Other than to have a baby, no one goes to the hospital because they want to. It’s never a particularly happy occasion. Everyone knows this, which makes hospitals inherently unpleasant places to visit. So when a friend or family member falls ill and gets admitted to the hospital, the idea of visiting doesn’t ring anyone’s chimes. But visiting is important. It’s about showing up.

My most recent experience with this involved my friend James, who recently had a setback against the backdrop of cancer. He got an infection that nearly killed him, resulting in a dispiriting month-long hospital stay. Who wants this? Absolutely no one. It’s a horrible situation. As friends and loved ones, we do what we can. And at the top of the list of things we can do is visit.

A visit could be for twenty minutes or two hours. However brief or long, it helps. I used to wonder what difference my presence made in these situations until I realized it’s not about bringing some specialty to the party. Sure, I can be funny and try to lift someone’s mood by making them laugh, but it’s not necessarily about that. Sometimes it’s just about being there.

In my friend James’s situation, I had the opportunity to visit many times during his arduous month-long residency at NYU Langone. And as his release day neared, James asked me to attend a session with a nurse practitioner who explained some of the protocols for his continued recovery at home. It was a privilege to be of service, and I was honored that he asked me to be there.

As I write this James has been home for a few weeks, getting his strength back. He’s also been able to resume his cancer treatment and, according to all reports, seems to be on a path toward remission. Fingers crossed.

Over these past weeks as he recovers, James has essentially held all-day salons in his chic and spacious midtown apartment, with a revolving door of friends who pop in for a quick visit, good laughs, and hot gossip in the living room, or for some delicious delivery plated and served on his dining table. It’s been fun to be a part of it, and fantastic to see him gradually get his strength back. And the essential laughter. There’s always laughter, which, of course, is the best medicine.

I haven’t always been attentive to this in the past. Looking back on several situations when friends were ill and I failed to make the time to visit makes me cringe with shame. In a few of those situations, death has made an amends impossible, and it’s a horrible feeling to know I could have made a better effort. I never want to feel that again if I can help it. Today, I can do better.

So when a friend or loved one is in the hospital, life is giving us an opportunity to step out of ourselves and be of service. It doesn’t have to be a whole song and dance. It’s much simpler than that. Just show up.

Photo inspo…

The ever inspiring and terminally chic Bill Nighy.

Weekend listen…

A major part of the soundtrack to my last two years of high school and first two years of college.

Weekend read…

And other items of interest…

How Oppenheimer and Barbie Bring Monumental Figures to Life | The New Yorker
Christopher Nolan sets the physicist in a swirl of Cold War conspiracy, and Greta Gerwig tries to imbue a story about the doll with a feminist critique of capitalism.

72 Hours on Amtrak | Vox
What reporter Dean Peterson learned from taking the train across the U.S. 

On with Kara Swisher
On Thursday’s episode of Kara’s podcast, she has an enlightening interview with SAG/AFTRA president Fran Drescher about the actors’ strike.

Expert Tips for Freezing Food and Reducing Food Waste | Wirecutter
Freezing food is one of the easiest things you can do to minimize food waste, save money, and reduce your environmental impact.

A little favor…

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1 Comment

  1. Penny Powell

    This post resonates deeply, and I’m sure that I’ll reread it again and again. Someone ought to have taught us all at the beginning of our adulthoods to “Just show up.” I don’t think that I’ll ever be able to forgive myself for the time when I didn’t do that for someone who I truly cherished. Her imminent death was utterly impossible for me to face, and I chose the ostrich method instead. I too cringe and shake my head at the wasted opportunity to be there for her when she needed her loved ones the most.

    Thank you for writing about this, George. xo Penny