell at me.”

Well I said that to amuse myself. It reminds me of where I grew up and people I knew who used words like “roar” a lot. And then there was Alice and the contrast between her measured, intellectual nature and us bums on the sticks.

To be honest, it tickled me.

A few weeks before her death, as I was about to leave the room and said my usual “yell at me,” I stopped.

“You know, in all this time, Alice, you’ve never ‘yelled at me’.”

She felt bad as she lay down with her eyes closed. Then she said as clearly as a bell, seriously, deliberately, deliberately and with dignity:

“Jesuits do NOT ‘roar’.”

She wasn’t as silly as me, but she definitely had a sense of humor!

Alice has always made me feel important and proud of my unique talents as a person. After she died, I realized that she made everyone feel that way.

Her caregivers, friends, children, grandchildren… She was just the kind of person who lifted others up.

I’m still figuring out how she did it. But she sure did.

It reminded me of my father.

We were always close. He died in 2006 at the age of 61 from a lung disease (it wasn’t related to smoking; we still don’t know why he got it). I miss him every day.

I’m the eldest and of four girls I’m definitely the “tom boy”. We girls are all well rounded thanks to both of our parents. We know the difference between a Phillips and a flat head, and a hair clip and a hair tie.

Well, my sisters do. I wear my hair short because I’m too lazy to do anything with it.

But usually I was the one holding the flashlight when Dad was fiddling with the car engine. We got both Creepers out (the mechanic type, not the Minecraft type) and went under the house (it was on a concrete slab) to fix the duct work.

He did the repairs. I have to keep the flashlight.

I have always felt close to my father for many reasons. He was also thoughtful and I could talk to him about anything.

After his death, I realized that virtually everyone who was close to him felt the same way.

I actually felt a bit sore about it at first. Was not I The special?

He made me feel like I could do anything. I’m not sure how to explain it. Somehow he just made me feel good no matter what.

Then, years later, after Alice died, it dawned on me – how people like my father and Alice make everyone around them feel valued and important.

It just comes naturally to some people, I think. But I now know the basic source and I’m so glad.

It wasn’t because I’m special.

It’s because they were.

*NOTE: Since she’s not here to give her permission, I’ve changed my friend’s name to protect her identity.


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