Over a year ago, my friend Metis died of cancer, of cancer of a lot of things.
She was admitted to the hospital a few days before Halloween. She had been in and out rather frequently, and like many second or third tier friends, I didn’t visit as often as my conscience said I should.
By this time, in a 2 and a half year period, deaths in my family were as follows: my mother, my husband, my favorite sister in law, my father in law, and another sister in law. Of unrelated things. I sometimes say I have a peacetime, non-pestilence record for family mortality.
When I got to the hospital, I became filled with dread. Her room was gorgeous. Because I had had so many recent deaths I knew: the crappier the room, the healthier you are, the more beautiful the room, the worse your prognosis. With a lounge down the hall providing free coffee, current magazines, and real art on the walls, I knew this was serious. I felt a physical horror.
When I saw Metis, I knew it was the last time I would see her. We talked and I felt around for whether she wanted to Face It Bravely or Pretend She’d Get Better. And I went with what she wanted. And she asked me to keep her condition quiet at my work—which was where we’d met, so everyone knew her.
So I went to work and lied persuasively about when Metis expected to get out of the hospital and what she expected to do for the holidays.
I’m still conflicted about that, because I don’t like lying. But I gave Metis my word I would lie. You see how confusing this is. I gave my word I would lie, so I honored my word by lying.
Then Metis died, quickly, expectedly, and whether my coworkers knew I had been lying or thought I was mistaken I do not know.
Would I lie for another person facing death? Sure thing! If it kept her hospital room empty of any but her family, if it let her rest before dying, no problem.
I hope though, that when I am facing death (and I sincerely hope I get some notice) I won’t ask anyone to lie.