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Sheila O'Malley
The year after my dad died was so bad I don't remember 90% of it. I moved to a new apt and was unable to unpack. For MONTHS. I was ashamed I couldn't unpack. How can you be UNABLE to unpack? Just open the g.d. boxes. That was the year I cried for 19 days. Straight. /1
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Sheila O'Malley Jun 8
Replying to @sheilakathleen
My good friend David - whom I've known since high school - knew I was struggling and he felt helpless. He said "you are loved" "we need you". I was like, "Doesn't matter, but thanks." So he took a risk. It very well could have ended badly. I could have lashed out. /2
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Sheila O'Malley Jun 8
Replying to @sheilakathleen
I could have been really REALLY offended. But he took the risk. He sent out an email to a group of local friends (w/out my knowledge) and said, "Sheila is struggling. She needs our help. Let's all go over there and unpack her apartment for her. Bring food. Let's make it fun." /3
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Sheila O'Malley Jun 8
Replying to @sheilakathleen
David sent me an email saying "will you be home Thursday night? Can I stop by?" I said "Sure." Sitting surrounded by 200 unpacked boxes. /4
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Sheila O'Malley Jun 8
Replying to @sheilakathleen
At 6 pm on Thursday night the doorbell rang and 10 of my friends barged in, bearing platters of food, cleaning products, and complete unconcern for my 'wait ... you CAN'T COME IN HERE I HAVEN'T UNPACKED YET" protestations. They ignored me and got to work. /5
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Sheila O'Malley Jun 8
Replying to @sheilakathleen
They unpacked my boxes. They put away my 1,500 books. They hung pictures for me. They organized my closet and put away all my clothes. Meanwhile, someone set up a taco-making station in the kitchen. People brought beer. By the end of the night, my apartment was all set up. /6
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Sheila O'Malley Jun 8
Replying to @sheilakathleen
I literally was unable to do THE SIMPLEST THINGS. And nobody judged me. They were like superheroes sweeping in. One friend arrived late, stood in the hallway, looked at me and said, "PUT ME TO WORK." /7
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Sheila O'Malley Jun 8
Replying to @sheilakathleen
One of my friends basically took over hanging all of my posters and pictures. "I'm really good at measuring stuff. Let me put all these up in your hallway." I hovered, not wanting to give up control: "wait ... put that one there maybe?" She said, "Go away." I did. /8
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Sheila O'Malley Jun 8
Replying to @sheilakathleen
And she was so much better at hanging stuff than I was! Here are my friends putting away my books. /9
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Sheila O'Malley Jun 8
Replying to @sheilakathleen
Here's a break for dinner. Please note that my friend Sheila's dinner plate is resting on my DVD player. /10
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Sheila O'Malley Jun 8
Replying to @sheilakathleen
I was overwhelmed at the sight of all of my crazy friends turning themselves into Santa's workshop. On my behalf. W/out asking me. They just showed up and barged in. I was embarrassed for like 10 minutes but they were all so practical and bossy I had no choice but to let that go.
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Sheila O'Malley Jun 8
Replying to @sheilakathleen
At the end of the night, I looked at my friend's husband - a quiet tactiturn guy who drives a tugboat on the Hudson - practical, man of few words - and I just looked at him, speechless, not knowing how to say Thank You, especially to this tough resilient self-sufficient man.
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Sheila O'Malley Jun 8
Replying to @sheilakathleen
He looked at me, saw the look on my face, understood the look, understood everything that was behind it - and said, “Listen, baby, what we did today was a barn-raising.”
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Sheila O'Malley Jun 8
Replying to @sheilakathleen
That's the end. The "ask for help" advice is well-meaning but not really thought through. There's shame, there's enforced helplessness, there's the feeling you're not worth it, etc. My friends didn't wait for me to ask. They showed up. They took over. They didn't ask.
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Sheila O'Malley Jun 8
Replying to @sheilakathleen
When they all swept out of there 4 hours later, my place was a home. Not only was everything put away - but now it had a memory attached to it, a group memory, friends, laughing, dirty jokes, hard work. These are the kinds of friends I have. Be that kind of friend to others.
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Sheila O'Malley Jun 8
Replying to @sheilakathleen
To reiterate: this plan could have backfired. I very well could have been offended, insulted, hurt. David took that risk. Being a friend takes commitment. A willingness to take that risk.
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anne cunningham Jun 8
Replying to @sheilakathleen
This is a great story, Sheila. I was thinking that this sort of thing never happened to me, that I mostly felt isolated at my lowest points. Then I remembered the friend who moved in with me for a week after my father died. I don't remember her asking. She just stayed.
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Sheila O'Malley Jun 8
Replying to @Voicemomma
You are lucky to have her!!!
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Andrew Jackson Lynch Jun 8
Replying to @sheilakathleen
Thank you for sharing this.
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Sheila O'Malley Jun 8
Replying to @whatsforlynch
You're welcome!
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