Category Archives: Death

Ashes To Ashes To Box

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“I’m going to save a lot of money on the receptacle for Aunt Melinda’s ashes, X!” She seemed genuinely excited.

“How so?” I asked.

“My Aunt Melinda was a clairvoyant, seer, and psychic,” Susan told me.

“Okay, I still don’t see how her being a psychic will save you money,” I told her.

“Look here.” She help up her phone for me to see the image. “FedX makes a medium box.”

The Gift Of Memories

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My Aunt Ardith and cousin Jimmy, standing in the front yard of their house on Ann Street.

Once again, I opened my email to discover a message telling me exactly what I needed to hear. A sister of one of my paternal aunts wrote me, telling me she’d noticed I added another 100+ pictures of her sister on Ancestry. These are archived in original resolution. My aunt’s sister told me she’d cried a bit, something she hadn’t expected. I wrote her back and told her I put every usable picture I owned of my aunt on there, in the hopes they might last forever, for anyone to see. I also told her I did the same for my uncle and my cousin Jimmy, both of whom now have hundreds of pictures on their respective pages. If you didn’t guess, putting so many pictures on accounts is a rarity.

It was a labor of love and honor. It’s the least I could do. These pictures are in my possession, but I don’t think I own them. They belong to us all – anyone who shared moments, laughter, or time with those in the pictures.

Yesterday, I wrote a post about high school pictures. I used a horrible picture of myself from many years ago. It was a bit satirical, but the message was one I’ve written about a few dozen times: vanity and hoarding regarding pictures is sinful. I’ve never owned a picture that I haven’t offered to everyone who might have an interest. I don’t get the urge to hoard pictures in a box, under a bed, or in a seldom-used closet.

More than one person got irritated at me for preaching the gospel of sharing. Some people righteously guard their past appearance, as if history isn’t going to kick that door open with time anyway. Others play the role of Gollum and greedily keep their pictures hidden in the crook of their unapproachable arms. The last tendency lessens everyone’s ability to remember and cherish people in our past who’ve passed on to the next life.

When my aunt’s sister reached out yesterday, she didn’t know that it was what I needed to hear. My actions months ago opened her heart again, even if for only for a while yesterday. In those moments, she could see that I had paid homage to her sister, to life, and to people we love.

All those pictures? Some of them have been downloaded dozens of times, each time by someone who discovered my treasure, one freely given. I am merely the guardian.

Love, X

You’re Not Going To Believe This One (Read Until The End)

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This is true commentary. Some of it isn’t mine to share. I do no disservice to anyone by hitting the high notes of shame and secrecy. When I open up and share, sometimes people share stories with me. Some of them are stunning. Others are evil. A few are joyous. In a bit, I’ll share the general truth of one such story. I’ll do so by telling it anonymously. Whether it happened in Rogers, Arkansas, or Topeka, Kansas, it is a true story.

Throughout my life, I’ve been on the cusp of several discoveries. Some of have been personal, while others have been the sudden surge in my perception of the world. Given the outright ignorance that was mine to claim when I was young, I find myself surprised by who I am. My early life was cloistered and smelled of copper, whiskey, and sweat. Its soundtrack was a cacophony of shouts. I don’t think some of you truly take me at my word: my life was small for the first part of my life. I understood very little and my ability to grow to understand it was limited by the pathology of who I came from. Nature vs. Nurture lost a fight in my head.

An inquisitive mind took me places. DNA broke down doors. I was 52 before discovering I had another sister, one fathered by my racist Dad. While it was an accident, it would have not happened had I not insisted on following family questions over a long road. Revisionists shouted at me my entire adult life. Most wanted allegiance; when not given, they demanded silence. Failing that, they resorted to sustained anger. Their voices are fading though, leaving me to write the history of all the lives I intersected with. I was stunned to know that my suspicions about my Dad were right. DNA collectively slapped my naysayers in the mouth.

When my Dad fathered my sister, he didn’t know about DNA. He didn’t have an idea that it would expose his behavior 40+ years later. Unlike the news stories I found detailing Dad’s misadventures with crime and his DWI fatality, DNA lurked behind the scenes. I won’t share the details of my Dad’s case because they’re not mine to share.

DNA opens doors that people forget existed.

Which leads me to this inept segue…

Many years ago, a doctor told a young woman that her child died during or shortly after childbirth. The woman went home, heart-broken, and barely managed to move ahead with her life. She later delivered another child with the same doctor. That child lived to adulthood.

In secret, the doctor ‘gave’ the baby to a family who wanted children. The baby hadn’t died after all. This family ended up with two such ‘adopted’ babies. They were aware of the circumstances under which the baby was taken illegally from the mother and that the ‘adoption’ papers were forgeries. The stolen baby grew up with her new family.

When the doctor started his nefarious endeavor, DNA wasn’t a calculation. Paperwork could be falsified, lies told, and an impenetrable cloud of confusion could conceal what he’d done.

The doctor? He wasn’t an average doctor. He was respected, known, and had access.

He earned a rich living, had children of his own, and probably excused away his monstrous behavior by convincing himself that the stolen children would have a better life.

This isn’t a new story. It still happens. DNA makes it more difficult to conceal.

I wonder how many of you knew this doctor, or unknowingly knew the mother robbed of her child? Or went to school with the doctor’s children? What would the doctor’s children think of him if his crime were shared with the world? If you’re reading this, it’s possible you’re related to the doctor or know someone else who had their baby stolen from them. It’s one of the reasons I repeatedly tell people to get DNA tests.

Human behavior covers a wide swatch of possibilities. Doctors, midwives, and churches have all taken turns robbing young women of their children.

Because I’ve run across many variations of human deceit, I know statistically that many people out there aren’t related to the people they think they are. Some, although in increasingly smaller numbers, live a life absent a startling truth, one which DNA can help expose.

In this case, the adopted baby girl grew up used DNA testing to find her biological family. She reached out to her birth mom, the one who’d been told she was dead. I try to imagine the shock and horror of getting such a call – one from the adult daughter you’d mourned. I imagine the further horror of realizing that she’d risked having another baby girl stolen her by having her second daughter delivered by the same doctor.

The adopted baby, now an adult, and the mother who suffered a stolen baby attempted to confront the doctor, who still practiced. They confronted him decades after the fact.

How many times can you imagine the doctor stole babies from young mothers?

Did I mention that this is a real story?

The doctor never discovered the agony of being charged with a crime. He didn’t face public shame by looking out the window and seeing a news crew pull up in the parking lot, knowing his crime had been exposed and his face shown on the nightly news.

I wrote a long post about it but didn’t have permission to tell it to the world. I did enough research to discover that the salient points were easily substantiated.

So, I leave you with this doubt: are you SURE you know who your parents are? I’ll say it again. Because of my personal involvement with other cases, I say with full confidence that some of you are living without the truth.

Love, X

 

In Wonderment, I Look

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This is a weird composite of thoughts, much like the one I wrote last Sunday. I’m still very optimistic overall, for ‘us’ as a whole. I have my doubts that some of us should be trusted to use toothpicks, though.

I’ve been around a few people who need a dose of Negan. Some have been angels. I’ve been a right bastard myself a few times. I used a character from The Walking Dead purposefully, though I abandoned the show a while back. This won’t be the last pandemic we face. It’s a good blueprint for how we’ll do if we don’t substantially snap the heck out of our inability to give everyone good healthcare. Though I’m a liberal, I think our biggest enemy is ‘us.’ Not because we’re separated into nations and interests, but because each of us is part of a collective which pushes the urge toward militancy and diminishes the embrace of things which make our individual lives better. Healthcare, education, and stability continue to bow in service to defense.

Who knew a virus would observe our trillions of dollars of military might worldwide and laugh? Now that we’ve winced long enough at the mercy of an invisible enemy, can we take back a slice of our resources and dedicate it to the prevention of the next one?

Given the presence of asymptomatic carriers, universal precautions are the only means to protect yourself until the bubble pops. Despite doing everything perfectly yourself, you are only as safe as your weakest link. Contact with anyone or anything outside your perfect bubble is a non-zero risk. Universal precautions are not possible on a long timeline. Those that tell us this might be angry when they do so, but they’re not wrong.

Given the false negative rate of the covid test, people who tested negative are not necessarily negative. We have to use the only test we have available, whether it is approved for that use.

If you’re one of those people who are essential and travel in the world, the probability that you’re going to be exposed approaches 100% on a long enough timeline. The Venn diagram of you amidst all the potentially contaminated people and places makes the math irrefutable.

Those who resume their careers in patient care, whether they’re nurses, doctors, aides, or therapists, need a little more praise in the ‘after’ of this. Surviving this cost them invisibly. In the future, everyone in the medical field will have to swallow their fear a bit more, as they agree to stand in the unknown.

We’re all fallible, even those with perfect intentions. ‘We’ rely on people who have to get out into the world while we’re in the bubble. I’m one of those people who have to get out of the bubble. It rarely worries me because I’m almost individually powerless to foresee, much less avoid, danger. I don’t stick the gun in my own mouth. As I tell my friends and family, I earned the right to expect the plane to fall out of the sky onto my head. I don’t walk with my head cocked in anticipatory fear.

As for those who practice perfect isolationism, you’re going to be exposed at an eventual rate of 100%. Time and necessity will insist on it.

If you experience symptoms, it will be very hard for you to get tested – no matter who you are and where you work. We’ll change that by the next pandemic. For this one, though, don’t make the assumption you can get a test. It isn’t true for most people with symptoms.

Even if you are tested, not only are you going to wait days for your result, but at some point you’re going to wonder if you are a false negative. What will help you get over the unease of being an unwitting carrier? Focus on the fact that you were going to be exposed one way or another, anyway. Much like the denizens of The Walking Dead, they discovered they were already walking around with the disease. Unfortunately for us, our condition is that we are genetically no match for the types of viruses that include the coronavirus.

We’ve been focusing on protecting the most vulnerable and of ensuring that our medical system doesn’t collapse.

Despite it being repeated a million times, this was never about guaranteeing you won’t be exposed to the virus.

You will, as will every person you’re accustomed to seeing in your daily life. All of them.

I’ve emerged from my personal experience with some strange observations about my fellow human beings; some bad, some great.

In the ‘after’ of this first wave of the new coronavirus, we must wait to see the data that we’re allowed to see: hospitalizations, intubations, # of those tested, # of those refused tests despite being symptomatic, total deaths, total deaths attributed to the virus, and a mountain of other data.

Reverence for data is important; incorrectly deriving unsupported ideas from raw numbers is to give leeway to manipulation. Science doesn’t demand perfection. It demands a relentless pursuit of ‘better,’  revision, and admission of the need to take another look.

Science can admit its error even when humans cannot. Some of us, myself included, will walk into the ‘after’ in need of more willingness to trust those with expertise to at least throw the dart closer to the target than our limited knowledge can. We’ve moved away from this a bit in the last few years.

We’ll look differently at some of those around us. We’ve  listened and watched as they’ve surprised us. Some with great acts of informed compassion, others with callous disregard. When we catch our breath, literally and figuratively, we will need to deal with what we’ve seen people around us do and say.

Those with means will have different views about the pandemic that those without savings, credit, or the ability to remain inside.

Those with family members suffering from underlying conditions will emerge with ideas, too.

Those who lost family, friends, or livelihoods will reach a distant beach, one that will take some time to come back home from.

Those with fixed ideas and hardened hearts will be untouched by the ability to consider this pandemic from the perspective of the world.

That, without a doubt, is our biggest disease.

 

 

 

W E

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On Saturday, Dawn and I watched 1995’s “Outbreak,” followed by 2011’s “Contagion.” Whether it sounds ridiculous or not, watching the movies made everything better in a way that probably sounds ludicrous to a normal-minded person.

Even the opening graphic for “Outbreak” seemed fitting: “The single biggest threat to man’s continued dominance on the planet is the virus.” (Joshua Lederberg, Nobel laureate.) For a movie made 25 years ago, it still has much to say.

I’m amazed by how quickly the dynamic of the entire world has changed. Each of us is attempting to find a stable landing place, one from which we can find a sliver of tranquility. I know many people who are barely cobbling together the ability to move one foot in front of the other. I know many who are guilty of conspiracy theories, hoarding drugs and essentials that take it from the hands and veins of those who actually need it. I see it every day.

For my part, I’m forced to go out in the word daily because of my job. I’ve never feared exposure. Everyone around me has heard me say that I assume I’m exposed every single day I walk around. I don’t wish to needlessly expose others to the virus. But I have to say, my personal efforts are dwarfed by the decisions of large agencies and businesses around me, ones who’ve made questionable choices. I’m at the mercy of every person I intersect with. It’s always been that way. The only thing that’s changed is that the reality of it is now one that can’t be ignored.

We are all our weakest link.

Dawn and I didn’t hoard anything from day one. Looking toward the horizon, it’s pointless. We are not islands. If you hoard, you are hurting the people that don’t have what you have amassed, whether it is a can of tuna or a vial of Hydroxychloroquine. If our situation deteriorates, only those who embrace a total dedication to taking only what they need will survive. If the situation morphs into a worst-case scenario, no one will be able to thwart the madness that will take what you have.

If you are looking for a silver lining, I can only hope that this results in all of us appreciating science and education more, as this is a warning shot that shouldn’t be ignored. To embrace the idea that we are dependent on one another, a dependence that surpasses our local hospital, state line, or national border. To understand that the person cleaning the floor is as integral to our survival as the three piece suit who seldom gets his hands dirty but makes triage decisions about our supply systems during emergencies.

There may be no silver lining to this. It might just be a harsh lesson. We already had the tools needed to lessen this crisis. We took too much time and effort fighting for our fiefdoms instead of looking toward the world map and seeing ‘W E’ spread across all of it.

Of all the hopes, I hope it leads us to stop bickering over oil, sand, and land, or that we find ourselves able to willingly give everyone health care without regard to payment. If we forego war and aggression, we can pay for it. Our economy will not look the same once this fades. Everything we’ve learned will be meaningless. Hard hearts must soften.

I’m already looking beyond the peak of this emergency.

It’ll be us, still. I hope it is a different us. I think most people were dissatisfied with what we were, for wildly and contradicting reasons. Some of the facade of our differences has vanished. Each of us looks toward the microscopic threat of a virus and wonders what will become of us.

Whatever ‘that’ is, it is our choice.

It’s always been our choice.
Love, X

Wordless Eulogy

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I would not dare utter a single syllable in a vain attempt to express the breadth, depth, or width of a life well-lived. If you were lucky enough to have shared her presence, look inward, to find that memory, and embrace it. Our days are numbered, our friends but few.

 

Jackie Lou Dorman

A Day, A Minute

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Near a large metropolitan area in the north, a family sits in stunned hurt and despair as the patriarch surprises them with another fit of rage and accusation. The day, like so many others, now lies in tatters. His addictions seldom yield to a retreat toward family, humility, or humanity. He cannot be reached inside his defensive slide toward loss and oblivion. Though the entire family is in attendance, hurt and pain fill the air, needlessly exacerbating lives populated by trouble. Happiness has fled the building. It’s the price demanded by addiction. These words, the ones you’re reading, are treasonous through the very act of expressing them. Addictions grow in the silences and spaces between the moments of our lives.

In a small town not too far from here, a family gathers to be with their loved one as his body fails him. While the reason for gathering is not joyous, the symbolism of family fills their heavy hearts. A long life can be both celebrated and clung to with fanged fingers. Life is always a treasured embrace, and we rarely wish to exit the dance willingly; the veil of tomorrow beckons us.

I’m connected to both of these happenings. I couldn’t help but observe their overlap, forming a perverse Venn Diagram. They took place at the same hour and minute; neither was aware of the other.

There is no lesson here, no plea to seize the day or bite one’s troubled lips.

I am merely that fish in the bowl, observing, surrounded by an alien wilderness that I’m somehow connected to.
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A Eulogy For December Moments

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I’m holding my breath and waiting for his swan song. Though the stanzas of our lives are numerous, some of us race with abandon toward the long silence. He’s among those. Even if we cover our ears to drown out the notes, the subdued and reduced scales will still flow and ebb all around us, whether injurious or nostalgic.

There will be no melodic crescendo nor applause-laden curtain call, of that I’m sure. His symphony will abruptly cease, and the echoes of his efforts will radiate quickly into oblivion. I can feel the tempo and its accelerando, racing impatiently toward the inevitable.

A life will have ended. Each of us who knew him will have our own arrangement, filled with annotations, corrections, and commentary.

As is often the case, many will have reached conclusions and coda without understanding that his life filled with the burden of secrecy. Lives, like harmonies, often gain depth through filter and perspective.

Our facades conceal our secrets; they also conceal us.

We can only make decisions with the information we have. I tried. I failed. But it’s not my failure to own.

I don’t hold myself to accountability, either, in part because his addiction demanded secrecy, anger, and retribution for those peeking inside the fortress of denial.

It’s difficult to stand near the fire without wincing in pain – even in December moments. We draw close to the light for warmth. As we walk away, the warmed fabric which protects us burns.

Life will go on. We’ll claim to have learned our lessons from his exaggerated example. We’ll reflect, hope, and dedicate ourselves to avoiding the same mistakes.

We’ll make them, however. Our humanity requires an ignorant allegiance to forgetfulness. Collectively, we have only a few vices, ones which we ceaselessly abuse to our own detriment.

We’ll recall his presence. Perhaps, in time, even as it fills us with fondness. His melody will be a problematic reminiscence.

Those who lose their arguments with their lesser selves tend to bequeath a series of discordant and minor shards of broken glass for us to decipher.

Walk among them at your own peril.

To he, to him, to me, to we, to us, to you.

Love, X

In Memoriam Of The Truth

 

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Deanne at her confirmation…

 

 

This post needs a preface. My last wife died suddenly over a decade ago. I was ten years older than she was. She came from a large family, one like so many others; dysfunctional and complicated. Deanne was the youngest of many siblings. Like so many of us, she made some terrible choices when she was younger. Her family mostly failed to adapt to the fact that she grew out of much of her youth. The church and religion were two separate entities in her mind. One, rooted in the practical and loving faith of her paternal grandmother in South Dakota, and the other, insistent on concealment and manipulation. Because of something that happened when she was young, Deanne’s appraisal of the church as a whole was marked by suspicion and lack of trust.

I posted this to Deanne’s ancestry records so that her truth would be preserved – and possibly outlive the revisionists who will read the words and be unable to resist lashing out against the truth I’ve shared. It’s uncomfortable hearing someone revise history or mischaracterize someone’s life. The purpose of my addition to Deanne’s posthumous biography isn’t to harm. The truth never harms unless those who hear it don’t wish to accept it.

 

Deanne Cordell was baptized in the Catholic church in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on Nov. 28th, 1976, when she was two days old. Much of both sides of her family were Catholic. As she often joked, “I didn’t have a say in whether I was baptized, but I have a say about going to church.” Deanne loved her paternal grandparents, especially her grandmother Jessie Gosmire Cordell. She admired her faith and the way she lived it. Deanne often talked about how much she wished that people could have an open, honest, and compassionate faith like her grandmother. As for most other people, she had an intense impatience with their hypocrisy and lack of compassion toward those in need or those making mistakes. She’d look back at their life and see all the craziness and wonder how they didn’t recognize themselves in the lives of others, even as they criticized them. It caused friction with many people in her life.

 

I have no way of knowing what she was referring to or whether it was about her own life, but she knew a girl who had experienced some kind of abuse at the hands of clergy. She said that the girl had told her mother about it and had been punished repeatedly for lying about the church. It had a substantial impact on her views about the church. I tried to circumspectly discover the identity of the girl in question over the years. “It’s not a part of my life now, so it doesn’t matter,” she’d say. I knew it mattered, though.

 

By the time Deanne was an adult, she had grown to dislike the church intensely. She was unhappy with church politics, its policies, and also the way it concerned itself more with public relations than honesty. As an adult, she only attended church when mass was part of a Catholic wedding or funeral. Otherwise, she preferred to live a secular life. A great deal of her dissatisfaction with the church was the way so many had responded to her choices in life, some of them with great anger and disapproval. She found no holiness in their attitudes.

 

Oddly enough, had she remained in South Dakota or moved back as an adult, to be nearer her grandmother, I know she would have attended church with her. Her grandmother was her connection to faith, while her own mother was the wedge that distanced her from it. Her grandmother never held religion as a weapon and certainly didn’t sharpen it at people’s expense. Deanne admired that relentlessly.

 

Before she died, she talked about how ridiculous some of her family member’s ideas regarding religion were. One in particular was regarding cremation. She was fond of pointing out that those with the strongest views about cremation seldom managed to pay for their choice before departing, leaving other family members to bicker about the issue. When my Uncle Raymond died about a month before Deanne, it allowed us to talk about her own choices. She thought her mom’s antiquated ideas about cremation and Catholicism were ridiculous. She was adamant that she wanted to be cremated and not buried or memorialized in a Catholic church or cemetery. She was equally adamant that her middle name not be used. Given that I had legally changed my name, it was one of her wishes that she eventually change hers, too, and rid herself of the name. We joked a lot about choosing an entirely different name for herself, as I had done. Given enough time, I’m certain that she would have and I think she would have chosen “D” or “DeDe” as her first name. I had made and placed hand-painted “D” letters in a couple of places in the place we lived.

 

In my commentary, I’ve held back from the overt negativity Deanne had toward the church. She struggled to come to terms with her own beliefs, as most of do. She also struggled with her mom’s attitudes about religion, as they seemed to trigger her distaste for religion like nothing else. I’d laugh and talk her down from being angry about it. It’s part of the reason I still sometimes wonder whether Deanne was the girl she knew who had the story to tell about clergy.

 

Deanne has living family who would vainly attempt to revise my recounting of her attitudes. I was closer to Deanne than any other person in her life. No one knew her as an adult as I did. I married her when she was 20 years old. She died at 31. Many thought of her as the “kid” of the large group of siblings and half-siblings. They carried their prejudices about her youth into her adulthood and often discounted her opinions about life, whereas I only began to know her when her adulthood was starting. I had no preconceptions.

 

In the last year of her life, I attended a variety of different churches, trying to find one which might be worthwhile, despite my agnosticism. Deanne wasn’t interested in joining me. She was, however, interested in what I had to say about religion and the things I learned. Much to the surprise of many of her family members, she knew a great deal more than they realized. Many were simply too busy ignorantly trying to correct her instead of listening.

 

I write this in part because a few people have remarked that she was Catholic. She most certainly was not Catholic, despite the revisionist wishful thinking of some of those who knew her. Whether it is fair or note, Deanne would have much preferred a world without the church, or organized religion at all. One thing is certain: she believed that anyone involved in a sex scandal at church should not only be exposed and punished, but anyone protecting those who did so should be doubly punished.

 

I have no agenda to hide the truth or tarnish her image. Truth is its own reward, even as it leaves a bitter taste in some mouths.

 

X Teri

 

 

 

There Are No Small Deaths

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This post is in defense of those who have connections with other people we don’t understand. As I hope we’ve all experienced, it’s possible to meet a person and ‘get’ them, as if we are estranged best friends. Some of these bonds are stronger than those of family. It’s possible to feel closer to one’s fourth cousin than one’s grandmother. Bit players in our lives often morph into the main actors. By living in reverse, we don’t see their importance until they’ve stepped out and away from our lives.

Only the person experiencing the feelings of loss at a person’s passing knows to what depth those feelings reach. Tendrils of connection are often invisible, incomprehensible, and unknowable. It’s important that we abandon the false expectation that we understand the loss someone else is processing.

There are no small deaths.

Even with my best arsenal of words and passion, I sometimes struggle to describe the nuances of another person and their importance accurately. That’s the best-case scenario even when I’m communicating with someone who shares a great deal of humanity. It’s a fool’s errand with those who lack a common understanding.

When a person commits suicide, it’s human to question all your choices, as well as your attention to the person who has left us. Even without the shadow of self-harm, we tend to experience a depth of introspection when we lose someone.

Whether it’s fair or not, suicide strikes us an accusation. We have to give space to those who need more time to find first gear again. Implying that the loss isn’t a reason to grieve is an unacceptable reaction.

Because of the invisibility of many of these connections, one of the most traitorous acts you can do is to doubt or question whether the relationship was real when another person is suffering from the unexpected rupture and loss. “Did you know him or her very well?” or “Were you ‘friend’ friends?” both serve to undermine and accentuate the pain of the other human being you’re inadvertently demeaning.

“Only the spoon knows what is stirring in the pot” is one of my favorite clichés precisely because it reminds me that I’m not privy to all the information contained in a situation or between people. I’ve committed the error of assuming I know. Worse, I’ve judged people based on what I perceive as only imagined depth. Because I’m human and stupid at times, I fear that I’ll do it again.

A typical example of callousness is when someone says, “It was only a dog” in reaction to someone’s disabling sorrow at losing a pet. Such shallow and meaningless comments only serve to highlight the accuser’s fractured self. We should feel compassion for them, as they’ve been deprived of a pleasure in life that they’ll never understand. It was indeed ‘only’ a dog. The greater truth is that a human being had a deep love for that dog. You’re not demeaning the dog; instead, you’re demeaning another human being’s choices and authentic feelings. From the right perspective, such an attitude is monstrous.

Likewise, when people are involved, the callous person can’t know the person they doubt shared a bond with you. The connection isn’t measurable. We can’t see the swell of your heart or the yearning you wish upon the Earth to have this person inhabit your space again. Grief makes even the best of people uncomfortable. As you learn with age, it also unhinges people who have no foundation to come to terms with the helpless sorrow they see from other people.

Perhaps the person who passed once took a moment and literally reached out to let you know that you were seen, measured, and appreciated. Whether you were indeed at your rock bottom, their outstretched hand and openness pulled you out of the abyss. These moments create a bond that’s difficult to inventory – and treasured forever. Because these moments are often private and held close, those left behind are often the only witness to their measure.

As people die, it’s important to remember that grief is terrible, personal, and unknowable. Each time we’re the one experiencing the loss, if we are lucky, we suddenly remember the lesson of connection.

Time, with its caress and embrace, imperceptibly diminishes our pain, even as it prepares us for the next dark surprise.
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*…written for someone struggling with friends who don’t understand the loss…
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