Friday, February 25, 2011
It is not often that I am without words. There is always something - advice, a recollection, an inquiry or question, lame attempt at humor - to say or write somewhere for some reason. It is rare that I am stunned into silence.
The 12:30am call on February 17 did it. “He’s dead,” she sobbed. It took moments before I requested clarification, and it seemed that minutes went by before I had words.
He was her 44-year old husband, the love of my friend’s life, the one the universe introduced to her after a rough 35 years that included more heartbreak than most people could fathom.
They loved, married, and built a life on dreams and hopes, faith and love. But only a few years into the life that they cherished, it was shattered only days after Valentine’s Day. He was working late, as usual, but the lack of contact was unsettling for her, which ultimately prompted a late-night visit to his office many miles away. He died peacefully it seemed, hours before, of a condition related to hypertension, and a frantic attempt to save his life quickly became a reality filled with a most untimely and devastating death.
Through the despondence, past the coroner and police in the hours that followed, and in their home filled with comforts, cats, religion, and symbols of their unity, in the days that crept slowly afterward, there were words. The words were meant to comfort, engage, explain, lighten, help, sympathize, empathize, resuscitate, and love. But despite their intentions and ultimate sincerity, they were rendered relatively meaningless by the scope and depth of the tragedy at hand. My friend heard the words but did not process them. Her friends and family spoke to her about a loss that is greater than most of us could understand, and our words were futile attempts to lift pain and grief that cannot be lifted.
In the week that passed, I have listened to the tragedies of others with new ears - my mother’s loss of my father when I was a child, my friend’s loss of a baby, another friend’s loss of her beloved cat. Though the descriptions of events and feelings seem more real to me than before, they are still only words that paint a picture and give a glimpse into the pain that they felt and feel, but the true weight on those people’s hearts is unexplainable. Words are necessary but so incredibly insufficient, as are those used in an attempt to comfort or understand.
But it is how we communicate, how we relate, how we bond as human beings. Language connects us and enables us to share feelings. So here I sit with my keyboard, stringing letters together and making words into paragraphs that attempt to express the inexpressible.
Part of me feels that I should refrain from saying much of anything. Evidently, some of my words have caused hurt feelings among friends in the past few days. Words seem to be tearing a hole, albeit a small one at this point, in a family of friends that needs to be together now more than ever, but words that were meant to be helpful are being confused and personalized and misconstrued.
Even so, I will continue to find the right words because it is in my nature. I will write them here, speak them to anyone in earshot, and condense them into minuscule phrases on Facebook and Twitter. It’s what I do. It’s who I am. Those who truly know me will understand, and maybe - in some way - we will all grow to understand the bigger picture as well. Pain and heartache and tragedy are only healed through time and words, and since I have no control over the former, I’ll choose the latter and hope that it ultimately helps me…and those I love so wholeheartedly.