Show and Tell

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Waiting for the schoolbus

I was visiting my neighbor Kelly and her grandaughter’s grandmother last night talking about murder trials, wiping boogers on walls and the questionable diagnosis of disassociative identity disorder(you know–the  usual coffee talk topics) when we stumbled upon the topic of funerals.

Judy, my neighbor’s grandaughter’s grandmother, was recounting how she’d recently been to what she called the “saddest funeral service ever”.

Mind you, Judy has lost two of her children in tragic manners-so the woman is no stranger to sad circumstances.

The service she attended was for a young man who’d recently committed suicide.

He’d apparently had a long history of depression and battled with his own inner demons for most of his abbreviated life.

She mentioned that when the time came to “open the floor” during the service and allow for friends and family to share stories, thoughts and memories—no one did….the entire congregation sat in loud silence.

No family members–not even a friend jumped forward to share even a tender childhood memory.

The only person in this young man’s life who wanted to leave any words to paint a portrait of his lasting legacy was himself.

But the young man had a targeted audience in mind.

He’d left a suicide note with specific instructions that his father, and his father alone, read it.

Even though no one was willing or able to share any final thoughts about this tortured young soul during his memorial service he’d clearly made a decision right before leaving this earth to send a message–to communicate with someone–from beyond the grave.

That led me to think a few things…

First: what the HECK was in the note!?

Second: if I were his father, would I read it?

Third: how emotionally inept are we as human beings that we can’t simply talk to each other anymore?

I know nothing of this young man other than the fact that he felt death was a better alternative than life.

I can’t help but think how of how he may have felt the few hours before he ended his life.

I imagine him —frozen in a broken snow globe of loneliness—suspended in a world between life and death.

And I think…what if…what if someone called him, or texted him or stopped by his house out of the blue?

Would it have made him take pause?

Would that simple act of human contact have been enough to make him sway from the likely well-planned resolution to end it all?

I’ll never know the answer.

Neither will anyone he knew.

I hope that’s gnawing at them as much as it’s bothering me right now.

Another thing Kelly, Judy and I discussed last night was Jamey’s funeral.

More specifically, my eulogy for Jamey.

Folded into the poignant, smooth and flowing batter of elegiac memories were some intentional lumps of reality.

I don’t think those lumps were expected and may have been a bit tough to swallow.

In a sad, but true prediction of the future, Jamey often said to me,

I bet more people are going to visit me when I’m dead than they did when I was alive.

He was correct.

And that fact was, and is still, very painful for me.

See , Jamey often felt much like that young man driven to leave this mortal coil–he often felt frozen in a broken snow globe–alone–suspended between life and death.

And while I can only infer that the young man who took his own life  was hurt and wanted to feel a connection to others–wanted to feel loved,  I don’t need to assume that about Jamey.

I know.

He was.

And he did.

 

I know this post may come off sounding bitchy and bitter, but that’s not my intent.

I’m complicit in being self-absorbed and in my own bubble of a world as well.

My intent is to challenge myself and you all to do this:

Show and Tell.

Show someone who’s in need, or hurting or sick or stressed or hell…ANYone….. just show them you care.

Show them you care by telling them you’re there for them.

It really is as simple as that.

And while your brief display of simple human kindness may not stave off an inevitable death nor prevent a pre-planned one, it will no doubt make someone feel connected; make someone less alone.

And if you can’t see the gravity behind making another person’s day a little bit better with nothing more than a few words strung into a sentence–you, my friend, are a dick.

But if you’re like the 99% of the human race that feels slightly guilty after reading this and is saying to yourself(“You know, she’s a bitch but she’s right–I really should give decrepit and infirmed ‘Old Man McCarthy’ a call”), then good.

Mission Accomplished.

 

(….The following is an exerpt from a piece I posted while Jamey was still alive. If you’d like a window into what’s going on behind the scenes in the home of someone with a chronic illness, read on….)
Useful Lip services(Hey now….):

Here’s one of the easiest, yet seemingly most difficult things you can offer someone going through a tough time–talk to them.

Don’t ignore them.

Don’ t avoid calling them because “you don’t want to bother them” or “you thought they’d be too busy to talk” or whatever excuse you can come up with that serves no other purpose than to further isolate people who already feel isolated enough.

Here’s the thing–it’s not as if when someone becomes sick, they forget how to put their cell phone on silent or lose all understanding of how to turn on an answering machine.

If the family doesn’t want to be bothered, they’ll let your call go to voicemail.

If they’re too busy to talk, they’ll text you back when they can.

And maybe sometimes it will be days or weeks until they text you back. And sometimes they never will.

And that’s ok. Don’t take it personally.

One of the biggest complaints that I heard repeatedly from the caregivers I used to work with was their feeling of being disconnected from the real world–severed from comfortable connections to their past lives.

One telling example was of a mom who had always served as room parent for her son’s class. When her son was taken out of school after being diagnosed with leukemia, no one from the class ever reached out to her again about her room parent responsibilities.

She told me she actually would’ve helped out if anyone had asked because she really liked her son’s teacher and was really close with a lot of his classmates.

She felt hurt, rejected and awkward.

I’m sure the other room parents thought they were doing her a favor by taking this responsibility off her plate, but for her, being a room parent was what was normal.

All it takes is a quick email or text(no body under the age of 85 talks on the phone these days, anyway) to let the person know you’re thinking about them.

I guarantee it’ll make the heart of even the grinchiest of grinches skip a beat.

It’s free.

And priceless.

 

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4 Comments

  1. Wow. This is one seriously staggering post, Kim. From boogers to suicide to eulogies to simply ” show and tell” one’s love and concern. Thanks for stating the importance. Quite a start to Holy Thursday!!! Sending you hugs! 💕 🌷🐰🎶 Sent from my iPhone

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    1. Thank you, Mrs. McManus!
      That really means a lot!
      It was pretty emotion-infused, to be sure(and there was a lot of editing going on in between my tears of frustration and sadness).
      If anything I said actually impacted one person’s perspective and encouraged him or her to pick up a phone or write a quick text, then I feel it’s all worth it.
      As I mentioned in the post, I not only experienced the social isolation that often accompanies chronic illness first hand, but witnessed it when working with parents of kids with cancer. I honestly don’t believe that the average person is uncaring or cold. I just think we sometimes forget or fail to realize the subtle, simple yet immensely powerful importance of human contact; of human connection.
      There’s something about simply knowing another person is there and “gets you”; that you’re part of a larger social unit–it’s so crucial.
      Ok…I’ll get off my soap box now and go practice what I’m preaching’.

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  2. A very timely post! You are echoing Jesus who showed his disciples the idea of caring for each other when he washed their big stinky feet. Yuck! ( who knows what He may have muttered under his breath while doing that)
    Could he have picked a more gross illustration?

    It goes to show, you don’t have to enjoy it, just do it.

    Make the phone call, knock on the door. Send a card. And however, to whomever we pray, we need to pray for them.
    I have been in the receiving end of getting checked on and it makes a difference. The timing is always uncanny so it has to be Grace at work.
    I’ve also been guilty of excusing myself from reaching out to a neighbor because I’m battle weary from my own circumstances. And I operate a white dove release service, ( no worries, I only turn loose white homing pigeons and they know where I live) which is a “Hey, feel better, now!” ministry; its a lot of work for not much pay.

    Whaah! Too bad….. I’m a Christian and doing more than I feel like doing is a necessary part of living out the gospel. Once that water and oil was poured over my head, I entered into being held to a higher standard.
    Showing up at Mass is just the beginning. From there it’s stinky feet time…..

    Someone a lot smarter than us, maybe Dante, describes Satan as frozen in his own tears.
    By the way, he doesn’t want a card or a phone call,
    And by nature, like the snake that bites because it’s a snake, he will drag as many of us into that icy pit as he can.

    A blessed Triduum to you, thanks for this post!

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  3. This is awesome Kim! This is what the basis of Alcoholics Anonymous is all about….one person reaching out and helping another. You should try reading the Big Book of A.A. (not because you are an alcoholic). It shows you a new way of life that can be applied to make just everyday boring life better by helping others!

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