I’D NEVER MET THE PARENTS, only knew their son from company gatherings.
But on a recent Thursday evening, I waited in line at a funeral home to pay my respects to the 25-year-old, my husband’s former co-worker, who took his own life.
As Randy and I snail paced through the winding line of mourners, past countless photo displays, I observed. Never have I attended a visitation with such quietness. Barely a sound in this carpeted room where mostly young men stood, their eyes focused on images sliding across a screen. Their friend, once so vibrant and alive, now gone, his closed casket on the other side of the room.
It made me incredibly sad to witness this. This grief tucked inside these young men who should not be here but rather tooling around in their pick-ups on a perfect Minnesota summer evening. Never have I seen so many trucks parked, and young adults gathered, outside a funeral home.
It made me incredibly sad to witness this.
I watched as a twenty-something slipped his arm around his significant other when they paused at the casket. Her grief ran deep and I expect so did his.
Grief rose inside me, too, and threatened to spill into tears for a young man I barely knew. But he is around the age of my own children and, as a mother, I cannot imagine such a loss. This is not the natural order of life, to lose a child.
I wondered, as we edged toward the family, past the displays of caps and replica cars and framed certifications, what I would say. How do you comfort?
At times like this, words seem futile. I wanted, in some small way also, to console the 12-year-old brother who occasionally turned and sheltered himself into his towering father’s side. He appeared invisible to other mourners. But I noticed him and his pain.
When we reached the brother, I asked his name. And he spoke with such softness that the father had to repeat his name. And then I asked to hug the 12-year-old and he allowed me to do so. Twice. And I told him he was loved.
And then the story spilled out—how he had given his older brother his nickname because he could not, as a young child, pronounce his sibling’s name. And for a moment a smile flitted across the pre-teen’s face and the father and I laughed. And I told the 12-year-old that he will always have that special connection to his brother.
Sometimes grieving families need moments like this and only sparse words of sincere sympathy. I offered such words and hugs and held hands, too, and felt the clench of grief.
© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling