There are many things that my wife, the hippy, does as an extrovert that I just don’t understand.
Last week there was a fatal crash in town where a teenage female lost her life.
Tragic, no doubt.
I didn’t know her, nor do I know any of her family members that I know of.
She was the daughter of a friend of a friend of my wife. My wife had never met her. May have never met her parents either…she’s not sure. But when the name was released, my wife went into full emotional crisis mode.
She was calling up friends of hers to let them know the news. She was trying to find out when the funeral was going to be. She was doing everything someone would do who had ties to the family.
But she really doesn’t.
And this is not a unique circumstance.
She attends more funerals each year than I have attended in my entire life. It’s not that I don’t care; I just don’t want to go to a funeral for someone I don’t know. They are sad enough as is.
Plus, being the introvert I am, I don’t want to have a conversation begin with a family member or someone who truly cared for and loved the departed where it becomes obvious I didn’t know them.
I am uncomfortable attending birthday parties for people I don’t know. I am uncomfortable attending weddings for people I don’t know.
There should be no doubt that I would be uncomfortable attending a funeral for someone I don’t know.
Instead I will be leaving work early to pick my son up from school since my wife will be going.
I’ve really struggled this week to type the words on my screen for a couple of reasons. The first is because I am taking notes on a possible book I am thinking of writing about my life experiences as an introvert working in a professional environment. Writing a book is sort of a bucket list item and I can’t really think of anything else to write about, so there you go. The other is because I have been struggling to find the words for dealing with grief. We’ve all dealt with death before. I consider myself lucky, in sorts. You see, I have seen plenty of death. I’ve seen it happen to people that I didn’t know. I’ve seen it happen to people that deserved it. I’ve seen it happen to plenty of people that didn’t deserve it. My sister passed away from cancer a few years ago. She was almost 40 years old. I wasn’t there for it. My grandfather passed away from a heart attack when I was only a few months old. I never knew him. My grandmother passed away from congestive heart failure back in 1994. I spent nearly every summer at her house learning about yard work and gardening. And cooking. I wasn’t there to see her go through the struggles of life/death because I was away for the Army. In fact, I flew home, had the funeral the next day, and then was back on a flight back to my unit. I wasn’t there. Recently, as in just a couple of months ago, a good friend of ours lost her teenage son to Muscular Dystrophy. I’ve known him since he was born, and watched as this disease destroyed his body. The weekend of his funeral I was out of town with my son at a wrestling tournament. Once again, I wasn’t there. A few years ago my “work wife” (just Google it if you don’t know) lost her baby. It was heartbreaking. She still had to have a C-Section to give “birth”. I cried at work in my little office. My eyes are watery now thinking about the moment I found out. She had, and still does have, the biggest smile of anyone I have ever met. She and her husband are awesome. I talked to her every single day at work about her pregnancy symptoms and the things that my wife (The Hippy) did to help her through the days. Suddenly that wasn’t going to be happy conversation. For weeks I struggled with what to say when she came back to work. Instead, we went to her house and brought some food. When she answered the door she looked broken, but smiled at us. Since the funeral for the teenager who passed from Muscular Dystrophy, two more of our friends (one very close) have been diagnosed with cancer. Our close friend found out she has Stage IV breast cancer. Treatable but not curable. Her daughter is in my son’s kindergarten class and they are best of friends. In a moment of “those things kids say”…we had a conversation with our son about the situation. We wanted him to be somewhat prepared. He’s an extremely bright kid. Makes me proud every single day. He was just selected for Montessori. But the next day at school he went to all of the classmates and told each of them they better be nice to his friend because her mom is going to die. Fortunately our friends understood, but I was still a bit nervous when I called them to give them the heads up before they found out from their daughter. Another mother from one of my son’s friends is also being treated for Cancer. Last week I got a message from someone who I have become Facebook friends with. He lives “across the pond” and was going to visit us in Montana with his wife. They have to delay their trip because his brother-in-law has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and does not have long to live. They have two children. So, needless to say (but since this blog seems to be somewhat therapeutic for me, and hopefully for the few readers), the past couple of months have been weighing on my mind. Remember when I mentioned that I consider myself lucky, in sorts? Well, I said that because I have seen death, but not been with close friends or family as they went through that process. As “luck” would have it, I have not had to deal with it in person up until recently. My conversation with our close friends after my son was sticking up for his friend tore me up inside. I didn’t want to have the conversation to let them know what happened, but they were so awesome about it. You see, the introvert in me doesn’t want to be a part of any of it. I’m not a talker. I don’t know what to say. Change that, I know what to say, but in my mind it’s too clichéd and empty. “So sorry to hear.” “You are in our thoughts.” “If you need ANYTHING, just let us know.” When my “work wife” smiled at us when we went to her house after they lost their baby, I finally had something relevant to say, “I’m so happy to see your smile.” When she came back to work, I told her how happy I was to see her back. I didn’t really have anything else to say. They now have two beautiful sons. It’s tough for anyone to have these conversations with people we care about. Whether it is via Facebook, email, telephone, or in person at a funeral. As an introvert, I pick and choose my words wisely. I would rather say nothing at all rather than say something stupid, or clichéd, or empty. So I struggle. We all struggle. We all grieve differently. It’s not because we don’t care or are indifferent, we would just rather say something truly meaningful from the heart.