The Unexpected Impact of a Short Friendship

It’s Thursday morning, one day after V died. My phone dings. I see it’s Michael. I wonder what he’s going to say. He wasn’t the one who told me about V’s death last night, so I wonder why he’s texting.

Meeting Michael

I first met Michael, a hospice nurse, only weeks earlier. I had signed up V for hospice care after her brief stay in the hospital due to a UTI. The hospital staff, seeing her decline, asked me if I’d considered hospice for her. No, I hadn’t.

But now I would.

Two days later back at V’s facility, I introduced myself to Michael when he came to finalize the hospice paperwork and to meet V in person.

He was gentle with her. And kind to me. I noticed both. I appreciated both.

Michael explained to me how hospice would work. He or a fellow nurse would check on V every few days, as an extra layer of care above what she was already getting at her facility. As death became more imminent, they would make daily visits. Someone would inform me of her condition after each visit, or I could talk to them directly at the facility as they made their visit.

Life and Death Updates

True to his word, Michael regularly gave me a phone call or sent me a text after his visits with V. Even though our interchanges were typically brief, they were meaningful because of their content—life and death.

On one Wednesday morning, Michael texted me that V was unresponsive. But she was comfortable. I replied that I appreciated him watching over her. I had seen her a couple days earlier myself, and planned to visit again in a day or two.

But late that Wednesday night, everything changed.

Jeff and I were watching the news in bed. We had been under tornado warnings all night. And while the storms weren’t over yet, the worst seemed behind us—only thunderstorms remained—so we flicked off the TV to go to sleep.

Until my phone rang.

Middle-of-the-night phone calls rattle awake the body and soul. And usually for good reason. This was no exception.

The Final Call

This call was from a nurse I had not met, gently telling me that my friend V had just passed away. I was shocked, although I shouldn’t have been. I knew V’s time was short.

The nurse reassured me that V had not suffered, and that her passing was peaceful. She advised me to stay home and not venture into the bad weather; there was nothing I could do tonight.

I lay in bed as my mind raced through details I’d need to handle Thursday morning. Tell V’s brother. Finalize burial arrangements. Talk with staff at the nursing facility.

And grieve the loss of my friend.

An Unexpected Apology

It was mid-morning on Thursday when my phone dinged with the text from Michael. His message expressed condolences for my loss. And an apology.

“I’m sorry I did not give you more warning…I did not expect it so soon.”

I paused, taking in his words. I appreciated the apology, but it wasn’t necessary. I held no hard feelings for his lack of notice–who can accurately predict the exact moment of someone’s passing?

I typed out my reply. “Thank you, Michael. I appreciate your tenderness with V these past weeks. I’m glad she’s relieved of her body now.” And hit send.

He responded immediately with “Yes, I understand. Thank you. I wish peace for you also…”

And with that, our brief yet significant friend was completed. Michael had served his purpose in my life well, leaving a lasting impact despite our short acquaintance.

In life we occasionally cross paths with kind souls for only brief periods of time. From beginning to end, I’d only known Michael for a few weeks. Yet he left a mark on me more profound than some people I’ve known for years.

May we never underestimate the importance of fleeting exchanges, of short friendships. Even brief encounters can leave lasting impressions.

To those of you who have done end-of-life care, you are beautiful humans. Thank you for what you do. Share your thoughts in the comments.

54 thoughts on “The Unexpected Impact of a Short Friendship

  1. Theresa E Boedeker

    Hi Lisa. It is hard to walk through death. I am sending prayers and thinking of you and your loss. This piece was beautiful. There are many short friendships that I have had that make an impact or show and teach me something. Micheal sounds like a treasure.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thank you for your kindness, Theresa. I know that loss is a constant in life, but it’s still not easy. I appreciate the beauty though that shows up hard places to soften the edges a bit.

  2. Lynn

    I absolutely agree. The tenderness and care of someone we meet only briefly can have long-lasting impact. Thank for the reminder that I too, can be that person who briefly but with impact, can show God’s loving care to someone else.

  3. Barbara Harper

    I’m so sorry for the loss of V. Perhaps it’s a mercy that God took her more quickly than expected, so she didn’t have to linger long in that state. I’m glad she didn’t suffer in the end.

    Jim’s mom was under hospice care for over three years. In that time, we had some good and helpful caregivers, and some not so much. 🙂 But those who render that aid with kind hearts are a treasure.

    A woman in our current church is a hospice nurse. It’s hard to imagine being in a full-time occupation that deals with death every day. But for those who can do it, it’s a real and vital ministry.

    Praying for you as you grieve V’s loss and handle the details.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thank you, Barbara. I agree that it was a mercy that V didn’t have to linger long in this state. I believe her brain simply lacked the ability to adapt to being blind. And if she was going to be lost for the remainder of her days here, I’m glad those days were shortened for her. She is free now.

      I so admire those who deal with death on a daily basis too; I couldn’t do it myself either. It’s definitely an important gift to the world from those who do it well.

  4. Liz Dexter

    What a beautiful post. I wish you calm times and support as you grieve the loss of your friend. Please do reach out to people if you need to. I lost a friend three years ago and when I wasn’t coping very well last year I spoke to a bereavement charity who were so helpful and caring. Much love to you.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I appreciate your wisdom of experience and advice, Liz. I’ll never forget V; she was truly one of a kind. I visit her community of friends often and I know they miss her too.

  5. Martha J Orlando

    Your words spoke deeply to me, Lisa, and resonate in my heart. May you feel God’s tender and comforting touch as you grieve the loss of your dear friend. I’m so thankful for all the Michaels in this world.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, those Michaels in the world are treasures! Thank you for your compassion and care, Martha. Unfortunately we all know the pain of losing someone we love.

  6. Michele Morin

    This post hit home, Lisa, because we’re on the front end of a hospice journey with a close friend. Your post helped me to see the importance of hospice’s role in a patient’s final days. I’m not looking forward to this process, but I’m grateful to be entrusted with this role in my friend’s life.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Blessings to you as you travel this journey with your friend, Michele. Like Barbara mentioned earlier, there are both good and bad experiences with hospice, so I hope yours is a good one. When my father was dying, the hospice team was distant and more hands-off, but with V, it was a much better experience. May your friend have a peaceful experience.

  7. Lynn Severance

    Lisa, I add in my condolences as you grieve V’s passing. My only experience with hospice caretakers was in an actual hospital setting with one floor set aside for hospice care…and it was where my mother was sent in 2001 to live out her final days. I moved into the room with her for that duration ( 6 days). I mention this as I will never forget the ‘angles of care’ who ministered to her needs AND mine offering me their facility to shower and meals as well as some conversations so I understood what was going on. When I look back on that time it is the nurse who roused me early a.m. to let me know, “I think it is time.” It was only a few steps from my futon but her kindness in waking me allowed me the last moments with my Mom. The nurse has stepped aside to give me privacy but once my Mom had passed she was the one to hug me and say, “Yes, I just knew she was waiting for her little girl.” She then offered to bring me a glass of orange juice before I made phone calls to my brothers. The expression “dying with dignity” took on a whole real meaning after that experience. A meaningful posting – thank you!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m moved to tears by this tender story, Lynn! Thank you so much for sharing this experience here. What a blessing you received from the nurse to wake you from sleep to say goodbye to your mother. I appreciate those who honor the value of relationships in this way!

  8. Dianna

    What a powerful post. I am so sorry for the loss of your friend V, Lisa. I’ve followed along as you have shared her journey with us. What a blessing you have been for her. And then, in turn, what a blessing Michael was to you. Sending love and prayers. We’ve gone through the last days of two of our parents with hospice attending and they truly are a special special people.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thank you for your condolences, Dianna. It’s still weird to know that V is gone after passing away so quickly in the grand scheme of things. I’m so grateful for the many people (hospice and otherwise) who showed her such kindnesses along the way. She was an unusual person who had been dealt some hard blows from the beginning of life, so I’m grateful now for her freedom. I’m glad you had good experiences with hospice staff as well. We’re often fragile ourselves during times of loss so their tenderness is even more needed.

  9. Lois Flowers

    I’m sorry for the loss of V, Lisa. What a blessing to be able to interact with Michael during that short time. I can think of many such “fleeting friendships” that I was privileged to experience during my parents’ last months. Each one was a gift. (Just as you were to V, by the way.)

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thank you for your kindness, Lois. There were many days that I complained about V’s numerous needs, but I’m grateful there were always people who came along beside me and helped me figure things out. We never know how big those little things can be in a person’s life until we’re on the “help needed” side of things. I know you were very in tune to receiving those gifts too during that very hard year you lost both your parents. I hope your book will reach the world one day soon!

  10. Tea With Jennifer

    I’m saddened to hear of your loss Lisa. The loss of a loved one or dear friend is always difficult to go through, even when expected as it seems so darn final this side of Heaven.

    I appreciated your sharing today, as I’m going through the same experience with a loved one at the moment.
    blessings, Jennifer

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m sorry to hear you’re going through this now, too, Jennifer. May you find special people and experiences as well as you walk this journey. You’d think we’d finally adjust to these losses since we KNOW that every single person will die a physical death at some point, but it remains difficult, even within our context of hope.

  11. Catherine Sokolowski

    I am sorry for your loss. It is so true though that short friendships can have a great impact on us and we don’t realize that until it ends. I will be watching out for and appreciating those friendships more after reading your post.

  12. Jerralea Winn Miller

    Sorry for your loss, Lisa.

    I do think it is true that the length of time with a friend does not measure the impact. God might only put people in our lives for one meeting! It’s important for us to realize we might only have one opportunity with someone.

    I even believe the purpose for one’s whole life might be for a one-time connection. We just don’t know! In eternity, it will be fun to trade stories. 😉

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You’re so right, Jerralea – sometimes even one meeting may be all we’re meant to have with someone, and that doesn’t negate the importance of it. May we value our encounters with others, however brief.

  13. Carole

    ‘Even brief encounters can leave lasting impressions.’ So true.
    It sounds like your friend was in a good place to spend her final days. I lost a friend recently, and even though I knew he was dying, his passing still came as a shock.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m so sorry you’ve recently lost a friend, too, Carole. Yes, I’m very grateful that my friend was so well taken care of in her last days. It was likely some of the most attentive care she had ever known, sadly.

  14. Lisa Blair

    I’m sad about the loss of your friend V, Lisa. Michael sounds like a gem! I’m so glad he was there for V as she transitioned home and that he was there for you as you released her to Him.

  15. Corinne Rodrigues

    I’m sorry for the loss of your friend Lisa. It must have been comforting to know that she passed peacefully.
    People like Michael bring so much comfort to relatives and friends who are dealing with their sorrow and fears. I see them as messengers of grace when we need it first.

  16. Jean Wise

    I read this post while I was on retreat the exact day one of the staff there showed me a small act of kindness that made my day and I thought yes yes it only takes such a little act but that can be so powerful. we need more kindness in this world. May it be so!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m glad you were treated with a small (but obviously impactful!) act of kindness on your retreat, Jean. I’ll look forward to hearing what else you experienced while you were there….

  17. Marsha

    My guess is that you and V also made an impression on Michael. What a blessing when we encounter sweet and gentle people like Michael. I’m sorry for your loss and hope that the rest of the details that you have to handle go well for you.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      How kind, Marsha. Thank you. I still have a few minor things left to do, but all the big tasks about V’s passing have now been taken care of. I’m grateful for the kindness of those around who helped with those.

  18. Ashley Rowland | HISsparrowBlog

    I appreciate the reminder that a short time with someone can be impactful. And no less important than decades. I’m sorry for your loss, but I’m so glad V had such a good friend to listen and provide what she needed no matter how hard I’m sure it was for you. I’ll be praying for you, Lisa.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thank you, Ashley. It feels counterintuitive that value isn’t necessarily linked with longevity, but sometimes that’s just how it works. Hope you’re doing well, friend!

  19. Olivia

    The process of death, even when expected is so stressful. When a professional walks that journey with you with competence, trustworthiness, and kindness it’s so meaningful, no matter how brief. Thanks for sharing your story.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You’re right, Olivia. It helps to have those seasoned people to show us the way out, just as I liked having professionals when I was bringing new little people into the world through birth. Skill is valuable!

  20. Patti Gardner

    My beloved father-in-law passed in hospice care just 3 months ago. My husband was able to be with Dad as he passed. He and his sister have nothing but praise for the hospice workers who cared for Dad the last 10 days of his life. They not only cared for Dad, but they cared for Gary and his sister too.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m so sorry to hear of the loss of your father-in-law, Patti. 🙁 It’s never easy, no matter if expected or not expected. I’m glad the hospice workers were good humans to him and to Gary and his sister! People like that are invaluable in this world.

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