As a woman, I believe one of the best gifts you can give yourself is a network of other strong women. This is particularly true if you are not in a committed romantic relationship. I’m not talking about friends who complain about romance or the lack of respectable partners (although that does have its time and place). I mean the kind of women who nurture your own femininity, who remind you that you are more than just someone’s wife, girlfriend or partner, who tell you that you are enough as you are when you are faced daily by the messages that you should be something other than who you are.
I met Sharon on a Friday night over ten years ago when my sister Sandy invited me to join the two of them for happy hour after work. I was drawn in by her warm smile and genuine laugh. At the time we met, all three of us were actively dating – or attempting to. We swapped stories of dating disasters over glasses of wine, and pledged to keep in touch.
Over the years, my admiration and appreciation for Sharon has grown as we have experienced life together. Sharon is honest and matter of fact whenever I discuss obstacles or problems. She is generous and thoughtful. Sharon was there to comfort Sandy and I when our sister and brother-in-law passed away. She was an example of strength and perseverance when facing her own health matters. And this year, when I was stuck in a hospital bed, Sharon was a regular visitor.
Sharon came several times to visit me in the hospital. Her presence was a welcome distraction from the pain and discomfort which seemed to be never-ending. Sharon brought me tissues when I complained about the flimsy hospital issued ones. She raided the unit refrigerator for cranberry juice when I was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection. But the act of kindness I appreciated most was Sharon’s willingness to help me eat.
If you have never been fed by someone as an adult, you may not understand how vulnerable you can feel to rely on another person for this assistance. Will the person helping you try to shovel large amounts of food in your mouth? Will they keep going if you are still hungry? Will they become annoyed if you need to take a rest? Will they try to force liquid down you throat when you still have food in your mouth, increasing the risk of you choking? Will they wipe up any spills or leave you with food scraps on your face?
Because of my injury, I was not able to get into a position where I could independently feed myself while in bed. I was content to just ignore food for the first few days, but eventually my appetite started coming back. My lack of arm strength meant I was unable to lift a fork or spoon to my mouth, even when I was hungry.
One day Sharon visited and found my lunch tray sitting on the table next to my bed. When I told her I had eaten all I could manage to do on my own, she rolled up her sleeves and picked up the fork. Smiling, she asked if she could help me eat a bit more. I was grateful she asked, rather than just jumping in to help. With Sharon’s assistance, I ate the rest of the soup and chicken tenders and felt full for the first time in days.
Sharon was the perfect meal companion, a role she took on more than once during my hospital stay. She was attentive to my cues, never rushing me or forcing me to eat until I was ready. She would keep up conversation while I chewed, telling me stories of her sons or events taking place around the region. Whenever I showed signs of fatigue, Sharon would pause and wait for me to be ready without showing any impatience. She never left me with scraps of food on my face or sheets. Sharon brushed aside my thanks, telling me she was just happy to be useful.
Sharon is the type of friend who would not want or seek attention for doing something she feels is just the right thing to do. It is for that reason that I appreciate the kindness and patience she showed me while I was stuck in a hospital bed earlier this year. I was grumpy, grouchy and demanding, but she returned to my side to help alleviate some of the darkness and despair I was feeling.
Thank you Sharon, for your friendship. I treasure the laughs we have shared, and look forward to being able to join you for more fun times when I am once again independently able to get out and about. We have some catching up to do!