Thursday, July 21, 2011

What Do You Say?

My friend, James, was diagnosed a few years ago, as a young man, with a rare type of "old people" cancer.  He had a wife and three small children that he loved very much.  In one of our talks, he said that he was able to keep on keeping on because he had Faith.  He knew that God was taking care of him, that God has a Plan, and that His plan was better than James's.

James said that he was so grateful that he had Faith, because he didn't know how someone who didn't Believe could manage to keep from curling up in a ball and just giving up.

This thought was echoed by my friend, Stacie, when her infant son was diagnosed with a very rare, nearly always fatal kind of cancer.  Faith was what kept her going, gave her the strength to fight, and comforted her when Cash lost his earthly battle, but won the Heavenly one.

Last week, my husband's coworker, who was also the Branch Manager's 23-year-old son, died in a horrific accident on the job.  The responding Highway Patrol officers identified the vehicle by running the tags on the trailer that he was pulling and came back to my husband's workplace to ask the person in charge who would have been in possession of the truck and trailer, and hopefully, get next of kin information.  Obviously, if they had known that they were speaking to Jacob's next of kin, their delivery would have been a bit different. 

My husband had to step into his mentor's shoes to handle filing insurance claims, workman's comp paperwork, notifying the appropiate brass at Corporate, pulling in crews from all over the region to keep their small store running, and also comforting the man that has come closest to filling the father role that my "father"-in-law voluntarily left vacant.  Thing is, Rick, (my husband's boss) isn't a Believer. 

What does one say to a non-believer that is in the middle of a horrific, tragic storm?  All of the comforting things that my Wonderful Husband could come up with were things that his friend doesn't believe.  They brought no comfort.  They brought no understanding.  They brought no peace.  All that was left was "We're here for you.  We love you.  We know that your heart is breaking, and we think that it sucks, too."

Jacob's parents are a mess.  They're going through the motions, and both of them have dead eyes.  Rick is clinging to his wife, my husband and the other guy that he's mentored "since [they] were pups".  The memorial service was yesterday, and it was a fill-in-the-blank memorial service.  Prayers - check.  Pictures - check.  Stranger relating stories that he got third hand from whatever family and friends he could corner - check.  Maybe we should throw in a song - check.  It ended with an announcement that the family was thankful to everyone for coming, but that they were not prepared to greet anyone at this time, so they would be exiting first and then the rest of us would be dismissed.

They're curling up into their own little balls, and the people that love them are forced to stand on the sidelines and find something to do with our hands.


Anonymous said...


From my perspective, as a "non-believer" I think there are two types. Ones that were raised with religion and learned not to believe through science and common sense. These types tend to feel guilty and I think are truly agnostic. (No offense on the common sense aspect. I LOVE faith and wish I had it in a lot more tthings, but it is so intangible to me). The other type is one who never believed because of either agnostic or atheist parents, so there is no being tied to a former belief.

We are comforted through friends, family and action. My biggest thing when my father passed, was a friend of mine getting me out of the house for coffee, book club or just to see a movie. I think I lost about 20 lbs in 6 weeks but was able to pull out of my extreme sadness soon after. Giving the message to your friends that you love them and if they need ANYTHING that you will move mountains for them. Just do things, like bring dinner one day a week. Invite them over. Mow their lawn. Those tangible things will comfort your friends.

Who knows? They might be pulled back to religion if they cannot deal with the finality of their son's death. I've seen it happen and often wish that I had that peace that others have through their faith in a god. But to tell you the truth, it didn't pull me to religion even though I was a former believer.

Anyway, just wanted to give you an idea of their perspective and how you can comfort them with tangible things that would be meaningful to "non-believers".



MooreMama said...

Thank you for the thoughtful response, Christine. In my area, there are churches on every corner and the funeral was held in a church, led by a pastor, because that's just what you do.
I don't know the family's history - whether either or both of them have ever been believers or not.
We've taken dinners. My husband has stopped by for a beer or two in the evenings. He's also been pulling his boss's share of the workload at work to give him as much time as possible to get back in the swing of things.
I'm glad to know that, even though we feel helpless and like it's "not enough", maybe it is...
Again, thank you.