Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The brave lady in black

There's a type of phone call that we all regrettably have to face at some point in our lives. It's the kind of call that comes at 5am when you're fast asleep and least expecting it, and as you stumble through the darkness reaching for the light, the anxiety and tension builds up in your chest, so you hesitate for just a moment because you know that what lies on the other end of that phone is anything but good.

Mourning the loss of a loved one is never easy to deal with, especially when it comes so suddenly and at such a young age. As an outsider, one can never be sure what to say or do especially since you often have no clue what that person is going through. As Aiden drove me to Brenda's house that fateful Saturday morning, I grew uneasy and worried that I would fail Brenda as a friend by not having a game plan. I was completely unprepared for this but as we turned into her street, an overwhelming instinct set in immediately. I rushed over to the girl sitting on the sidewalk sobbing her eyes out and held her tightly with all my might. Moments later, Charlotte arrived and together we helped Brenda back inside the empty house. It was like the twilight zone...just an hour ago, they were dancing and laughing, throwing back shots and having a great time celebrating life, but that debaucherous scene came to a sudden end as the sobering reality of Brenda's brother's passing sank in. I couldn't believe it. This was the fourth death in Brenda's family over the span of five months. A part of me wanted to burn some sage to ward off this sinister cloud that had descended upon her family, but alas, I did not have a lighter. For the next two weeks, Brenda and her family took the hardest emotional ride yet. Denial, guilt, pain, anger, depression...all the usual suspects were back again but this time far more intense than anyone could have imagined. They'd lost a son and a brother and even though I tried to ease the pain by putting the "fun-" back in "funeral", my humorous efforts were all in vain. The helplessness of the situation was infuriating and even though 'being there' is supposedly all we're expected to do, I couldn't help but wonder... how does one provide comfort in a situation like this?  

The minister, who's name was as forgettable as his sermon, certainly thought he had the answer. What started off as traditional paraphrasing from the bible soon turned into a conversion class for the masses. This seemed to be a popular trend as this was the third funeral I had been to where remembering the deceased shifted focus onto a more forceful Christian agenda. "No one loved your son more than God did"? How in God's name were these supposed to be words of comfort? I was completely taken aback by and just as I was about to walk out the preacher called out a name I had not heard in years. There really is nothing like a funeral to bring a family back together, so I was delighted to see Michael's best friend Rose even under the tragic circumstances. Rose's grief showed from head to toe, from her tasteful yet fashionable ensemble to the agony written across her face and in her eyes. As she recited her eulogy, she restored faith and purpose to our gathering, delivering a speech so heartfelt that it could melt the coldest of hearts. Michael was her soul mate, her best friend and someone who had genuinely cared about the people in his life. Although he was a deeply tortured soul, Rose did not focus on his mistakes but on the impact he made on her life and everyone around him. He was a good friend, a son, and the brother she wished she had always had even though she already had a brother. As she recalled the good times, she painted a picture of a saint and not a so-called sinner whose relationship with God was seemingly more important than celebrating the life of a loved one. The eulogies that followed were equally sincere and that to me provided the comfort in question.

As Sonny and Swirl sang the concluding hymn of the service, I realised that no matter where you are or who you meet, death and taxes are the only guarantee in life. Everybody has some kind of an agenda and while some are bold enough to share their beliefs, no-one on this shit-hole planet can dictate how and what to feel especially when you've lost someone dear to you. I may not believe in heaven but I'm pretty sure that Michael, like the rest of us, was living in his own hell. Whatever the case, one thing was certain...he would be remembered well thanks to the brave and honest lady in black.

When it comes to comforting a friend in despair, how do we know if we're doing enough?

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