A Bunny Juggling Whipped Cream

I’ve always been horrible at expressing sympathy.  Not that I don’t feel it–I feel it deeply.  I just feel so paralyzed by others’ grief, and I get so worried that what I say or do will be wrong and cause more pain.  So sometimes I back away slowly and feel guilty.  I’m not proud, but if I’m being honest, I’ve definitely taken the coward’s way out and just left people alone who clearly needed love and support.

The kindness that poured out on me during and after my dad’s cancer and passing was such a life lesson.  I didn’t realize how functional I would be.  I didn’t realize that I would notice and remember every kind word, every card, every call, every text message.  I didn’t realize how much I would need the emotional affirmation.  Every gesture was comforting, and they all helped me feel loved.

One of my fellow BCC bloggers and his family, who had met my dad exactly once, showed up to the viewing so they could express their support and their cute toddler could give me snuggles.  “I’m so grateful you came!” I practically choked it out.  I was so touched.  So many of the attendees were friends of my parents or distant relatives, but these folks came because they loved me.  “We remember” they said–having lost a parent in the not-too-distant past.  We were part of a club that neither of us wanted to be in, and their company was so appreciated.

One dear friend whose own dad had passed away recently wrote me an email that was titled “From a thinker (not super strong feeler) brain, but may be helpful.”  We worked together for about seven years dealing in very matter of fact ways with really intractable problems.  Her matter of fact email gave bullet points with advice on how to deal with the mortuary, how to deal with the cemetary, how many death certificates to order, how to deal with banking and social security issues, etc.  I think it was the sweetest love note I’ve ever received.

People took time off work to come to the funeral, even though they didn’t have time to do more than smile at me and whisper “I love you.”  I felt it, I remember it, it sunk in.

When I got home my mailbox was filled with sympathy cards.  I didn’t know that people still did that.  It has never even occurred to me to send a sympathy card, but it meant so much.  They were from old friends, from colleagues, from people I volunteer with, from parents of my friends.  It was just a mailbox full of love.

Another fellow BCC blogger drove to my home, took care of my dog, and was waiting for me with a big pan of funeral potatoes in the oven.  I’m a mormon.  Funeral potatoes are a love language.  While she was cooking, her husband was planting a rose in my front yard in honor of my father.

Since my dad passed away in Utah and I live in the Midwest, I found myself in the odd situation of trying to plan a viewing, funeral, and burial in a town where I hadn’t lived for almost 30 years.  I kept needing things:  the best way to contact the Relief Society president, share unlisted phone numbers, find some extra copies of the obituary, etc.  Absent any other ideas, I kept texting and asking a sweet friend who I babysat and taught piano to 35 years ago.  We keep in touch by hugging each other every 6 months when I go home and go to church at my parents’ house, and occasional facebook updates.  That’s about it.  But every weird query or favor I asked, she wrote back right away, and found time to come visit–as did her whole family.  When I saw them at the viewing, I hugged her tight and said “I’m so sorry I keep pestering you.  I just didn’t know who else to call.  You’re so sweet, and my questions are so weird.  Next time I’m going to text and ask you to find me a bunny juggling whipped cream.”  Without missing a beat she smiled and said “Oh, I’d get it for you.”

I want to be the person who shows up to the viewing and funeral, who sends the practical and kind emails, who sends the cards, who bakes the funeral potatoes, and who is perfectly willing to hunt up a bunny juggling whipped cream.

Comments

  1. We love you, Karen.

  2. greendavis2016 says:

    Always go to the funeral. Anyone worth knowing knows this truth. So sorry for your loss.

  3. This was lovely. Thank you!

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    All the love…

  5. Great counsel, with such a vivid title. And I would love to get the list from your friend with the “thinker (not super strong feeler) brain,” with all the helpful advice. Solid help in the practical details can really lighten the load.

  6. Marian says:

    This was really touching, thank you. I empathize so much with your natural inclinations – I am so afraid to impede on others’ grief I withdraw instead of reach out. I will never forget my college roommates who came searching for me late at night in the school library to give me a homemade dinner after my mom was diagnosed with cancer. In times of grief my natural inclination is to withdraw, overbook myself, and be alone. My roommates reached out anyway, over and over again, delivering food and sweet notes and even visiting my mom. It meant the world to me.

    I’m so sorry for your loss.

  7. Joanne B says:

    This is wonderful, Karen. Your ONU family loves you, and is so lucky to have you.

  8. That was my experience when my wife died. Just the simple act of sending a card meant so much to me. I’m glad you got that support, and sorry that you needed it.

  9. christiankimball says:

    I really appreciate this. I will not soon forget the image of a bunny juggling whipped cream, nor the matter of fact “Oh, I’d get it for you.”

  10. Love you, Karen.

  11. That was beautiful. Similar to my feelings about my ward when my mother was in cancer treatment and when she passed. I’m so sorry for your lost but so glad of the good care you’ve received. 💜

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