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i have voiced my disdain for rhyming sympathy cards in the past. i was reminded of this today.
what is wrong with people? i am certain i actually said this out loud on my search for sympathy cards today; i physically threw my hands up in disgust at a number of them. it all just seems so inappropriate to me. big loopy scripts, pictures of flowers or oceans, overly verbose text, bad theology... and the overarching feeling of helplessness tied to buying such cards in the first place. it feels like trying too hard, yet not enough. i was discontented with the cards, with the situation, with the brokenness of humanity. just a quick browse through the sympathy card section of your local drugstore will, if nothing else, tell you this: we do not know how to grieve well. most cards seem like an afterthought of production -- they are awkward and fumbling, and they say both too little and too much. no one really wants to think about death and its finality, and this is reflected in our sincere but clumsy attempts for closure. which sounds a lot like our own efforts, cards or no.
it's an odd thing. in the span of five days i have heard about the deaths of four people... the father of an old high school friend; my friend's client; my boss' sister; my friend's boss's brother. my friend's father is the only one i have met of this list. none of these people have really impacted my life. but their passing affects others, who do impact my life in one way or another. what do we do with this part of our social family tree, this Immediate Grief, Once [or Twice] Removed?
i feel like i am familiar grief, but in reality, i have no idea. the only funeral i could ever have been considered involved in was for my father's grandmother; i barely knew her. my mother's mother died several years ago; i knew her even less. brief interactions by a five-year-old for a few weeks overseas do not a relationship make. all other funerals i have attended have been on behalf of others. now, i would be more than happy to continue life in this way. but the reality of the situation is that someday, grief of my own will come. what then? i have no idea.
it was not meant to be this way, i don't think. but here it is just the same.
i don't have any answers. just don't ever buy me a rhyming sympathy card.
Posted on Monday, February 5, 2007 at 06:51PM by Registered Commentermdog | Comments10 Comments

Reader Comments (10)

I am going to wait to comment... as I have too much to do and I don't want to be the first. But once others comment, I will post something.

Feb 5, 2007 at 07:06PM | Unregistered Commenterpaul

don't want to be the first... little late for that, yeah? i'm waiting. tick tock.

Feb 5, 2007 at 07:56PM | Registered Commentermdog

yep, I think we are pretty clueless about grief. Funny, because we will all experience it at some time. Maybe because death is still taboo to talk about. Or because grief is so personal and individual.

And the card problem... there aren't sufficient words... but knowing that you are in someone's thoughts or just having someone silently present are better than words

Feb 5, 2007 at 09:13PM | Unregistered Commenterkt

well, i know... silent presence is always my first option. hard to do from 3+ hours away though, or with people you know, but not very well.

Feb 5, 2007 at 09:27PM | Registered Commentermdog

maybe you could just make like biblical times and wail loudly with friends next to the house for a few days. or you could take a cue from Job's friends, who sat with him for a few days before beginning their own theologically-pious-yet-uninformed judgments on his life... errr...um....

or maybe just buy a blank card with an arty photo on the front and write inside: "I care." and sign your name.

Feb 6, 2007 at 10:23AM | Unregistered Commenterrachel

ps: I bet they use a lot of zapfino in that aisle.

Feb 6, 2007 at 10:23AM | Unregistered Commenterrachel

un/fortunately it seems more like monotype corsiva and lucida calligraphy. zapfino is probably well represented though.

also: the thought did cross my mind. about the card, not the wailing.

paul - for my own knowledge; sitting shiva? is that the correct spelling?

Feb 6, 2007 at 10:46AM | Registered Commentermdog

Shiv'ah (שבעה Hebrew: "seven") is the name for Judaism's week-long period of grief and mourning for the seven first-degree relatives: father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, or spouse; grandparents and grandchildren are not included. As most regular activity is interrupted, the process of following the shiv'ah ritual is referred to as sitting shiva.

Feb 6, 2007 at 03:35PM | Unregistered CommenterMissMary

I read that "shitting..."

Feb 6, 2007 at 09:55PM | Unregistered Commenterrachel

Oy. I usually just skip the pre-made cards altogether when it comes to sympathy or any other not quite so "out of the box" sentiment. I cannot imagine what a rhyming sympathy card even says.

Feb 8, 2007 at 08:22PM | Unregistered CommenterTB

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