Thursday, June 04, 2009


I've lost many people in many different ways. After a death, people say the most inane things.

"It was a blessing in disguise."

"He's finally at peace."

"He went the way we all want to go."

They mean well, but for those left behind, there is no good way to lose a loved one. The relief one feels at the conclusion of a long and harrowing illness is riddled with guilt. The profound grief and shock that accompany a sudden death are emotionally debilitating and can put you down for months or years.

Hence when I heard the report this morning that officials say there is no chance anyone surivived the Air France Flight 447 crash, I crumpled inside for the loved ones of those on board, sentenced to a prison of terrible hope that some impossible Cast Away scenario saved their daughter/spouse/father and that they're managing along somehow talking to a soccer ball named Wilson.

No matter how the monolithic and inarguable the facts before them are, they will have hope. I know I would. Grief is surreal. It bends you. It twists the space around you. It squeezes time.

And then one day, in a month or year or decade, the hope will leave. Maybe it will go violently or perhaps it will dissipate gradually; but one day it will be gone and the tragedy will be new again.

I am sorry. I am so sorry.


Anonymous said...

Tragedy, Beautifully expressed sentiment.

My pet death peeve:

Upon viewing the remains at the wake, "Doesn't he look good."
"No ma'am, HE LOOKS DEAD!"


Big Mark 243 said...

This took my breath away ... especially your use of a movie I reference often, Cast Away.

The Anon comment ... when I lost my Brother a few years ago, at 34, I heard that, and gave that person 'the screw face' ... how DARE they say that to me at that time!!

... getting out of rounds ... very good post, thanks for sharing. Have a great weekend.

Tony said...

A reminder of how fragile life is.

Seals said...

My best childhood friend died in a car accident 20 years ago when we were in our early 20s. It was tough to hear people bring their own nonsense to the funeral.

"I can't believe she's here. I wish he'd just sit up from that coffin and slap her in the face."

Yeah, I'm sure that's exactly how my friend would like to be remembered. Sheesh.

Sean Craven said...

It's hard to know how to respond to someone else's tragedy. I've settled on, "I wish there was something I could say that would help but there isn't. If there's anything I can do for you, please let me know. I'd consider it a favor."

I hope this doesn't sound flippant, but when my brother died, Eric Clapton Unplugged had just been released. Every time some jackass told me I should listen to Tears In Heaven or whatever that song was called, I came close to belting them. Can't stand Clapton anymore.

Earl Tesch said...

The truth is that I have NO idea how to console. I have taken to only replying, "I'm sorry" when informed of someone losing a loved one. What else can you say?

Thankfully, I have never experienced such loss, though my day is coming. I don't know what I'll want to hear either.

Maybe just offer me a hot fudge sundae or a stick of Juicy Fruit.

Michael A. Miller said...

Since my mother died on 12 January 2009, nothing matters, nothing makes sense to me and I'm at more of a loss than I ever thought I would be to reconcile death or anything else. Mom died at 88 and if we had lived to be 1,000,000 and beyond, I wouldn't have had enough time with her...

I really hope the laws of physics are on our side and there's an Afterlife.

Being out of my mind with grief and clutching at anything within reach, I Googled "prayer for the dead" and found some good ones on One includes a nod to friends and family, and all who have gone before me---that last part seems to be expanding a lot faster than I ever would have thought. Funny, the things you notice when you start noticing.

Henry Scott-Holland's "Death is Nothing At All" has brought me nearly bottomless comfort.

Mr. L said...

They never did find Wilson....

Kirk Jusko said...

Nobody said anything stupid to me at my mother's funeral almost two years ago. I myself may have said something stupid, as I often do in social situations. Other than my usual awkwardness, I felt kind of numb during the whole thing until, right after the final prayer at the burial site, I returned to my car and completely broke down. At that point someone stuck their head through my car window and said something to me, but I can't really recall if it was stupid or smart or something in-between.

DogsDontPurr said...

That was so well written, well said. I grieve for those family members too. How hard would it be to experience that kind of sudden loss? I just can't even fathom that.

My Mom~in~law died recently after a short bout of illness. She was 86 and had been in declining health for years....yet still sharp as a tack. The last few days went very quickly. She was in hospital, but declined treatment.

So, in a way, we had some warning of what was to come. Yet still, the loss of her is like a shock to us. I don't think a day goes by that we don't think of her.

So I imagine that a sudden unexplained loss, like a plane crash, has to be a million times more devastating. They had no warning.

My heart aches for those left behind.

Erin O'Brien said...

I try to be sincere and say something personal and nice about the deceased, maybe cite a memory, preferably a happy one. If I don't know the deceased, I say I'm sorry I we never met.

I guess I try to be respectful and honest and not talk too goddamn much.

I don't know what I'd say to the loved ones of the Air France flight. Maybe what I said in the post: I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.

Is there anything else to say?