December 18th, 2010



Writing condolence cards is hard. Words seem inadequate. EVERYTHING seems inadequate, actually. What can you say or do that relates your sympathy, your empathy, your sorrow in the face of someone's loss? Mostly I think it's worthy that you try. That you say you're sorry, that you send your love and a heartfelt note. That you open your arms and hold someone tight. Or let them cry. Or just listen. It's never enough, though. Nothing is.

My dad died 14 years ago on December 20th. 5 days before Christmas. A friend's father died 2 days ago. And my sister-in-law's father died yesterday. It tinges the holidays with sorrow; how can it not? And yet, Christmas isn't colored completely by my father's passing. I suppose I think about him more this time of year and am saddened that he isn't here to share it with us. I miss him, but the immediateness of it has faded. The news of the 2 deaths this week has prodded it into a sore spot again. Something tender and painful that sits under my breastbone and throbs more than usual.

How can you face losing a parent? The one who helped to bring you up, for better or for worse. A friend told me once it was like feeling the conveyor belt of life move another inexorable place forward toward that final drop off. Even when the death is caused by some inevitable sentence of illness, even if you think you're prepared, there's no denying the shock and anger that accompany the actual fact. The injustice that it has to be like this: that someone we love can pass out of our reach forever.

It's not just the potential that they'll never fulfill, the things they'll never do or see. It's that they won't do or see them with US. We no longer get to share OURSELVES. We no longer get to see ourselves reflected in their eyes. It's not just their loss: it's OURS.

We never know from day to day, when it will be our last chance to tell someone we care about that we love them. To share a smile, or a hug, or a laugh. Every day with the people you love, every conversation, every shared moment is a gift. Not just at Christmas time, but all the time. Tell them so.

Thrilling Filling Belated Birthday Wishes to cap_killer, ms_jacket, and Sam!