Straight Talk

When it happens to you

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Teresa Tabor

Usually when I hear bad news my first subconscious, albeit selfish, thought is, “I’m glad it’s not happening to me.” I can be sorry, sympathize, utter the right platitudes but still go on with my life.

But when it happened to me, it’s another story. 

I lost my mom a couple weeks ago. It never should have happened. We weren’t ready, as I’m sure no one ever is. I could never have imagined the void that would be left and my foundations rocked as we desperately wondered how we are going to navigate life without her.

When word began to spread, the Facebook messages and texts started pouring in. In years past, the funeral home would put up signs along the road alerting motorists of possible heavy traffic as neighbors would come by, bringing casseroles and cakes, and paying their respect. Visitation books were signed and dishes marked with stickers so the family would know to whom the dishes belonged. But with the advent of technology, an actual visit seems archaic. No signs on the road, no traffic, and no dishes to return. A text declaring that friends were praying was sufficient. That is not to say we weren’t grateful for the outpouring of sympathy. We received about 150 messages from friends and family whose lives were touched in one way or another by Mom.

But what really meant the most to me was the people who took the time to come by mom’s house, knowing she had a large family, to bring food, a pound cake, gift cards, and one couple even brought a carload of paper products along with enough food to feed an army. Mom’s Bible club fed about 30 of us on Sunday after the service and we were so grateful. And those who took time out of their Sunday afternoon to stop by the church and personally offer their condolences and even pray with us meant so much.

As in most life events, many people will search for the lesson to be learned, the new leaf to turn over, or what they are going to do differently from now on. As a card-carrying introvert, reaching out on a personal level is difficult for me. After all, it’s not happening to me, so I can say a quick prayer and go on with my life. Throughout this ongoing process, I wonder that if my empathy/sympathy is not expressed, does it really count? If I don’t stop by and visit, take the casserole dish, pay personal respects, did I really care at all? Is a quick text good enough? 

Personal connections are so important. I am just now realizing that I may have a part to play in maintaining and cultivating those connections even though it may stretch my comfort level.

It was hard for Mom, too. But toward the end of her life, she had really good friends that cared about her and helped look after her. For that, we are truly thankful.

Mom still cooked Sunday dinner for her family even into her 80s. She was afraid if she didn’t keep doing it that her grown children wouldn’t stay in touch with her or with each other. We always told her that it wasn’t about the food, it was about the company. We are hoping to continue to carry on that tradition although we know the food won’t be as good. These connections and others are the ones we will seek to maintain. And maybe pay more attention to our friends and neighbors who need an encouraging word. Or a pound cake. That’s what mom would have done.

“Her children rise up and call her blessed.” Prov. 31:28a