I'm looking for sympathy, I said to the lady behind the counter

Very recently I received the news that a childhood friend's brother had
died. This was a young man who I had not seen since he hit double
digits, and that was at least 15 years ago. In fact, when I heard the
news of his passing and he was called by his "adult" name, it barely
registered -- of course he wasn't called by his childhood nickname. At
26, he seemed to have a good life: career, new love, an active social
life. I'm sad that I didn't get to know all this about him, at least
from his family, while he was alive.

He died of somewhat mysterious causes, and by all accounts, had died
alone. That is to say he died with nobody in the room with him; he was
clearly beloved by both family and friends, and my heart welled up and
spilled out of my chest when I heard of his passing. I have no doubt
that the news hit me harder because of the recent anniversary of my
dad's passing, but for my friend to lose his little brother so suddenly
seems horribly unfair and that much more tragic.

As I stood today in front of the row of cards in a nearby shop, having
just exchanged pleasantries and a little levity with the elderly store
owner, I thought of all the sympathy cards we received only a few years
ago. I learned then that the sympathy card was really little more than a
gesture; an important gesture, but the words on the card were merely
bits of design meant to fill in the gaps where people had run out of
things to say, or who just couldn't find the right words on their own.
Deepest regrets. Heartfelt sadness. Very Difficult Time. It's all true,
but the value of the card is in letting someone know that you recognize
the pain of their loss and hope to offer them the sense of community
that may be of benefit to them, if only a little.

And so I was a little surprised when the first card I picked up sent
burning tears to my eyes which I could barely control. The rush of
memories of my own father's passing combined with the thought of this
young man's parents opening the card from us, seemed so real and close
to home. I bought the second card I picked up. It's nice, and it has a
picture of leaves on the front and some nice words inside. More
importantly, I don't think I could handle sifting through a dozen cards
to find something more "perfect" to express my sympathies for a loss I
can barely comprehend. I'll try my best to write something supportive
and heartfelt inside, but I know whatever I write will fall short of
helping much. I just hope that the gesture itself means something.

Deepest regrets.

Heartfelt sadness.

So very sorry.

Posted bythemikestand at 4:13 PM  

2 stepped up to the mike:

cronznet said... 2:25 AM, August 16, 2007  

You capture this so well.
Your card, your name, the time it takes to write it and to read it.
All of that matters, however small or large.

Lesley said... 6:37 PM, August 16, 2007  

It does not matter what the card reads...it's them knowing you are thinking of them and that you really care that helps.
I'm sorry for the loss Mike.

Post a Comment