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by Abigail Van Buren

Woman Caring for Dying Friend Begins to Question Her Loyalty

DEAR ABBY: I have known "Gloria" for two years. We met at work, hit it off immediately and became close friends. I love her dearly, and I'm devastated by what's happening to her. Gloria is dying of AIDS and now has a rare brain infection that has caused her to lose most of her faculties. She goes in and out of dementia, and her prognosis is two months.

I have been by Gloria's side so frequently that her family has "adopted" me. I help with her care and am the only one of her friends and co-workers who has visited since she took this turn.

My problem is, since I have been around Gloria's family, I have learned that nearly everything she has ever told me is untrue. She has flat-out lied about many things -- big and small -- that weren't even necessary to lie about. I feel like I don't know my friend at all and never did.

As sad as I am to see Gloria suffering and dying, I am hurt and angry that I was repeatedly deceived by someone I thought was my friend. I keep telling myself it shouldn't matter now, but the more the truth comes out, the harder it is for me to go over there and help.

How can I get past this, forgive Gloria and get back to the business of helping her in her final weeks? -- WOUNDED IN WASHINGTON, D.C.

DEAR WOUNDED: People lie for many reasons. Some of them do it because they are ashamed to tell the truth. Others lie out of fear or to gain an advantage, and some people do it because they can't help themselves. But somewhere in the tapestry of lies that this poor woman wove is a part of her authentic self. It is the part that made you identify with her in the first place.

What you are doing for Gloria now is both generous and emotionally wrenching. You do not deserve the "payoff" for your efforts to be spending the rest of your life resenting her for her shortcomings. You are giving her one of the most important gifts a person can give to another, but it is one that you are also giving to yourself. If you remember that, you will have no regrets.