Sunday, November 20, 2011

Goodbye to a friend

Today, Jillian and I said goodbye to one of her classmates and we watched while his family said goodbye to a beloved son, brother, grandson, nephew and cousin.  A horrible accident has torn a family apart and shaken a community.  After a service full of emotion we were each asked to write a message on a red balloon and together we would release them into the sky.  I wrote that his laughter would live on but mini-me said it better, “I will remember you in my heart.”

How do we comfort our friends experiencing the very worst life has to offer?  I signed up to take them dinner (admit it, food is comfort.)  Therapeutic and helpful for me, maybe. But looking at my friend, her small frame diminishing in grief, let me know that my homemade marinara sauce may be appreciated but offers no consolation.  Looking into her daughter’s sweet face – quite solemn when we walked in – light up a wee bit when she saw my mini-me coming to visit her made my discomfort dissipate – at least a little. We heard laughter coming from our little girls and it was like music.

As adults, we are prepared to face loss. This doesn’t make it easier – as I’ve talked about here – but we can at least attempt to intellectualize it, process it.  We may never get the answers but at least we possess the ability to try and understand what we can and resign ourselves to the part that is out of our grasp. Until it comes to the loss of children.  Parents are simply not meant to bury their children and there are no words that I can say, no matter how eloquent, that make that right or understandable.

But, how do we help a child through the loss of a friend? How do we explain what we cannot ourselves comprehend? Telling mini-me was heart-wrenching. I watched her screw up her face and the tears begin to flow as she cried out, “But, I wanted to show him my new glasses.”  You see, he wore glasses, too and she was very excited to show him her new specs. She knew he would understand. School was prepared and there were counselors for the kids but let’s face it, many weren’t comfortable talking to “professionals” and saved their hardest questions for their parents. I know mini-me had some doozies and though I reached out to my Rabbi for some answers, I found the ones she responded to best came from my heart. And, she fully accepted “I don’t know,” and “Sometimes, things happen and we just can’t understand them.”

I cannot imagine the pain my friends are going through. Though I have a great deal of empathy and sympathy, I know that I have no right to say, “I understand.”  But I want to understand. I want to help.  And I simply do not know how.

A few weeks ago when my friend and I chatted as she put away the dinner I brought and I told her I didn’t know the words to choose.  She chose “shitty” and it seems pretty accurate though not nearly horrific enough.  I asked if there was anything she needed. “A rewind button, can you get me a rewind button, please?”  Oh, I wish I could.  I can only rewind with memories and I choose to remember his laughter, his willingness to help and share, his joyful approach to life.  Mini-me says that he was “just such a nice boy” and that she has decided she will be extra kind as a way to remember him.  A short life with an amazing legacy.  Be kind.  Be kind to others, be kind to yourself. Be kind to your friends and be kind to strangers.  Be kind for Logan Patrick.
The Patrick’s are an extraordinary family facing devastating personal loss and the significant financial burden that often comes in these dire situations.  At this time of Thanksgiving, let us be grateful for all we have and what we are able to share.  Any donations are greatly appreciated. There is also an account at Wells Fargo under Patrick Family Fund.

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