The tip of the iceberg…

Tip of the Iceberg --- Image by © Ralph A. Clevenger/CORBIS
Tip of the Iceberg — Image by © Ralph A. Clevenger/CORBIS

Last week I deviated from my basic theme of living despite illness to share having had the occasion to remember and celebrate two women who were important to me. These women were my father’s sisters. They passed away within a few months of each other.

Today I will share how they, and others, were able to quietly support us when things were hitting the fan. Distance did not hinder them in supporting us.


When visiting with them, came the hug.

With the hugs came the question: How are you? Not the polite How are you but a real one.

That was followed by: How is Jean-Michel? Which was followed by, especially by my dad’s surviving sibling: We pray for him everyday.

It might be pertinent to state at this time we are not a small family. My grandmother had more or less 60 grandchildren. The vast majority made it to adulthood and have married, had children, grandchildren and at least one great-grandchild so far. I would not even guess at how much my family has contributed to populating North America.

You can imagine that the sheer number of people guarantees that there are stories to be told. There are joyful ones. There are funny ones. There are heart-breaking ones. There are great stories of illness and tragedy. There are also stories of strength and resiliency.

I wanted to mention how large my family is to help show how these lovely ladies I have spoken about last week and the one who still remains in Dad’s family have plenty to worry about closer to home than us.

Despite their family reality and concerns, I have always felt their love and concern for me and my family, when I would visit.

I felt it in their hugs.

I felt it in their questions on how we were doing.

I felt it in their comments.

I felt it when they shared they prayed for us.

I loved that I felt their prayers when they would tell me.

I love that I could be with them almost every year to let them know how important they were and are, even though the visits were brief.

These ladies were not the only ones that had supportive thoughts for us. I did learn about theirs through our visits. It meant a lot to me that they shared with me.

Others would let it slip on occasion that they knew about our adventure. Sometimes it was a comment or an expression.

What I appreciated most in my visits with my extended family  and talking to colleagues was that our adventure was only part of our interactions with them. Once the subject covered or the news given, we would turn to other subjects. I loved that we were viewed as whole beings, with stories and hopes.

I realise the comments of encouragement I had received were only the tip of the iceberg of the good vibes people were sending our way…at least I like to think it was.

I know that I have been sad, have been wishful and have thrilled for news of people in my extended family and colleagues. I have not always voiced it but it does not mean those moments have not happened often and were deeply heartfelt.

I wish I could give guidelines on how to speak in a supportive way but I do not feel I am in a position to do so. It is such an individual thing. What does come to mind is simply what touched me deeply.

  • Share that the person is in your thoughts. Don’t harp on it.
  • Follow the lead of the person you hope to support.
  • Listen if they feel the need to speak.
  • Move on to the subject of other aspects of their life.
  • Share aspects of yours.
  • Include them in invitations
  • and strangely, expect them to reasonably contribute.

This gives the person a chance to know you support him or her as you focus on the person and not the situation. It puts the focus on life and not only the hard times.

How have people supported you in moments dealing with illness? Together we can help those trying to help someone through difficult times.