Sunday, 15 July 2012

There are words we

do not have. There is a very thoughtful post by the Stroppy Author at about this.

What she is talking about is one of those things which is something nobody wants to think about - the death of a child, especially one of your own. There is no single word in the English language to express being the parent of a child who has died. Why?
The words we use at such times often sound trite. The words used at ceremonies associated with the dead sound trite too. We consider it wrong to "speak ill of the dead".
When my cousin died he had been ill for quite a long time. He led a crazy lifestyle until he was too ill to do the constant travelling. He was not married. He had no children. His life was a round of air trips, hotel rooms in foreign cities, negotiating with clients, meals in restaurants. When he came back to Australia he would head for the beach. We had not had much contact as children and even less as adults.  I knew he was ill. He told me the Christmas he came to spend a few days with his father.
      "I want you to know Cat because Dad is going to need help."
His father refused to accept any support even while demanding the presence of other people. He rejected all physical contact. No words helped. When my cousin died my uncle rejected all contact with family and friends. He never reached a point where he accepted his son's death.
My father's godson was ill for a very long time. There was a period of remission and everyone hoped but the cancer returned. There was the desperate try anything phase with the outrageous alternative therapy. People avoided the subject. His parents' friends avoided contact and one couple who had been friends for many years rejected them outright. We stayed in close contact. My father would phone every second day. If there was news in between then they would phone us. He went to visit. His godson's parents came to us for meals.
One night his mother broke down completely and wept copiously at the meal table. Her husband started to pat her hand. I got up and held her. I can remember her head buried into my chest and the strength of her grip as she held on to me. Nobody said anything.
When the worst of the storm of tears was over my father got up and put the kettle on. Her husband cleared away the plates we had been using. Still nothing was said.
My father made tea. Her husband took the milk out. They know us so well that they can do those things.
          "You've forgotten the sugar," his wife said rather shakily as he sat down again.
          "I don't need sugar when I have you." he told her.
We did not talk about the tears.
The last time they were here she did the washing up. I dried and put things away. At the end of it she suddenly gave me a quick hug. We had been talking about her children. I could guess what she was remembering.
There are no words for some things. Perhaps we do not need them but I would still like to have them.


jeanfromcornwall said...

It would be good to have words, but sometimes it would be trite to reduce such a deep situation to a few words. A little physical contact - a hug or a pat can say a lot more, and the most important thing is just to be there. How often do we hear bereaved people say how folk that they thought of as friends will ignore and avoid them a the time when they could do most good by listening and being beside the sufferers.

catdownunder said...

I think you are right Jean - although being a "good listener" is a very hard skill to learn it IS often what people need most.