Sunday, February 15, 2009

Why time doesn't heal all wounds.

Ashli has posted what I might think of as a Best-Of: Ashli explaining why crying "Heal!" won't heal a mother's broken heart.

I was at the fax machine at work on Friday, stamping "FAXED" on some papers and scribbling "2-13-09" in the little box. And it smacked me right between the eyes how much time had passed since my dear friend had gotten struck and killed by a pickup truck as he was hitchhiking to a gas station. The huge gap between then and now, the nine years that have passed, smacked me in the head. My life has gone on. Dans' ended. I left him back there, his body broken on a Texas highway, spirit set free. And for me, nine years without him. Nine years of no Dan to go home to. Nine years of things Dan wasn't there for, both good and bad: 9/11, my granddaughter's birth, the election, my new job. Everything I've had for the past nine years is something I've had without Dan, something that Dan didn't have any part of. It took my breath away. I nearly burst into tears there by the fax machine. And I said a prayer for Ashli, because I know that when I'm getting these smacks with the 500-pound wet fish of loss, I'm getting a smidgen of what she gets when the fish hits.

The most helpful thing anybody said in the immediate aftermath of Dan's death was when my father said, "You never get over something like that." He let me know that he understood what it was to lose your best friend. He'd lost his in 1979. He knew.

The very word "compassion" means "suffer with". Platitudes make you feel better. Shutting up and listening is hard. Admitting your helplessness to make it better is harder.

If you want to say something comforting to a woman who has lost a child to an abortion, don't. Just admit that there's not a goddam thing you can say or do that will bring her baby back, nothing you can say or do that will give her the thing she needs more than anything else. She needs her baby. She wants her baby. She aches for her baby. You can't say anything to make that better. You can only say stuff that makes it worse.

Think of the worst loss of your life. Think of the worst guilt of your life. Think of the worst anguish of your life. Think of how they come back to haunt you at night sometimes. Imagine them on this scale: Your child dead because you signed the death warrant.

Then just stop trying to make it all better. Nothing this side of Paradise will.

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