One of my best attributes is also one of my greatest failings. I am a good listener. But if someone asks me to tell a bit about myself I need a necessary, built-in stop. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, another adage heard first from my ex-husband. This is not to say my parents did not attempt to instill me with wisdom, they just didn’t use cliches. They rather chose to either lead by example, or explain truth and wisdom whenever I fell into a self-made mudhole, which in my life happened more often than I like to remember. According to Wikipedia, if you ascribe to their site, “Saint Bernard of Clairvaux who wrote (c. 1150), ‘L’enfer est plein de bonnes volontés et désirs’ (hell is full of good wishes and desires). An earlier saying occurs in Virgil’s Aeneid: ‘facilis descensus Averno’ (It is easy to go to hell).” (1)

So today I took a meal to an acquaintance who is finishing a round of chemo for triple-negative breast cancer. Today she needed to talk. Today she needed someone to listen. We began our visit with a question from her: Tell her a bit more about myself, was I working, where I grew up, went to school. So on my tapestry ride I forgot that this was not an everyday friend visit. This is a person with maybe numbered days. Well, we all have numbered days but hers may be less than hoped. Her stamina is not strong. She needs more rest. She began a few times (once ignored is inexcusable) to tell me her thoughts, hopes, considerations of her now and possibilities of the chance of a then. I needed to shut down. Give her the floor, the spotlight, not try to intervene, associate my experience with hers. On my last visit I told her how brave I think she is. Today she needed to tell me. So when I realized my overtime was up and stood to go, she apologized for her pain. I said something absurd like I could imagine. Really?? immediately I corrected myself. No, I cannot imagine, I demurred, and said that I would see her again.

I hope so.

(1) (–Wikipedia® is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization). ^ Christine Ammer (1997), The American Heritage dictionary of idioms, ISBN 9780395727744 ^ Mrs E. B. Mawr (1885), “Hell is paved with good intentions”, Analogous Proverbs In Ten Languages, Elliot Stock