May 4, 2015

Empathy cards.

"I created this collection of empathy cards for serious illness because I believe we need some better, more authentic ways to communicate about sickness and suffering. 'Get well soon' cards don’t make sense when someone might not. Sympathy cards can make people feel like you think they’re already dead. A 'fuck cancer' card is a nice sentiment, but when I had cancer, it never really made me feel better. And I never personally connected with jokes about being bald or getting a free boob job, which is what most 'cancer cards' focus on...."



ADDED: This makes me want to quote, once again, to the late David Rakoff's statement in "Half Empty." Rakoff had cancer and had been told the treatment would require the amputation of his arm and shoulder:
A friend asks if I’ve “picked out” my prosthetic yet, as though I’d have my choice of titanium-plated cyborgiana at my disposal, like some amputee Second Life World of Warcraft character. Another friend, upon hearing my news, utters an unedited, “Oh my God, that’s so depressing!” Over supper, I am asked by another, “So if it goes to the lungs, is it all over?”...

But here’s the point I want to make about the stuff people say. Unless someone looks you in the eye and hisses, “You fucking asshole, I can’t wait until you die of this,” people are really trying their best. Just like being happy and sad, you will find yourself on both sides of the equation many times over your lifetime, either saying or hearing the wrong thing. Let’s all give each other a pass, shall we?

16 comments:

tim in vermont said...

How about "I promise to keep my alternative-medicine, goofball-diet, theories unsupported by serious research to myself in the face of your rare and serious disease which I have never heard of but the specialists have, to myself, and support you in whatever way I can outside of declaring myself the world's foremost expert on your condition which can't possibly be what the doctors say it is but is the same thing that caused my knee pain five years ago..."

That would be a good one.

Irene said...

"How about 'I promise to keep my alternative-medicine, goofball-diet, theories unsupported by serious research to myself[.]'"

That's for the person who said, "Oh. Your cells aren't happy. You should drink green tea."

Virgil Hilts said...

"I know that another Grooveshark will never come along and I won't try and convince you otherwise or offer bogus recommendations about sites that are 'just as good as' or 'very similar to' or 'worthy replacements.' Sometimes despair is the only rational reaction to events such as this. I feel your pain."

tim in vermont said...

That's for the person who said, "Oh. Your cells aren't happy. You should drink green tea."

You love them, but sometimes they make it hard.

Bob R said...

I liked a lot of these, but they only serve to remind me that I should write a note instead of buying a card. (I might plagiarize the card, but I should write it myself.)

richard mcenroe said...

" Unless someone looks you in the eye and hisses, “You fucking asshole, I can’t wait until you die of this,” people are really trying their best."

That's what Twitter is for. Check out the reaction to when Tony Snow died of cancer, for instance.

MayBee said...

I love your last paragraph, Althouse. Love it.

Sebastian said...

"I promise never to refer to your loss as needing closure except when your pants are unzipped."

-Peder said...

Love that quote!

Chef Mojo said...

Oh, yeah! Love those cards. Thanks for linking, Althouse.

As I continue on this path on my journey forward into the dark distance... [snort...giggle...snort snort snort]

I learned early on in all this that people really do not know what to say to us, but they feel like they have to say something. Their synapses have a tendency to go haywire, and they spit forth something... Just something. Best thing was to let it go by me. I got real tired of being halfway through a protocol, hairless, pale, bruised and so forth, and people would come up to me with shocked expressions, smile uncomfortably and earnestly say, "Chef, you look great!"

I went through 6 protocols.

Those cards really speak to what most cancer patients (Oh. Yeah. I'm not a victim.) would like to see from those of you in our lives. Mostly, be yourselves, not something you think you should be as you scramble for profundity.

Char Char Binks said...

Empathy is what the more feeling and evolved person such as myself has for those in dire circumstances, and is much better than the sympathy they'll get from the hoi polloi.

Jane the Actuary said...

What I've learned as the spouse of a German: the whole bit of greeting cards in which you read through the offerings and choose the one with the sentiment you like best, doesn't exist there. There are elaborately artistic cards that express a generic sentiment on the front, but the giver is expected to fill in the details on the inside.

Kzookitty said...

Geez, people make such a big deal about dying. Here's a clue: we all do it. I say this as one having maybe six months left before they drag me off the stage.

Do me a favor, don't send me a card.
Buy me ice cream.

kzookitty

Anonymous said...

To heck with the cards. Write an original, heart-felt, personal note. Better yet, go by for a visit.

mikee said...

I see your empathy cards and raise you Bunny Suicide cards.

http://www.amazon.com/Bunny-Suicides-Postcard-Book-Rabbits/dp/0452287030

mikee said...

Also, a note on your new comment verification system:

Asked to choose bread: sandwiches are bread but hamburgers in buns are not.

Soup includes Pho but does not include stew.

I am not a robot. Yet.