Q: My college roommate’s mother is dying of cancer. I have known her for many, many years. Because her house was closer than my mom’s house, we would often be at her house on weekends. My roommate wants me to come visit her. I would like to remember her as she was when she was healthy, but I know I should go see her. However, I don’t know what I should say to her. Can you help me? I am afraid I will cry and I don’t think that would be the thing to do.
A: You had a lot of fun times with your college roommate’s mother and she apparently not only opened her home to you but also her heart. Yes, it will be difficult to see her when she is dying, but it will be an opportunity for you to make her feel better. You can say things such as:
“I am so glad to see you again.”
“I am so sorry to hear you are so ill.”
“ I remember so many happy times when I was here for weekends while I was in college.” Then relate some of the wonderful times and food you had while you were there. Thank her again for having you spend time in her home.
Be sure to give her a chance to talk as well and tell you about some of the things she remembers about your visits.
Stay with her even if she drifts off to sleep, or if she does not have the strength to talk a lot. Do not rush your visit. Spending time with someone who is very ill is very important and it is not necessary for either of you to be speaking the entire length of your time together.
Avoid talking about the negative aspects of her situation.
If she decides she wants to tell you about how she is feeling, listen to her.
If you cry, you cry. Crying is an outward form of expressing a feeling. She will understand.
Dianne Isbell is a local contributing writer. Send your etiquette questions to Lifestyle Editor Patrick Kuhl, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.