What do you say?

12 06 2008

This evening, I’ve been trying to write a letter to my cousin, who has just lost her husband. 

He was 46, and a loving father and husband, and this dreadful thing happened out of the blue. 

What do you write? What CAN you write? 

I did my best; I told them stories of times I’d met him and enjoyed his company, and times I’d remembered him; what I’d heard other people say about him; what I thought of him and what I knew he thought of them. I told them that he was safe, and that he watched over them and that they will see him again.

I felt like a total fraud, a carpet salesman; I felt like I was trying to make a trade, a husband and father for some words on a page.

There’s never anything good enough, no possible sort of verbal alchemy that will make him live again through words. 

He was a good man. A good man. 

Then, I read this post by Seshat’s Voice; as always, a light in the dark. I don’t know whether she wrote it with me in the back of her mind, but the synchronous serendipity of it couldn’t have come at a better time. It makes the point that there’s no knowing when your call will come; make each day count.

We’ve got a short life here in any case, even if we get our threescore years and ten; surely, not enough time to do all the learning, growing and recovering from mistakes that us humans seem fated to go through.

Perhaps the thing we can do in a situation such as this is to respect the example the dead give us and live – live as if our lives depend upon it. They do! Make each day count. There’s a challenge, a life-promise, if I ever heard one.




9 responses

12 06 2008

GW, I think the important thing was that you said something. You showed you were there, and you showed you cared. At these times, are there ever the right words? I don’t think people need or want words at such a time, they want a person, they just need to know people are there, even if they can’t reach out to them at that moment in time. Our culture is crap at dealing with death, we hide it away and pretend that it never happens. We know that life, death and rebirth are continually happening. You’ve shown you care, and you’ve shown you listen. I think this is just what was needed at this time.

12 06 2008

Make each day count. Yes. And if we didn’t make today count, we get up tomorrow and start again.

I’m sorry for the reason you had to write this letter, that your family has lost this good man. It doesn’t really matter what you write, you know. Your cousin will know you are holding them in your heart. That’s what’s important, and that’s not fraudulent.


12 06 2008
The Green Witch

Thank you both. I wonder if those who are left behind always feel this dreadful inadequacy. Andy, you’re right. We don’t do death in this culture. We feel we’re intruding, or pushing in if we offer to help. We feel bad for feeling bad!

Ridiculous, really, when you think about it.

13 06 2008
Abdur Rahman

Peace Green Witch,

I have no simple answers. All I have is my simple human presence and so, this is all I have to share in this time of grief.

Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji’oon, as the Islamic tradition says: ‘Indeed, we are for God, and to Him we are returning’.

I am sorry for your loss.

Abdur Rahman

13 06 2008
The Green Witch

Salaam, Abdur; and as usual, you have something really helpful to share. Thank you!

14 06 2008

Nope, sorry. It was all about me-me-me, but I’m really glad you got something out of it. I think your letter sounds perfect and it would mean a lot to me to get a letter like that when grieving, and not just the “sorry to hear blah-blah”. You aren’t replacing him with words, you are honouring his life. No one could ask for more.

14 06 2008
The Green Witch

Despite your assurances (!) I’ve never heard you do the me-me-me thing… I think you’re constitutionally incapable of being selfish. Thank you, my dear.

14 06 2008

It is important to be able to talk about the person who died. I know that when my father died last April, I needed to talk about him. Somehow, the silence that descends, because people just don’t know what to say, because they’re frightened to upset you (like that makes any sense!), because they’re embarrassed, is very lonely.

I have to say that Kim was wonderful – we talked a lot about my father – it gave me a chance to articulate just how wonderful I thought he was and by talking about dad, it helped to start the healing process. What you have done is so good – you’ll understand some day (but not for a long time yet I hope).

15 06 2008
The Green Witch

I had thought it must be a very isolating experience. It’s tough to take the plunge to speak candidly with someone in this terrible position. However, a little bravery means the other person might benefit – so it’s a good trade!

I shall wait a few days and call my cuz – se if there’s anything I can do for her in a practical sense.

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