I went to visit a friend last week who lost her husband to suicide.
He died of suicide
She tells me she says it this way, not 'he committed suicide".
This is my first lesson from Mary
I was anxious to see her as I had not been able to go to the funeral last April.I did not want to bump into her casually and share my condolences on the street. I promised myself I would go to her and do it in the right way.
She is a friend in the neighbourhood who I rarely, if ever, see, not a close friend but someone I like who I have known for 25 years. We spent a little time together when our youngest daughters were in ballet class together at age 4. Sometimes they would play and we would all have lunch directly following the dance class. Those are such simple times when I look back on them now. She brought cupcakes once and I made her give me the icing recipe- which I still have. Perfect icing was actually my first lesson from Mary.
Her tears came easily and her thoughts too. I was shocked by how well she looks- tinier even then I remember- but well and pretty. I look in amazement at times when acute grief does not steal beauty.
We spoke of grieving and of how we need to let people in when we are suffering.
She told me of spectacular stories of compassion from friends and neighbours.
I have made a list of what I learned from Mary on what feels right when someone is suffering-
1. Don't ask me to call you when I need something. That is an extra responsibility.
2. Just do for me, it will always be the right thing if it is from the heart
3. The next door neighbour who lit candles on her lawn every night in honour of the loss warmed my heart
4. The meals that were dropped off on plates with cutlery and napkins at 6 pm warm and ready to eat surpassed the casseroles which meant 5 more steps. (Remember even breathing can be hard at times of grief and tragedy)
5. Turn off your cell phone when you visit me. My pain is acute and the call from your gardener while I am sharing with you is painful
6. When you ask how I am and I say "fine" or if I look "fine" it is as fleeting as is "awful". I have learned to say "In this moment I am fine" Or "in this moment I am having trouble".
7. Friends sleeping over for those first 60 days saved my life.
8. Don't expect me to move on when you think I should
9. When I overhear you telling someone I am doing fine, I want to scream and shake you
10. Life goes on incredibly, the sun shines, people laugh, children are born, renovations are made, new shoes are bought and days turn into nights.
I learned this from Mary. I wish it was just icing.