8/30 The Book of August

In my family open caskets were the norm, but not this time.  Debra’s picture sat atop her oak casket when we arrived for her visitation.   I could only suppose what they did with the dress I brought for her, thinking they’d be able to clothe her.  Aside from that, Dad was making me more miserable than I thought possible.  He had already corralled my best friends Pat & Jay in the hotel corridor questioning them about why I divorced Lou.  He just could not understand me leaving a man who was making such good money.   Now while in the receiving line he asked me if I had checked to see if her body was really in the casket, “Cause you know, they re-sell those sometimes.”  Please, Dad, trust me, she’s in there.

It was all very uncomfortable, aside from the pain.  One relative told me when I started to cry, “Now, now we’ve had enough tears.”  Yes it was a man, and No it wasn’t my dad.  An aunt told me that at least I had an angel in heaven now–did she even read the Bible?  Did she even know that angels aren’t human?  Did I give a crap about having an angel?  Did it make me feel better to hear, “Well, at least she’s in a better place now.”  REALLY?  THANKYOU!

For everyone that does not know what to say in these circumstances, let me say this.  I know it’s hard to find what seems like the right words.  Something simple and heartfelt is best.  The words I remember most were said a few weeks after the funeral by a little 8-year-old  girl that I didn’t know.  I was painting her front porch for my landlord and she came out and sat down quietly.  She said, “Your daughter died.”  I smiled and nodded.  She continued, “How’d she die?”  With a golf ball in my throat I replied that she had been killed in a boating accident.  She looked me straight in the eyes and said “That’s so sad.”  I smiled stiffly, nodded and whispered “Yes.”  I felt touched by an angel.  That little redhead’s questions and statements were the most complete, honest, straightforward, heartfelt and welcomed of any I received from anyone.  However, true to the awkwardness with which our culture approaches death and mourning, she was “properly” chastised by her mother who overheard in horror what her daughter was saying and yelled for her to come back inside and leave her alone!  And that was exactly where I found myself.  Alone in this solar system.  Not actually so very different from the way I felt growing up–just infinitely more acute.

3 Responses to “8/30 The Book of August”

  1. Roxann Hutchison Says:

    You are not alone…my heart identifies with yours as I read your words. We have buried 3 children…


  2. Sadly, we are never taught how to deal with death, so we don’t know what to say. Of course we want to say something, to try to comfort and help, but more often than not our words are not only painful but cause even more suffering. You’re right, the little girl’s, “That’s so sad.” is perfect. I love you.


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