Option B

Alas, the daughter (I’ll call her E) of our very dear friends is on her way home today from Houston via Air Ambulance, the good doctors at MD Anderson, who placed her in an experimental program three weeks ago with the hope of giving E a longer life, have told the family there is nothing more they can do.

E is coming back to the house she grew up in to be surrounded by family and friends. As her body gives out, hospice caregivers will be there to provide last medical care they can.

I reached out to my good friend Chris Fountain, who, many of you know, lost his son to cancer two years ago. I asked him for advice:

  1. How do I offer help?
  2. What help might the family want?
  3. Do they even want company or help?
  4. Might they prefer to be left alone?

Of course, every family is different in how they handle death and if they prefer to be left alone or want company. Chris pointed me to a good website called Option B, funded by Sheryl Sandberg after her husband died suddenly. Within the pages of Option B is a tab for Grief and Loss.


Chris and one of his daughters said that they found it helpful when people made specific suggestions of ways to help, not just say “I’m here, how can I help.” Say, I’ll walk the dog Tuesdays and Thursdays, or say Lunch for the week will be at your back door by noon every day. 

Since we are next-door neighbors and great friends, this is what we offered:

We know that you plan to come home today with E to hospice care. We are here and want you to know that if anyone in your family or any friends may need/want an overnight stay of any length and want to be next door, you have use of the entire upstairs (3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms). It is ready now. There’s a queen bed, a double bed, and one twin bed. Come in through the kitchen door and go up the back steps at any time of the day or night. The guests can have as much privacy as they want.

Our driveway is also available to use for extra cars if you need to make room for incoming. You can park as many cars of yours or others in our driveway and come and go as it suits. We’ll keep lights on outside and at the back door and in the kitchen so people coming when it’s dark can find their way.

We have arranged lunches for the week – salads, soups, sandwiches. Lighter fare. They will be at your front door step no later than 11:30am every day.

Thinking of you,
with love,

It’s a tough thing for anyone losing a child. E is a wife and mother too, of a toddler, which makes it even more devastating. We will do our best to eliminate some stress they are feeling by being good friends and neighbors.


14 thoughts on “Option B

  1. This is crushing news but I’m sure they know they are loved by the outpouring of offers to help by you and others. Your note was perfect.

  2. Thoughts from us in California. I flew out last week to spend some time over Easter with my son and grandchildren. I will hold them tighter tonight.

    When my husband died, I was very appreciative of the food being brought over and for the chores being done. You are a good woman EOS to step up. May she go peacefully.

  3. How horribly sad. The family may say they don’t need a thing but your generosity will be appreciated more than you can possibly know. The neighbors and friends who don’t ask what they can do but just ‘do’ are the best of all. And, you’re giving what they need at this time.
    A month or two from now, at Christmas, on her birthday, when they’re left alone with their grief, reach out and let them know you’re thinking of them.

    1. Speaking of Christmas, I’ve debated about plugging in the outside Christmas tree now. They all love the lights and can see the tree from a couple of their rooms. Then I thought it might be a really schmaltzy idea or even offensive. Torn.

  4. The toddler will love the lights. She/he ought to have as nice a Christmas as possible. Seeing her joy will ease the pain. Turning on the lights isn’t bring insensitive. They won’t expect the rest of the world to continue to mourn their loss.

  5. Is special care being provided for the toddler? A special soft stuffed animal for a frightening time? I remember being hired as a sitter for the younger sibling of our next door neighbor child who was dying. Not that I was special, but I was a familiar face in a sea of sad strangers, and we would go outside to play. Bibi

    1. The paternal grandparents are nearby in Rye. So too the husbands sister and E’s sister. All of whom are very close to the toddler. Because E’s cancer was so debilitating, she wasn’t strong enough to hold her son so he’s been blanketed in special care for over a year. E’s parents have a beautiful bond with their grandson. The boy is so young he likely doesn’t understand all that is happening.

  6. This whole post, this whole situation has me sobbing (not just a few small tears).
    I cannot imagine that family’s anguish. Or their emotional exhaustion.
    Your offer of help to them is beyond kind and beautifully presented. You are a very special soul.
    And the tree. Yes, yes, and yes. Plug that sucker in! And if you’re really unsure just ask them.

  7. This is a tragic situation for all involved. E must feel so helpless and sad beyond belief not to see her little baby grow up…when my twins were born almost fourteen years ago doctors told me i had three months to live without a heart transplant…i decided not to get the transplant ( i just couldnt endure being in the hospital any longer and undergoing the surgery and the outcomes are not all so promising) i felt so alone …i was devastated…terrified… though i had family caring for the babies all i thought about was they would never know me and i worried so about their future…i took a thousand pictures with them…i wrote them letters and cards for future birthdays and events…i made a shrine of us together so they would know i loved them so and didn’t want to leave them.
    I went to Germany and had a treatment there (recovered about 70% of my heart strength) i know your E is not going to recover…i will pray for her and her baby.i wish she could have a miracle.

    1. I agree with your comment Juicer. Everything you said. I’m so glad to know that you are still around, for the children, for yourself, and for all your family.

      E made it home early this morning, Believe it or not, the Air Ambulance flight was delayed with mechanical difficulties. OMG, I can’t even. The flight came in at HPN around 3:30 and her mother told me just now that E is very fragile. They are relived she’s home though, not in the hospital, and everyone is there to blanket her with love.

  8. Your friends will really appreciate your kindness and generosity. Many people do not know what to do or say in these circumstances.

    1. There’s a fine line between helping and being intrusive. The lunches start today and I’ve told them the bag will be left on the front porch, and please, no acknowledgment is necessary, nor is there need to come to door. The lunch will be left between 11:30 and 12 noon. They were most appreciative. Church is providing dinners.

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