Archive for January, 2013

A little ditty about death…

Posted: January 24, 2013 in Philosophy

I certainly don’t want to bring you down off of whatever high you’re carrying into Friday, but I was inspired lately to write about death.  This is something we’ve all dealt with, and I can’t bring myself to believe that I’m the only guy who thinks about things the way I do.

So here’s the thing.  I went to a memorial service this past weekend for the grandfather of a very good friend of mine. This person has been in my life for 14 years, and is absolutely my oldest and dearest friend in the world.  So, I know his family, and on several occasions I’ve had the opportunity to talk with his grand dad.  Considering how long this guy has been in my life, there is a normal reaction to these things–I wanted to be there for him, and for his family.  And without a doubt, everyone in attendance that day was there to offer support, to grieve, to offer condolences and pay respect to a great man.

But it seems that every time I go to a funeral, or wake, or memorial service, I have the same feeling.  I remember when we lost my mom, two days before Christmas in 2004.  The awkward part of it: much of the extended family on my dad’s side had not yet heard the news by Christmas, and since my parents divorced at a young age, they would always inquire about how my mom was doing when they had the opportunity.  Christmas, that year, afforded them that opportunity.  So, after a few hours of awkward conversations: “Hey, good to see you.  How’s your mom doing?”  “She died two days ago.”  “WHAT?  I’M SO SORRY!  Are you ok?  How are you doing?”  Enter a gloomy household of sad saps, exit all holiday joy and happiness.  It was weird.

As a side note, my brother and I have made a habit of making jokes about my mom’s death; undoubtedly a subconscious effort to cope, but also an absolutely conscious effort to make people feel uncomfortable.  Any of my closest friends and family know exactly what I’m talking about.  Anyway…

Awkward–that’s what death is.  Yes, it’s sad.  It’s tremendously difficult to handle emotionally.  And it’s awkward.  What do you say to someone who just lost a parent, a sibling, or God forbid, a child?  Here are some typical responses, and my arguably harsh criticism of each:

  • “I’m so sorry for your loss.”  Well, isn’t that nice.  It’s not a literal sorry, I know.  You’re not saying you’re responsible, you’re just saying you feel sorrow that I have to endure this pain.  I get it.  But wait, “sorry” doesn’t cut it.  “Loss” doesn’t describe it.  When I lost my mom, I lost my best friend in the world.  I had the privilege of being very close to my mom; we were very similar, we enjoyed spending time with each other.  We hung out–legitimately spent time together, not as mother and son, but as two friends.  We used to hang out at this little coffee diner, a real hole in the wall, drink coffee, scratch off lottery tickets, and just talk.  
  • “This must be hard for you.”  No shit.  I was in denial about the whole thing for nearly a month.  Late in January, I crashed emotionally, and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to endure.  Dealing with her death over Christmas and New Years was easy.  Hard is what happens after the initial shock.  It’s why people aren’t idiotic messes at funerals–because it hasn’t hit yet.  But it will, and “hard” just doesn’t quite do it justice.
  • “She (He) was a really good person.”  Nobody knew my mom like I did.  She certainly had her faults–we all do.  This one usually hurt the most–I didn’t need to be reassured of my mom’s moral standing in things.
  • “She’s in a better place now.”  That, and “She’s not in pain anymore.”  See, my mom had a problem with back pain–and with prescription medication.  And we all knew it, but it’s like everyone forgot when it came time to mourn.  I was always told to “remember the good things about her.”  Seriously?  Those faults she had–her addictions, her not so shining moments as a parent–out of those situations came these amazing shining moments of parenting.  I didn’t see it then, but now that I have kids of my own, I understand a small fraction of what she was dealing with.  I know why she did what she did.  Truth is–and I hear Heaven is a great place–the best thing she ever did is evident in my brother and I.  She was an absolutely amazing person, faults and all.

Sorry this turned into a rant about my mom (again).  But here’s the moral of the whole thing–there is only one thing you can say at a funeral that can even come close to encapsulating the mood, the grief, the sadness.  And, you should consider reading my brother’s thoughts on profanity before reading any further.  But the only meaningful comment is this: “This absolutely fucking sucks.”  Yet when you are in the midst of the awkwardness of death and everyone’s concern about respect, no one actually says it–not out loud at least, and certainly not among a large group of people at a funeral home.  But it’s the truth.

Can I get an amen?

Thank you for continuing to indulge me.  I hope you have a great weekend–be well and stay tuned.