On Random Reflections

Before moving on to my regular posts, thought I would put together some random thoughts from last week.

Last week, my MIL’s older sister (from Detroit) was visiting her daughter (in Denver). She was able to change her flying date and destination for $15. Unbelievable, so thank you Delta! She arrived in Cincinnati during a snowstorm, so time awarded me by extending my 40-minute drive from the airport to 130 minutes.

As an in-law, I approached dealing with a death in the family with caution. Given only two siblings, I was there for support, but had judge when it was appropriate to give input and when to stay put. If the family was bigger, I can’t imagine even being part of the discussions.

Over the past ten days, I had many thoughts about mother (who passed away in 1987). Being too weak for the 3-hour ride, she never made it to our new home. As we are planning a move in the spring, another mother will not be able to visit a new home.

I cannot recall who told me this great advice many years ago: When a baby is born, don’t forget to ask about the mother. As an in-law, our role is to support our loved ones during grief – and I did – but that doesn’t mean our hearts aren’t heavy and we don’t grieve. So the next time you have a friend lose a parent, also attend to their spouse. That spouse may simply say they are OK, but I’m betting that they are very appreciative.

We didn’t know a church friend worked at Hospice, but my wife saw her when I wasn’t there. I happened to be in the room early Monday morning when she stopped by. As we talked, she quoted something I said to her three years ago after my dad passed away: “My dad had 84 pretty good years with one real bad day at the end – so that’s not too bad.” To think she remembered that shocked me. Well, my MIL lived 1025+ months, so four difficult months isn’t too bad.

That same Monday morning at Hospice, I witnessed wonderful kindness – let’s call them the flower guild. There are two teams: Mondays and Thursdays. On those days, the flower guild volunteers gather donated flowers from florists. At Hospice, the volunteers create bouquets for the patient’s rooms. My SIL and I smiled watching them work while seeing and receiving the results of their efforts – so this Monday, I took some of the funeral flowers to the flower guild.

On a Thought for Support

While attending a funeral visitation (wake), have you ever heard or maybe even said to the griever, “Call me if you need anything”? Heck, maybe you have been on the receiving end of that line.

There is no doubt in my mind that the comment is sincere, and some people who are actually eager to do something. Besides, many times we struggle with what to say to the griever. On the other hand, many inside the griever’s inner circle are the people most likely to be receiving the call of help.

Here is a suggestion on a way anyone can help. Since as outsiders we know and respect the griever well enough to attend. With that in mind, call them at least 3 weeks later. Then call them a month or two after that. Sure, you can offer assistance, but more importantly, the call will catch them by surprise, they will appreciate the contact, and it gives them a chance to talk. Here is an example.

We met Kathy and her family in the late 70s at the church we joined. Ten years later, the church moved west and we moved east, thus our lives separated. Then about four years ago, Kathy appeared at our current church.

We discovered the changes in her life as the kids were grown and gone, her divorce from the husband we knew, her current marriage, places that she had lived outside of Cincinnati, and that her current husband was fighting cancer,

He died this past summer. I attended the visitation and the embrace I received not only surprised me, it told me that she appreciated my visit.

Several months later during an evening my wife was at a meeting, I wonder how Kathy is doing popped into my mine, so I called her. Over the next two hours we talked about her support system, the way people respected her husband, people at our the old church where we met, and life with her previous husband – and I learned he died 7-8 years ago.

Although the length of time we talked surprised me, I know I used those 2 hours well and that she appreciated them. Although I have called other grievers in the past, this call truly demonstrated to me that it an important thing to do – thus, something for you to keep in mind.