DEAR HARRIETTE: My husband and I went to visit good friends we hadn’t seen in a year. We'd heard that the husband wasn’t feeling well, but I assumed he had a cold or something. When we saw him, we were shocked. He has lost a ton of weight, and he looks frail. We were as loving as always, but it shook us to our core. We don’t quite know what to do to support them during what is obviously a difficult time.
His wife told us that they are waiting to take tests and see what’s going on, so she acknowledged that something is wrong. I have seen the look that he has in his eyes before: My friend who looked like that eventually learned that she had cancer and died a few weeks later. Should I say what I think? How can we be of help right now? -- Friend in Need
DEAR FRIEND IN NEED: Keep your stories to yourself. You do not know what’s wrong with your friend, and even if you did, it would not be helpful for you to say.
They have to go through this cycle of life together. If he leaves the world soon, your role will be to support his wife in every way possible. For now, your support can be to let her know that if she needs anything, you are there to help her. Be specific with your availability. Just offering may be something she will appreciate.
Often when people are facing their mortality, time stands still, and they don’t know what to do. Stay present and in touch with your friends. Make it clear that you don’t need to ask questions; you just want to help. Chances are, they will need it.