It’s a typical funeral day. The kind of day that reflects emotions you didn’t know you were hiding. Feelings you carefully tucked away now peek around every cloud, threatening to make a long overdue appearance. The air is heavy and thick wrapping your lungs as you try to steady your breath. It’s the kind of day you want to clear your calendar, remain indoors with nothing but the heavy silence that breaks through the pitter patter of raindrops. It’s the kind of day you long for the numbness you’ve trained your heart to embrace because allowing anything else might break you. It’s the kind of day you would light a match just to watch it burn if not for the drops that would extinguish the flame – not those falling from the sky, but those traveling down your face. The storm has reached its destination without warning once more.
I’ll let you sit with it for a moment.
A single word that evokes different meaning for each of us.
We each deal with death on our own terms because while it is defined as the termination of all biological functions that sustain a living organism it isn’t as practical as that is it? Whether unexpected or years in the making, death leaves us with an emptiness we can never fill no matter how hard we try. We travel through the stages of grief as wounded warriors, dragging ourselves across a minefield, careful not to set off a trigger that may send us back to the beginning of our healing journey or worse yet, break us once and for all. We sway between the need to relive each moment with loved ones lost and the fear we will erase them completely from our memory in our yearning to erase the pain. This, reminiscent of both the Stoics and contemporary cognitive-behavior therapies—in which the imagination was to be directed away from the sources of emotional pain and toward objects that could furnish contentment and joy. Well meaning friends tell us to “take comfort in our memories” and “remember the good times” because they want us to focus on the joy rather than the pain.
The truth is, if you’ve ever lost someone you love, someone who made your life complete, then you know there is no formula, no therapy. Most importantly, there are NO WORDS.
Today, I watched a daughter tuck her mother in for the very last time as she raised the soft blanket to her mother’s chin, then turn to comfort and wipe her own children’s tears. A ritual a mother performs countless times as her children grow now became a symbol of goodbye, one last “goodnight mom.”
There are no words yet we continue to search for them, often stringing something together that could never truly express our sympathy nor bring comfort but something has to be said.
“She’s in a better place.”
“At least she’s no longer suffering.”
“Be thankful for the time you had with her.”
“Be grateful you were by her side in the end.”
We voice them. We write them. Markings of a pen joining together letters to create words we phrase and rephrase, sentences we repeat because it is a place we are not comfortable in but a place we know requires something to be said.
There are no words. Know that at this time when the skies are overcast and the storm rages on the best you can offer is a simple hug. And, if you find yourself unable to remain silent through that hug a simple “I’m sorry” always finds a home in a broken heart.