Sunday, December 14, 2014

condolences...or lack thereof

why do we have such a hard time talking about death? why all the euphemisms? passed away. passed on. why is it so hard to say someone has died? is it because it seems so harsh. so final. so cruel somehow. it seems that people just don't know what to say about it, so they try to package it inside more delicate words, like it will make it better that you don't have a father anymore. but it doesn't. and while you dread the next condolences, you also feel it acutely when they're not there from people who probably should say something to you, if only as a formality because it's the first time they've seen you since it happened. and then it's kind of worse if they go on and on about two recent funerals they attended, without even acknowledging that you've had one yourself. one to which you flew across an ocean to another country. that's just weird. and it hurts more than you would think. you're even a little surprised yourself how callous and hurtful it seemed, even tho' you realize it probably wasn't meant that way.

but then there are those who have precisely the right words for you. warm words about how happy they were to have had the chance to meet him and how much they enjoyed that. and others who just hug you and ask the right questions. and that makes it ok. or as ok as it can be.

but you do wonder if it will ever really be ok.

and you also wonder why a picture of a church seemed right with this post when you're not even remotely religious. but church buildings provide the frame for the ceremonies of life...baptisms, weddings and funerals. and maybe there is something to that.


Joanna Jenkins said...

Oh my friend, I am so sorry. I've been away and didn't know you lost your dad. I read all about him in your posts and he sounds like a really fabulous man.

I know exactly what you are saying about people who either don't at all, or don't know how to, acknowledge the death of a loved one, especially a parent. I was in your shoes this time last year over my mom and 21 years ago with my dad. Sigh.

In short, I've decided some people simply don't get it. I'd like to think they are lucky enough not to have felt the same kind of pain we are feeling and don't know any better. But unfortunately, I know there are simply folks that are insensitive idiots.

You are facing the "year of firsts" without your dad. It's a long, long year with emotions that'll just creep up on you when you least expect them. I hope your cherished memories of your dad help you through those times.

Big hugs, xo jj
PS Blog all you want about your Dad.

will said...

Churches and lay leaders have forever set the social cadence concerning death. I think it’s fair to say, if we could remain innocent, dying and death wouldn’t cause such disarray. If we were not taught that death is unfathomable perhaps it have become an acceptable natural process.

Philosophers, from two guys in a cave to Spinoza to Sartre – even George Carlin - spent zillions of hours creating, embellishing and selling their particular interpretations of life and death.

For most of us, death becomes personal when family or close friends die. Those who are gone fade back into the universe but those alive are left with a mash of memories and the knowledge that all things are finite. We question the continuum of life – turning either to ritual or some form of agnostic thought.

It’s as if our DNA is incomplete. We can never recall with complete accuracy the stuff of daily life – that which happened in the past. Yet there’s mental residue and faint landmarks of people and places – as we think they might have been. Add to that, we tend to remember the reinforcing and the way we want to recall a person or event.

Just as it is difficult to describe a color, smell, pain or pleasure – it’s extremely difficult to puzzle out and express our emotions related to the passing of a loved one. Theirs is an absolute event and we who are alive are left to juggle personal subjectivity.

Camus wrote about the difficulty of expressing one’s feeling when a parent dies. I totally understand that. Perhaps the conflict of life and death – and our inability to fuse answers to that mystery is the origin of simplification and clichés.

All that I can offer is this: He partnered with your mother to create you and you have now sent his DNA into the future with your own child.

You and your father shared love, time and place. Often as not, that’s more than enough.

Someone once wrote:

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart,
and you shall see that in truth
you are weeping for that which has been your delight.