I’ve built a wall. Around my heart. I didn’t know I had. The construction was finished and certified, there had been a ribbon-cutting opening ceremony, and I was totally clueless until I walked smack bang into it. I ricocheted off and rubbed my nose and forehead, in a daze, wondering where on earth the wall had come from? And when? And why? In a split second it all became clear, and I was grateful for the wall.
It recently came to my attention that a few people with CF were struggling a little. I wanted to reach out, ask how they were travelling, and support them as much as possible. As I groped for my phone, I cannoned into the newly-erected wall, and I realised I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t contact anyone. I couldn’t send those Facebook messages. I couldn’t cope with their replies. I couldn’t embroil myself in someone else’s health battle. I couldn’t ride the emotional journey of transplant. Not again. Not now.
I’ve just resurfaced after investing all I had to give into Sam’s final CF journey. For a long time I foresaw what she and her family would have to go through. I had opportunities to distance myself from her in order to protect myself. Instead, I repeatedly chose to strengthen our friendship and became more entangled. What we had, what we went through together, my communion with her, and my relationship with her family that continues even after her death, will always remain one of the most defining experiences of my life. It has left an indelible mark upon my heart. I will never wish it away.
The Sam-shaped scar will fade in time, but will never disappear. I will collect other scars which will take precedence for a while, which will obscure her place, before they too fade into the fabric of my life. My heart is too fragile right now to sustain further damage. It needs a little rest and recovery. So it built a wall to protect itself.
Once again I have the choice to distance myself or to foster a deeper and supportive friendship. This time I choose distance. This time I put my heart first.