Writing about something that’s both intensely personal and universally shared should be a gift, right?
So today’s topic is bereavement.
Not so simple, huh?
Phil Adams is worth reading. His wife Rachel died. There’s an excerpt below, but you should definitely click on the title and go to the full piece, which is called…
Time hasn’t healed but it has enabled me to put a lid on things around other people.
The struggle, bizarrely, has been telling it straight to a bunch of complete strangers. Resisting the temptation to sugar the pill with vacuous, inappropriate platitudes.
Hello, my name is Philip Adams. My wife and I have a joint policy with you. Unfortunately she died at the end of March…
Where did that come from?
What possessed me to say that?
Unfortunately is what I say to a client when I can’t make a meeting.
It has no place in a conversation about the death of my wife.
Unfortunately scarcely hints at the alternating currents of lethargy and vertigo that define my days. Nor the insomnia that curses most nights.
Unfortunately doesn’t come close to the heartache and the as yet unseen damage that the denial of motherly love will cause to my daughters. Rachel was devoted to them – gentle and selfless.
My wife’s death was not unfortunate. It was catastrophic.
And yet I have had to coach myself before each call, or during each email, not to say “unfortunately” or “I’m afraid that” or “passed away” when we both know that I mean “died”.
There’s more. You should read it. It’ll take three minutes. Phil’s blog – Sawdust is here. He writes about social media, culture and marketing. I read him.
My mate Rudy Noriega lost his Dad longer ago. He’s funny and moving about it. As he says: “All Saints Day comes but once a year but every day is Fathers’ Day.”
His short tale takes place in Spain. Here’s how it begins, but you can read the full version by clicking on the title…
Miguel put his wine glass down on the bar and wiped his mouth.“Do you know about tomorrow morning – 10am?”Yes, I did. A couple of my neighbours had mentioned about the “All Saints Day” Mass and I have to admit that I wasn’t particularly looking forward to it. I had no problem with either going to Mass or mourning the dead but I was rather hoping to give it a wide birth this year. I’d gone to the bar to avoid thinking about it.Miguel’s words seemed to hang in the air like stale cigarette smoke, and an unintentional long silence followed it. I was too lost in my thoughts to respond.
“I’m not religious,” he continued, “but it’s an important day for the village and you should be there.” He lifted his glass to his lips and paused. A rare smile formed on his face. “And anyway, the priest’s a bastard”.
And here’s something beautiful and perhaps oddly appropriate. (Norwegian speakers can confirm this or not – I only have three phrases in Norwegian.) It’s Siri Nilsen singing Alle snakker sant (They all speak the truth). I heard it on the World Music blog.
Just one more thing (to quote Columbo) – another tough thing is knowing what to say to someone who has been bereaved. But better to say something, huh?