WHAT DO YOU SAY? What do you say? What do you say to your sister-in-law who has just learned that her father has died in a single-vehicle accident in southwestern Minnesota?
What do you say when your heart hurts, when all you can do is cry and you need to console someone who is hurting more than you?
What do you say?
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry… I love you.”
As your voice breaks and the tears fall and there is silence on the other end of the phone line, you pull yourself together. Not because you can, but because you must. You want your sister-in-law to hear you speak, to feel your love embracing her, in your words, on the worst day of her life.
This was my Tuesday.
First came the phone call early Tuesday morning from my other sister-in-law with the news which sent me reeling, my heart racing, the tears flowing in a river of grief.
“… dad was killed in a car accident last night…”
Sketchy details that don’t matter because they won’t bring him back—the husband, the father, the grandfather, the brother, the uncle, the man loved by so many.
It is my duty to inform three of my younger siblings, my mom… What do I say? How can I tell them?
So I phone my husband first, barely able to still my trembling fingers to punch the numbers into my cell phone. I can hardly get the words out, to tell him the awful, awful news. He offers to call my family. But I tell him, “No, I can do this.”
And I do. First my brother, who is on vacation and whom I am unable to reach. In my voice message I instruct him to call me, that it is important.
Then I speak to my sister, who will contact my other sister.
I call my eldest daughter, leave a message with the other daughter. My son will get the news when he arrives home from school.
And then I must tell my mom. But I don’t want her to be alone, so I call my aunt—her neighbor—to deliver the news in person. I phone my mom 10 minutes later, after my aunt has arrived, and my grief breaks through again in words overwhelmed with emotion.
Later my aunt phones to tell me we reached my mom just in time, before a friend called with the news of Steve’s death. In a small town, word travels quickly.
And so my Tuesday ebbed and flowed with grief in more than a dozen phone calls made and fielded. The message left with my youngest brother, mourning the tragic death of his father-in-law. The husband and father trying to be strong for his wife and their children.
I cry for my young nephew and my teenage niece and their mom and her mom and my youngest brother. All of them. A family hurting.
And then when I can calm myself, if but for a moment, I bow my head in prayer, asking for God’s comfort and peace to bless this grieving family.
It is all my sister-in-law has asked of me—to pray.
And now I am asking you. Please pray.
© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling