Another Memorial Service
Here's what I said at Amy's memorial service, held at our church, just a week from the fourth anniversary of my husband's memorial service there. Am I bad for putting all my energy into those that survive and not the spirit and memory of the woman who was once so vital, so here, and now isn't? Am I awful for "knowing" this world and how to navigate it, which no one knows, for remembering how poorly I did and trying to change it for John?
As I stand here, among the memorial quilts, I am called back almost exactly four years, to the memorial service for my husband. The day was so much like this one – I think it was a little hotter – and the room was filled with friends from all areas of our lives and music, just brimming over with love. I couldn’t wait for the service to be over, for what I was going through to be over.
I wish I could have bottled that intense feeling, love and support poured out by more than 300 people. I didn’t know that the next day would be not the end of my grief, but day one of a journey that I’m still on. I didn’t know it would be by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I didn’t know then, that I’d find a mission helping other young widowed people, many of them raising small children.
Because there were many days, just a few months later, when I looked around and saw no one. Where the hell is everybody? Everybody who who promised that day that they’d hold us up? I was alone, and it was horrible, and worst of all, I know it didn’t’ have to be that way. Those people did love us, and still do – but they were helpless not knowing what was right, and I was too tired to ask.
I didn’t know then that I wouldn’t ask well or that I’d get so little support. Now, four years later after sharing and learning from hundreds of young widowed people, I understand some of the simple things we can do to fix this gap.
So please don’t say to John what everyone said to me that day: “Let me know what I can do to help.” We don’t know. We’ve forgotten how to get to the grocery store; we certainly don’t have the capacity to organize our willing friends. That statement is our 3rd least favorite, after “he’s in a better place” and “at least you found someone to love.”
Just do something, anything specific, and above all stay in touch – call or email him when you’re hurting or when you’re happy. When you’re wrapped up in your busy life, call John. When you’re at the grocery store, call John. When you are remembering Amy or carrying out her good work in the world, call John. When you feel bad you haven’t called, call John. When you know you can’t do anything, call John. When he doesn’t call you back, call him again (we never check messages). When you have an extra hug lying around, call John. Call on their anniversary, the date of their loss, her birthday or his or the boys’. You won’t make their pain worse. There’s not really any “wrong” thing to say.
John, Adam and Bryan, if they are anything like me, will need your contact, but seeing them doesn’t have to feel like a duty, or be hard work. It’s mutually enriching, easy, fun. You needn't be strong or comfortable with emotional displays. You can cry, or not. It doesn’t matter if you knew him or knew her or hadn’t seen either in a while. Sometimes someone just wants someone else to come by and help fold laundry, or keep them company while they read.
These small favors, these connections with you, are what keep a grieving person afloat.
So please, do what you can, do whatever work you need to do on your own to get comfortable with it, and please stay close in a way that works for you. I promise it won’t hurt you and it really will make a difference for them.
And will my words make any difference at all for this loving man, still a husband, and his beautiful little boys? I pray, please, please. We can change our world, please, let's do it bit by bit and hand to hand.
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