Thursday, January 10, 2008


On New Years day, I wrote a little bit about the first day of the new year. It was titled “Cold-Hot-Cold,” the first term referring to the brisk morning temperature and a short motorcycle run with about 55 other (mostly) Harleys. The middle term was a metaphor for the camaraderie and the fellowship enjoyed by this odd but close group of extended friends. It also alluded, literally, to the beautifully sunny day we were so fortunate to have on this ride for the second year in a row. The last reference in the title was due to the pall that settled over many of us as we learned of the tragic drowning death of a toddler that many of us knew or knew of.

I am among this second group. I know the mother in passing and the child even less so, but many of my close friends were much, much closer. I am somewhat closer to other immediate members of the family, but to say that I have been touched in the same way as those who were intimate with the child would be a lie. I couldn’t be and to profess that I am is disrespectful at best. Today there was a public memorial service. There were many, many in attendance and all were connected in some way to this tragedy, as I was. It was not, however, about me or my grief. I am sorry for their loss and their heartache. I have all the empathy in the world for those who were close and the outpouring of love profoundly touches me, but I am not the one who is suffering.

This next part might hit a little close to home to those it may resonate with. All I can say is I mean no offense to anyone, but if the shoe fits…

There are those who will let no tragedy go without somehow turning it back upon themselves. In this case, there are a finite number of individuals whom this is about. They know who they are and if I might add, they did a damn fine job of not allowing the service to become a circus. There are others, however, who must be feeling left out. The spotlight is not shining upon them and for whatever reason they feel it necessary to claim some piece of it. Ironically enough, I am sure it is a “light" those involved would surely give up if that were an option. I am not talking about those who are quietly suffering - perhaps those who are more profoundly affected but not part of the inner-circle. They know it is not about them and they know how to stay on the sideline.

I am talking about (and to) those who claim to “know just how they feel.” No you don’t. No one can. And please don’t use this tragedy to re-grieve the passing of your loved-ones… you had your time, leave this for those who are going through it now. Don’t offer advice - if they want it they’ll ask you for it. Don’t despair when they don’t, because they probably won’t. Remember, it’s not about you. Don’t invade their privacy; don’t “help out” when none is asked for. Leave them alone - they know what they need to do, you don’t. You can’t possibly. They will ask for what they need when they figure it out and once again, no, you can’t help them do that either. You don’t know what they “need to do.”

I am not made of stone; I felt this and it hurts. But it is nothing compared to what those directly related to this child are going through. At the service, the baby’s mother said a few words. The pain she is feeling is palpable. Towards the end of her remembrance, she said no one could possibly know the pain she is feeling. I believe that to be true. Even those who have walked through identical circumstances would probably agree. It is uniquely personal - it has to be.

I saw a family come together when they needed each other most today. They have had to walk through more than I could imagine and probably more than I could bear. The past 10 days must seem like an eternity and I refuse to interject any personal desire for attention at their expense.

Go in peace, little girl.


Bobkat said...

This post did indeed have resonance for me, but not for the reasons you outlined. Rather it was because I witnessed exactly the same thing after the death of my neice. The biblical phrase 'wailing and gnashing of teeth' came to my mind then as it does now.

I am very sorry for the grief of your friends. No platitudes from me, just sadness for their loss.

Michele sent me to share your sentiments today.

Anonymous said...

Michele sent me today to catch up - I haven't visited in quite a while and I first must say congratulations on your BA!

As for this post, yes. I would like to hope that at least some of the milder offenders were much at a loss of the correct thing to say. I fear that is not do and they truly thought they knew better than the grieving family.

I think "Call me if I can do something for you" seems better to me than the impositions you describe.

Shephard said...

I esp. liked this post, because, just as you mentioned, so many try to bond thru wounds and re-grieve. I thought what you said has great integrity and honesty and maturity (for lack of a better word... your maturity was never a question, but rather those who don't understand). Really nice.
Thought I'd stop by when I saw you over at Michele's.


kenju said...

I was thinking the same things that Shephard said. I have witnessed the same thing happening around here, with people who don't even know the deceased child or his/her family. I think it is a way for some people to feel that they are part of a group and hope to be accepted. Sad.

Anonymous said...

This is important and powerful. I remember people trying to do the same with me, and I remember staring right through them. I particularly remember one relative insisting to me that my father was in a better place and that she'd "trade places with him in a heartbeat". I couldn't have agreed more and would have done whatever it took right then to achieve it.

Snaggle Tooth said...

Is no solemn ceremony without idiots?

Granted, it's nice when everyone wants to help. (and doesn't force it)!
It can be very tough being the "public stars" of the procession, (been there).
I hope the annoying distraction of those butting-in is taken with a grain of salt and filed in "Idiots," under "Try to forget this part!"

I lit a candle n prayed-

Bobkat said...

Hi Mr A. This post is as powerful as when I first read it, which is apt for the reason I have visited. There is something waiting for you over at my blog.