Archive for February 2nd, 2020

Grief is awkward … grieving is hard work.

Something that I have never felt that I have done well is to support people when someone dies. Sure I have delivered a casserole, muffins or cookies. I have sent a greeting card (okay … I have thought about it … e v e r y time, but rarely done it). I have gone to the funeral home. I attended celebrations of life and funerals. I have whispered and messaged that I am praying (and, if I said it, I really did do it).

But, I never felt like any of that made a bit of difference …

… then my dad died

  • and the messages poured in through social media, text and email.

Each note and message were read and received with heart-felt appreciation. This may seem to be the easy way out, but they are not … those short communications (even the emojis) can be the reminders that you do not walk death’s valley alone.

  • and people showed up at my mum’s house, with meals, hugs and listening ears

Each knock at the door brought someone with something … even those whose hands were empty, for their physical presence brought support and they left carrying part of our burden. The meals erased a need to sustain ourselves, the meals that arrived ready for the freezer alleviated the need to think of tomorrow … for the day at hand had enough to fill a muddled brain.

  • and people poured into the funeral home to pay respects to our family and to honor the memory of our father, husband, grandfather, friend.

We spent an afternoon and evening receiving guests who shared in our loss, our sorrow. Honestly, at times it felt like a family reunion and there was more laughter than tears. Apparently a saying of ancient Egyptians is “to speak the name of the dead is to make him live again” and those who came to the visiting hours or wake, at the funeral home spoke his name and reminded us that the living and life of our loved one had an impact and that impact lives on, even in the face of death.

  • and people gathered with us at the funeral, supporting us as we came face to face with the reality of the finality of death.

No one ever wants to go to a funeral, fewer want to participate in a funeral (pallbearers, music leaders, participants), fewer still want to be bidding a loved one adieu at a funeral. To a family member or loved one of a deceased, such participation does not go ignored, unappreciated. They know you don’t want to be there … believe me, their wish to not having to be there is even greater.

  • and people gave cards and made donations to charities in honor of our loved one.

The day after the funeral my mom and I read through the number of greeting cards and donations made to charities. Some to the one we suggested, some to other organizations. It truly did feel good that our loss could bring gain to organizations and charities, through donations made by others.

  • and then there were flowers.

Flowers were delivered from workplaces, brightening the foreboding funeral box, centered on the far wall of the funeral home room. When I returned home they arrived from near and far, with short notes offering love, prayers and support. Their beauty and the thoughtfulness they represented provided a gentle home for weary eyes, reminders that beauty still exists, even in the darkness of grief.

  • and it continues.

Still, messages arrive in the inbox, sometimes from friends, but also from family, who have learned (the hard way) that to hold each other up is to keep our own heads above the tides of grief. My mom has a neighbor who faithfully prows and shovels her driveway and walk. Her brother picks up her mail, takes her to appointments, drops by, regularly, for tea. Visits and calls still happen, offers of drives to church, errands. Whispers of “you are in my prayers.”

Death is so awkward, because it and the grieving of it can take so many forms. Death is so awkward, because it will visit each one of us … un-welcomed, unplanned and life-changing. But, through this recent visit, I have learned that any efforts made by others to cheer, sustain and support those grieving do not go unnoticed or unappreciated. As a matter of fact they are the oxygen masks for those gasping for the breath of life.

So, if you’re ever unsure if what you might offer someone in the midst of grief is valuable … just do it.


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