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With A Little Help From My Friends

When I stop and think about it, I'm a lucky guy. My friends have stood next to me whenever I have needed them.

We've been through good times and bad times, but this has been the toughest time. And they've been there, every second.

Like my friend, Sara Just:

I wish I could find a way to make him laugh.

To those of you who only know Leroy's wit from his writing in this blog, you are missing out on one of the best parts: the great big belly laugh. When we worked together for more than a decade, his laughter filled the newsroom often — breaking up a somber discussion with gallows humor, or just losing it over something silly as sleep deprivation set in. Leroy appreciates a good laugh like no one else I know.

But how do you cheer somebody up who is facing what Leroy is facing? Pain. Limitation. There is little to laugh about here. Whether or not to bring in hospice care is not exactly a knee slapper.

I brought him a set of DVDs recently - a really funny TV series I thought he'd enjoy and knew he had not seen. Last I checked, they remained in their wrapping.

He has asked many times that his friends not dwell on the cancer, and instead distract him from it with anything we can. From the beginning he has said, "Act normal." So I try.

I cover the usual ground of our shared interests. But it often feels wrong or insensitive to talk about things he cannot participate in. The new movie he cannot go to the theater to see. The vacation I'm taking that he cannot — there is no vacation for him now.

I find myself talking about the news, but I hesitate, thinking that these are the very stories that, if things were different, he would be covering. He should be covering. I try to tell him amusing anecdotes about my kids, who adore him, and my work, and our mutual friends. I want him to share the humor in these stories, to offer his advice and complain like he used to if I do not take it.

I offer him my friendship and I listen. And I talk and I try to distract him and I try to "act normal."

But I'd really like to make him laugh. It used to be easy.

—Sara Just