Dee, who is dying from cancer, says in the novel Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, “Individuals ask me, how ARE you? But they don’t really want to know. They don’t want to hear that I’m tired all the time, that my bladder is leaky and that I am on the watch for my systems shutting down. They don’t want to hear those tough things. They want to hear that I am at peace, that I’ve led a great life, that I am happy my son has returned—so that’s what I give them.”
How can we ask the question, “How are you?” in a way that allows and invites the suffering person to answer honestly?
Here are some possibilities:
Photo credit: Jeremy Wilburn