Living Well, Dying Well

Mary Friedel-Hunt

It is raining today and flowers are blossoming in my yard because of that. I have never been a gardener. I grew up in Chicago apartments. No yard. When we moved to the suburbs, Mom planted flowers but life did not allow her the energy to raise vegetables. 

I have planted flowers off and on over the years but now I am venturing into raising some of what I eat. The labor is a gift from people I barely knew a month ago. Knowing that getting down on the ground to garden would not work for my aging/painful body, these new friends built me a 36-inch-high raised bed large enough for all the vegetables I could eat and share with others. These now dear friends spent a great deal of energy providing this wonderful gift. It led me to ask them one day, “Why me? Why would you do this for me, an almost stranger?” Their instant response was simple: “We are all here to help each other.” 

That simple and quick response has been roaming around in my heart ever since. We all know we are here to help each other but knowing that and doing such a huge job so I can venture into this new “hobby” took my breath away. When Bill was so very sick, opening my front door and finding a meal someone left for us or homemade soup or flowers kept me going through five years of caregiving. Bill benefited by having a caregiver who was loved and supported by friends who therefore made life easier for both of us. Currently, knowing the drive to see my brother before he dies is a challenge, once again friends have offered to drive me or accompany me so Jim and I can say good-bye in person. I am so blessed.

I help people. Most of us do. I do not advertise it, nor do these new friends of mine. I just do it because it is the right thing to do and it feels great. But asking someone to help me with just about anything is still a challenge sometimes … well, often. 

Asking for help means I cannot do something or it would be difficult to do it alone. Most of us do not want to appear (to that person in the mirror or anyone else) to be needy, dependent or inadequate, so we miss many golden opportunities by not asking for help or allowing it.

Accepting this incredible gift has been humbling. Mostly it has been exhilarating and rewarding as we share common interests, laughter and work. Well, they worked, I watched. 

Reach out for help when you need it. This region is filled with people willing to help each other. It is part of what drew Bill and me here almost 20 years ago. I am a better person for allowing someone to help me. I am a better person for doing the same for others. 

Mary Friedel-Hunt has retired after 50 years of practice as a licensed clinical social worker and certified bereavement counselor. She can be reached at mfhunt44@gmail.com or P.O. Box 1036, Spring Green, WI 53588.