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It’s not what you say – or even how you say it

Yesterday I was sure that I wasn’t going to talk “swine.”  Twelve hours ago I had almost, definitely decided on my topic.  And it wasn’t swine flu.  But sometime between then an hour ago, I changed my mind.  I’m allowed to do that.  It’s my blog.  And, guess what.  I changed it again.
I actually began to write about the swine flu but then took a break – for a very important reason.  My sister, daughter and I had to start decorating hats for friends and family members who will join us this weekend to participate in the brain tumor walk in Washington D.C.  Each year we form a team in memory of my husband, who died 4 years ago.  As I was about to start writing my “swine” blog again, a friend and fellow team member emailed me to make sure that I pick up a “yellow” shirt for her tomorrow instead of a white one (when I pick up team members’ shirts for them), indicating that she is a brain tumor survivor.
This weekend always marks the beginning of two weeks of intense emotions.  It begins with the brain tumor walk, moves onto the anniversary of my husband’s death in the Jewish calendar, then his birthday and, the day after that, the anniversary of his death in the common calendar.
This weekend also serves as a reminder of how important friends and family are. Each year I am amazed by the number of people who join me to celebrate my late-husband’s life and to support our family.  While my children have to carry the burden of their father’s death, they also have learned how important life is and how lucky they are that so many people care about them.
It is difficult to know what to say when somebody becomes terminally ill or when a family member dies.  What are the proper words?  For the most part, it is not the exact words that matter.   What does matter is that friends and family are there to show support.  Immediately – and a week later.  And 6 months later.  And 2 and even 4 years later.
Some of my friends began to check on my weekly after my husband died and, to this day, still check on me the same day of every week.  Others called me recently after a religious leader in my synagogue was diagnosed with the same type of tumor my husband had – because they wanted  to make sure I was doing OK.  Likewise, my daughters’ friends, who are now 5th graders, watch out for her.  When a classmate’s father recently died, it upset my daughter greatly.  That evening  I received several phone calls from her friends’ parents, who had heard she was very sad.  I also received a phone call from her guidance counselor, letting me know about the death and making sure my daughter was OK.
We have over 65 people walking with us this Sunday.  Our team is comprised of aunts, uncles, in-laws, and cousins.  It also include teachers, a principal, and an old patient of mine.  Plus, there are friends of my husband’s, good friends of mine who barely or never knew him and, of course, old and new friends of both of my daughters.  Some didn’t even know my daughters when their dad was alive.
I will keep my fingers crossed that most of the people walking this Sunday are accompanied by someone wearing a yellow shirt, rather than just a sea of white.

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