Today was a pretty rough day. I got some news I’ve been hoping to get for some time, and it’s really good news. Almost better than good and it will help my home life a lot. All day at my desk, I fought distraction from my work at hand because what I am working on is proving difficult to learn and even harder to master, yet I must do it to accomplish a goal that I set for the project at work. And to top it all off (not really), I heard that Sally Ride died on the same day that a friend reported on Twitter that her father died unexpectedly.
Through all of this I managed to set aside the good news, make some progress on the stuff at work to the point where I might actually accomplish something this week, and yet I found myself quite moved by my friend’s announcement. I kept coming back to it, more than once over the course of the afternoon.
Her father died, unexpectedly. They were waiting on finding out whether or not he had cancer. Again. And she lost her mother just over a year ago. This is more than my mind can grasp. And I want to say things about how sorry I am, but I keep getting the impression that I’m focusing on my feelings and what I want to say or do and it just doesn’t seem right.
I’ve read that when someone loses a close family member, that it’s not the best thing to say “Let me know if I can help in any way.” The person is not in a state of mind to ask for anything. That sometimes it’s simply better to go over and help. Clean the dishes, mow the lawn, take them out to lunch, or just be there sitting quietly with them.
But when that person is a country away and in all honesty you don’t know them that well, what can you do? I find myself circling back to how I would feel if I lost both of my parents and how sad and heartbroken I would be. And I find that’s about all I can do. Sit with that sadness, be with it for my friend. Feel it. Find out what color it is? How does it make me feel physically? What does it smell like?
This is the best I can hope to do, I think. I can’t lighten this burden, I can’t take it away, and nor would I want to. As godawful as this is, I wouldn’t do that because this is what makes us who we are.
In the end, it comes around to more than sympathy, an honest attempt at approaching empathy for something you’ve never experienced yourself, but know you will one day.
Oh, and the rest of the stuff that happened today? It’ll wait until tomorrow.
(Photo by Flickr user superchic001)