The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the greatest intention.
When a good friend of mine and yoga teacher received a cancer diagnosis, I found myself struggling with the ways I wanted to respond to this new challenging reality. I grieved the end of the 10 years of the almost every Wednesday evening ritual of attending her yoga class and worked to process the shock of her diagnosis knowing my reactions paled in comparison to her harder, scarier, courageous road ahead.
She had dedicated herself to teaching, to working with us individually, and as a group. Kimm brought a gentleness mixed with a firm, flexible spine, new learnings from recent trainings she attended, and a wonderful sense of humor to our class. We had bonded with her in much joy and appreciation. Several of my classmates had actively participated in the preparations for her second wedding to a wonderful and loving man. I didn’t consider myself one of her closest friends, but definitely a good friend.
We met when her daughter and my son attended the same kindergarten class. For such a petite person, she stood erect with enviable posture and a radiant, loving presence. Her smile and laugh could fill an entire room with warmth. I quickly learned that she taught yoga classes. Up to that point I had been a yogi dabbler.
In the aftermath of Kimm’s diagnosis and my confusion about how to be supportive, I called a really close friend. In the space of our conversation, I realized that I could send Kimm notes and cards. When I recognized that I could choose a slightly different expression (no casserole deliveries or walking of her dog or being with her during chemo treatments) and one aligned with ease and joy, I became unburdened by what felt like a looming guilt attack or the unthinkable choice of not doing anything.
With much passion, I mailed beautiful cards and notes to Kimm. As a weekly ritual, I enjoyed writing these notes of happy news and finding a fun, colorful, sometimes humorous card. I consistently included good wishes and love.
One day she called to thank me for these notes that I’d been mailing her. We had such a wonderful conversation that only briefly touched on her cancer journey. We shared about our children one mom to another mom. I shared about training for a half marathon and how I still did the “rolling bug” movement she had taught us in class. Our conversation helped me realize that she had not become cancer. A disease had invaded her body. I also wondered where in the world I had latched onto a belief that people become their illness. Kimm remained my friend, a devoted mother, and wife, an exceptional woman. She continued to be multi-dimensional, loving Kimm.
When she and her family relocated to a condo, I joined a team of people in packing, driving unwanted magazines to yoga studios, libraries, and unloading items into their new home. I continued mailing cards and notes. When I learned from a mutual friend that her situation had taken a hard turn with a tumbling fall down that dark shadowed path, I took her food, greeted the hospice person, and helped Kimm eat the food she had specifically requested. While her body had completely altered, her spirit, her twinkling eyes remained those of my dear friend. In many ways, our final conversation felt quite ordinary in that we talked about our teen children. Her daughter and my son share similar “old soul wisdom” and both were navigating different challenges. I shared briefly about the concluding stages of my divorce and how my daughter thrived in college. I let her know how much I loved her, admired her, cherished her. She let me know she loved me too.
I wept the entire drive home.
When her husband called a few weeks later, he asked if I would read “What I Love about Kimm” at her celebration of life. He shared that she had specifically asked that these words be read at her service. I took a breath as I had forgotten, then quickly remembered writing this for her to celebrate Valentine’s Day. With a choked voice I said, “Of course. I’d be honored.”
Staying connected to a friend who’s going through a challenge can sometimes be tough because we may not know immediately the actions we want to take or have the time to take.
What can we handle in our hearts and stomachs? While some situations appear to reveal a “no brainer” path, other situations do not reveal obvious choices. I know a beloved husband who couldn’t take his wife for chemo treatments, but a woman friend of theirs could. He supported his wife in all kinds of other meaningful ways.
We often place expectations on ourselves that may or may not match our capacities. All of us are vulnerable and strong in different ways. Often there are no right ways or wrong ways, there’s simply the unexpected ways, the adapting ways, and the accepting ways. Expressing love overrides worn-out rules or expectations.
I have not ever regretted what I have done for love from that expanded place in the heart. Only you know what this is, where it is, and the ways you can express the love that’s there, and it can be as simple as a heartfelt prayer or a silent wave of loving energy sent through the ethers. Love always finds a way to love.
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT KIMM
Four out of Seventeen
- Your voice—speaking, chanting, singing, laughing. After almost 10 years of classes with you, I can access your fabulous voice in my head at will and find gentle guidance, coaching, and love.
- Your beauty that shines from your whole self.
- Your smile, laugh, twinkle in your eye.
- All our conversations after class, on the phone…knowing I can share pieces of my life with you in honest ways. Your ability to listen and share with such compassion, honesty, and presence. How safe and comforting it is to be with you and talk with you.