This last week has been a bit of a whirlwind, so I’m going to make a brief departure from my regular lighthearted post – the first post that won’t be tagged with “humor.” It’s been hard to think about what to write because we don’t talk about sad things here! One thing I’ve liked about my blog format is that if I have a boring week it doesn’t matter, I’ll just talk about something that happened 15 years ago and no one will know the difference! But then something terrible happens and you want to write about it. You want to try to make sense of the mania in your head. And that’s exactly the moment when words lose their meaning. When there’s no language to describe the kind of loss someone is going through. Platitudes lose their meaning and suddenly I hate every Hallmark card ever written.
Sorry for your loss? With deepest sympathy? Heartfelt condolences?
I can’t understand the people who buy these cards. I felt like every single “deepest sympathy” card I read insulted the grief for the person I was buying it for. There was so many of them all saying the same thing without saying anything at all. How does Hallmark know what it’s like to be made a widow at the age of 29? How did they decide that white flowers are best at conveying I’m sorry you lost everything with a single phone call? That a sky blue is best for font color for saying Nothing will ever be the same again?
I feel sick and angry and, if I’m being honest, vulnerable. The horrible realization that if it happened to her it could happen to me, while at the same time feeling guilty because it didn’t. Because you can hug her and go back to your spouse. I try to comfort myself by looking around and see all the old people. They’re everywhere! People live to be old all the time! It’s an epidemic, this turning old. The government has to change its programs because too many people live to be old every day! This is what I try to tell myself.
Everybody believes they are the exception to the rule. That I will never get cancer. I will never crash my car. I will never die. How could I die? I am so solidly here. But everyone also knows, no one else is saved from this exception. We all know everyone else can die at any moment even while we are convinced that we ourselves never could. I can almost convince myself that if someone is just in my presence my exception will protect them. “Don’t worry,” I’ll tell them, “these death things never happen to me. I’ve had, oh, 50 close calls, but I always walk away.” But you grip their arm a little tighter anyway because the obituaries column always stays full. As one last precaution, you make them promise that they will never die and try to feel better when they say, “I won’t.”
“You get what anybody gets – you get a lifetime.”
-Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes