Friday, November 10, 2006

Tongue Tied when Facing Tragedy

It’s tough to be a friend and be so far away from special people when they’re going through inconsolable times. Like many people, I always feel inadequate when something horrific happens to friends, family and co-workers. What do you say? What do you say that doesn’t sound stupid? How many times to you say it?

My friend Sidonie’s husband died this summer. It wasn’t entirely unexpected – he’d been having some health issues for the last 2 or so years. But who really thinks they’ll become a widow in their early 40’s? Not only is she young to be a widow, I think it’s doubly heartbreaking because their marriage didn’t take place until her early 30’s. It was such a short marriage, and he made her so happy. I can’t imagine the pain of finally finding “the one” – only to loose them so soon.

I never know what to say. You’d think with my ability to put thoughts on paper I’d be able to adequately communicate with her. And yet, and yet … I struggle. She is in my thoughts nearly every day. In fact, it was a recent e-mail from her that prompted me to start writing in my blog again. NaBloPoMo is just positive encouragement to be diligent in my posting.

Here’s what I want to say to Sid. I feel terrible for you. I can’t imagine how you feel. I don’t know if I’d have the will to get up and face each morning. I hate being so far away from you. I hate that I don’t e-mail you more.

Here’s a small gift to you. A story about why I thought Jeff was so lovely. I hope it helps to know I think of him and I loved him too.

I’ll never forget the time I came up and spent the weekend with the two of you. I’ve never been so pampered in my whole life. I still remember my arrival. I think Jeff’s words were along the lines of, “You’re the princess for the weekend. What ever you want to do, or don’t want to do, this is your weekend. If you want to lie in bed and read the whole time, it’s ok. We understand how stressful your job is and we just want you to relax.”

And that’s what I did the whole weekend. I relaxed and felt like a princess! I remember us sitting outside under the tree with Shonka, drinking and talking. You’d made appetizers, dinner and dessert that night. It was wonderful, because I was with people who loved me and not at my stressful office. Jeff was true to his word too. ALL day Saturday I lay in the living room in my PJ’s – reading Harry Potter and napping. It really was the perfect weekend.

I am so glad I got to know Jeff. He was a prince. I am so sorry he’s gone. Your story earlier this week about walking through the house saying good-bye tugged at my heart strings. And “your” song coming on the radio … I agree with your sister Leslie, “What a co-ink-i-dink!” One engineered by God and Jeff, I’m sure. So here my friend is that wine truck coming right back at you!

I have another friend, Angie, who’s also going through some tough times. To me, she is the epitome of a southern belle. She is gracious, and kind, and thoughtful. Here’s how thoughtful she is. This summer on my 42 day tour, I asked if I could attend church with her and her husband when I was near their town. She said, “Absolutely, and come have dinner with us too.” Later in an e-mail I asked if they’d ever been to the Pebble Hill Plantation which was nearby. She quickly responded, with a “let’s go”. My plan was to stay in my hotel, about 50 miles away, and meet them at the plantation and then drive back over to their town for church the following morning. She, however had other ideas, and invited me to spend the weekend with them at their house. Now maybe that doesn’t sound that special to you. But it is to me. You see, Angie is a client of mine. And how many clients invite you to spend the weekend with them, give up their master bedroom for you, cook you a great steak, take you to church and then home to a southern Sunday dinner afterwards? Not many I’ll tell you. See what I mean? She’s a nice, nice person.

I hate she’s been through SO much in the last year. I just don’t understand God and his ways sometimes. (I know that I’m not supposed to, but the logician in me requires an answer). In the last year she’s lost a favorite uncle (who was found dead in his pickup on the side of a field), her mother, and had a serious scare with her adult son’s health. Now her brother, who she took into her house because his health was failing, is dying too. She called me earlier in the week because something wasn’t working in the software. As I helped her out, I could tell it was taking every fiber of her being to hold it together. I concentrated on getting her problem solved. Then at the end I told her I was praying for her and her brother. There were tears in her voice as she said goodbye and hung up the phone. I don’t know what to say or do. I want to yell at God and say, “Do you not think she’s been through enough?” “How many more tragedies are you going to bring to her?” “Are you testing her faith? Because, quite frankly, I think she’s passed the test! You can stop anytime now.”

Instead, I just try and listen when she calls. And not make stupid comments like, “I’m sure there’s a reason”, or “we all have our own rows to hoe”, or some other stupid thing that comes tumbling out your mouth instead of, “Life sucks, doesn’t it? I wish I could make it better.”

They say things happen in threes. I hope that’s true, so nothing further befalls anymore of my friends. The third friend is Julia. She too is a client. I met her for the first time last year. She was new to her job, but thankfully not new to cotton. We spent many a long hour on the phone talking – and fixing data that had been corrupted. Late one night she confided to me how important this job was to her. Her husband, her best friend, had been in a terrible boating accident. As a result he was bedridden with a broken back. Heaped on top of those medical issues was the complication of diabetes. They have two adult children, in their young 20s. Before the accident he’d been a farmer, and she, a stay at home mom. Now she was plunged back into the workforce to supplement their income and provide health insurance.

We seemed to click – and I always enjoyed it when I had the opportunity to help her out. This summer while I was gallivanting around the delta and was staying in Louisiana, I had a chance to spend some time with Julia. Before we drove down to Natchez, Ms for dinner one night we stopped by her house. She wanted me to meet Mike and her kids. It was a good day for Mike and he was actually out of bed that day. She warned me he wasn’t much of a talker, but you know me. I chattered away, looked him directly in the eye when asking him questions, and waited patiently for him to formulate his response. Julia latter said how unusual it was for him to have a conversation, indeed even to make the effort meet someone these days. On Monday I received word from a co-worker that he’d died over the weekend.

Once again found myself tongue tied. I called, we talked about a computing item, and then I told her I was sorry to hear about Mike. I hate the fact that I am here – and can do nothing (although, what could I do if I were there?) and don’t know what to do, or how to help.

Is there any better way to express sympathy and sorrow than a heartfelt, “I’m sorry”, “I’m here (a billion miles away)”, and “I’m thinking of you?” I hope this is one.

So, for all three of you – here it is. Said a million times, in my head and in my heart, a million different ways.

“I’m sorry”, “I’m here for you (a billion miles away)”, and “I’m thinking of you”

Finally I issue a standing invitation: If you have the time, and you can get away, come to Chez MitMoi and let me repay you; for all you, and your loved ones have done for me.


SJ said...

Boy, do I know how you feel! My best friend is currently experiencing some bad times in her life, and I am at a loss as to what to say to her. Even though we've known each other almost 40 years! So all I can say is, "I'm here for you. Not there, where you are, but here in our hearts."

SJ said...

P.S. Thanks for stopping by The Write Coast!

Woodstock said...

Having myself just gone through a year that is much like what you describe of your friends (a death in the family, serious health problems, and other things not worth mentioning) and having spent the last two months helping (from 5,000 miles away) a friend through a massive tragedy involving her sister, a drunk driver, and one of those decisions no family should ever have to make for a 26 year-old, all I can say is that you say from a distance what they need you to say. If your friend needs to hear that there was a reason, a plan, or what have you, you say that. If all they need to hear is that you're available to listen when it's 3am and they need to talk to someone about this time that they and their loved one did this thing and it was really a fun time, be available. It's all you could really do if you were physically present anyway.

Anonymous said...

Hey MitMoi,

I love you!

Clicked on the blog and Shit you made me cry, that was a nice rendition of the = Jeff, my friend needs a break= please take care of us,request I asked of him. Nicely done.

About your ' I do not know" how to reach out. For me, emotionally you are good. We may have to have a call around March.

Otherwise, your other friends you will need more to be supportive as their calls come to you. Reach out first if you can. - A just thinking of you call goes a long way.

Sickness needs a call to share your trials in life, think on the trip I made to pizza to hook up with you, last year. All I wanted to hear is about you- and eat pizza and get some ice cream. !! I needed that.

Your heart is what all of us, your friends, share - and through the wave lengths of heaven or mental satellites of our loved ones who are ' on the job' watching over us, or are part of the plan. Everyone dies, yeah , yeah, is born, first.

Do not try to logically accept God, just be strong in your faith. Then, we, who are just lucky enough to be looked after by you folks, benefit.:) Tell that theory to your pastor.

Because you are making me think: Thank you for the virtual hug.


Anonymous said...

Hello MitMoi,

Just a quick note to tell you how much I appreciate the words of
kindness expressed about me and my family. I read the article and cried. You were so sweet to care enough to even take the time to reflect upon me and the small things my family and I had done
for someone we think so very highly of. MitMoi you are the kind of person that makes people want to do something nice for you because first of all you are such a joy to be around and secondly you are are so appreciative of even the small things.

You bring much joy and sunshine into my life. Thank You!!