Saturday, April 11, 2009


Sharing the Sorrow

Writing recently about the tragic and horrific death of a friend's 19 year old son whose remains were found in his burned out car near Smith's Mesa in Utah brought many thoughts, feelings and memories. Many of these focused on the need to offer support, love and care to the grief stricken survivors.

First hearing about this last Friday when I picked my son up, my immediately wanted to go visit the family and offer consolation. My son was headed out of town with his band. After dropping him off with his ride, I drove with apprehension towards my friend's house. Turning onto his street, I saw several cars parked close in front of his yard and his neighbors'. I rolled slowly by assessing the situation. I turned around and decided to stop and go inside.

Almost immediately after entering my friend came and hugged my, buried his head in my shoulder and sobbed, "I've lost him. He's gone. A piece of my heart is gone." I could feel his agony. Never before has someone clenched my like he did. For a split second I was stunned. Fighting back tears of my own I managed to reply, "I'm so sorry, ___." We talked for another minute and then began to interact with the other family and visitors.

I don't consider my friend the closest of friend and I doubt he does me. We know each other almost strictly through Boy Scouts. He and I both assist with troop leadership. We've seen each other almost every Thursday night for the past 5 years. We've probably camped out together with the Scouts 30 or 40 times plus gone to week long Boy Scout camp together.

On my son's first Scout camp out, my friend's son, Zack, 3 years older, shared an tent with my son. Zack became my son's informal mentor and skillfully guided him through his first year of Scouts including the week long Boy Scout camp. My son still considers Zack his favorite of the older Scouts from his troop.

Although not a "close" friend, I wanted to do what friends do - offer support and love. A couple of days later, as part of a group effort, I cooked a lame potato casserole for him and his family. That evening, at least a couple of hundred from the community, myself included, attended a prayer service for Zack and his family.

These events prompted my to think about other times when someone died and I, and many others, offered solace. I also thought back to a time when my father failed miserably at a time when he most should have offered care and support for my mother.

During the course of their 60 years together, my father divorced my mother and married another woman. When that marriage failed after 2 or 3 years. My mother took him back. Showing forgiveness and love beyond what most could muster. I never witnessed her even mention their break up or hold it against him.

Yet when my mother's father died, my father refused to go to Tulsa for the funeral and family gathering. His claimed, "I don't like funerals" as his only explanation. For a clinical psychologist who had been taken back by his wife after abandoning her, I saw this as incredibly callous and self-centered. My oldest daughter and I drove 800 miles through the night to be with my mother and her family.

As a follow-up, a few years later when my mother's step-mother died (she had been married to my grandfather for 21 years after the death of my grandmother), my father, again, said he wasn't going to the funeral. By this time, I had moved to Kentucky and couldn't attend the funeral due to family and work. When I received word of his refusal to go, I called my father and shamed him into going, reminding him of how good his wife had been to him.

Friends and family has a responsibility to share the good and the bad. If you can't share the bad times and sad times, you don't deserve to share the good times. Unfortunately, some only act according to how circumstances will or do make them feel. Not only do I hold a certain amount of disgust for these people, I believe they lead emptier, shallower lives because of it.

Had I not stopped at my friend's house that night, I never would have received the blessing of a hug I'll never forget, in my heart a blessing that far outweighs any effort I made to comfort my friend. Although that was not my motivation, a person of enlightened self-interest would act accordingly.

Enjoy the fun and good times with your friends and family. Drink beer, fish, tell stories, watch you kids grow up together. When the bad times come, be there for your friends and family. Do anything less and you're not living fully.

Great, great post.
Excellent post. He is lucky to have a friend like you. You're a good man RN!
Thanks, anon. Looks like you know who I am. :-)
You ARE a good man, dadvocate.
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