illustration of 2 kids on a balcony near the sea

Why Bother Offering Comfort?

Death comes to us all eventually, but for those of us left living, someone else’s death can make us feel a little uncomfortable, a little awkward, a little socially inept. What are we supposed to say? What are we supposed to do? Do we take flowers, a casserole or a card or all three to the bereaved? 

       Give a Hug, Lend an Ear 

Just the other morning, a friend texted us with the news of someone’s death. We knew they’d not been doing well, fighting the final stages of cancer, yet the reality that they were gone forever left me sad and wondering, “What do I do?” 

My husband left for work, an easy move for him to make. I, on the other hand, did not have any commitments that needed my attention. I considered my options. Should I give my friend, a  fresh widow, a call? That seemed too impersonal. Should I run to the store, buy a card and flowers and drop them off? What is the “right” response? My voice of reason finally got through to me, “Just go and give her a hug.” Now, that I thought, I could certainly do.  

Then the “what ifs” chimed in. “What if there are already a lot of people there?” “What if she is not out of bed yet?” I pushed the what ifs aside, rolled my bike out of the garage and peddled to her house. 

It was still early in the morning. There were no cars parked out in the street, an indicator that her house was not full of people. One of her sons, the one that grew up with my son, answered the door bell. I’d obviously woken him up, but he readily accepted my hug. He’d grown into a man who looked so much like his dad.

Then my friend came to the door. I simply said, “You have always been there for me, and now I want to be here for you,” and I hugged her. She led me out to the front porch and we sat down. I leaned in and listened. 

People who grieve, sometimes like to talk about the details of their loved one’s last days. This is what my friend did, relayed to me the last week of her husband’s life.  Family and friends had trickled in to visit. He’d had peaceful moments as well as restless ones. Then she went silent and the tears flowed down her tan face. 

I held her hand and spoke about her husband’s goodness, his loyalty and his stories. The man could tell stories. We both smiled.

I asked if there was anything I could do for her. She told me she wasn’t sure what the next step was. We talked about who might preside over the memorial, where the pot luck might take place, and the obituary. Talking out loud about the necessary things she had to consider helped her to clarify what needed doing. I helped her to put some thoughts down on paper for an obituary, suggested a pastor who could do the service as well as a place for the potluck.

The sun climbed a little higher in the sky warming our backs, and her phone began to buzz. I knew my time was up. She needed to move on through her day, settling the details of the death of her husband. I hugged her once more and peddled back home. 

Why bother offering comfort? When death and sadness come they can make us feel uncomfortable and clumsy. But we can keep it simple by remembering that our friends only need a little comfort from their friends. 

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