I consider myself a master at attending wakes and funerals. They are the few events I can maintain grace and poise and not feel completely awkward. Maybe because the guest of honor can’t really tell so there’s no pressure. I extend my condolences in a sympathetic way while nodding or hugging with sincerity. Most people do well at weddings or work holiday parties, but I can’t be normal can I?
What I haven’t quite mastered the full sincerity of my condolences. When someone dies, people say “I’m sorry for your loss”. I never understood that. Why are you sorry? Did you somehow cause the <insert natural cause here> that killed this person? Unless of course you did something that caused that person’s death, in which case I’m pretty sure something as simple as an apology isn’t really going to help the case at all. I can’t say “I’m sorry for your loss”, it doesn’t make sense to me.
So I say the usual “my condolences”. It’s simple and to the point, but nothing said seems more than hollow words. However, I found that outside of the funeral ritual, I’m awful at this idea of comforting someone. A friend of mine’s grandfather had passed away recently. He mentioned it on Facebook, saying “if you see someone with my name in the obituaries, it’s not me it’s my grandfather.” I was the first commenter and my reply was “I’d hope not, otherwise we’d be in a lot of trouble with talking zombies and no good could come of this.” It wasn’t until a mass of people followed with “I’m sorry for your loss” that I cringed at their apology and my sounding like the worst person in the world. Luckily, in seeing him over the weekend, I found that he was amused and glad for the laugh. I suppose it’d be worse if they didn’t expect that sort of comment from me.
Now I have to teach these lessons to my son. When he was in kindergarten my grandfather had passed away around Christmas time. He wanted to come to the funeral and despite my hesitations of him being too young for something like this, I agreed thinking that he could always be with my other family members in another room while I paid my respects. That wouldn’t fly with my little adult, and I had to give him a brief 5 minute lesson on what you’re supposed to do, how you’re supposed to behave and that at the end of it he was going to be kneeling down praying in front of a real dead body. Without being scared and with grace that I’ve never seen in someone his age, he did everything he was told and even used the word “condolences”. At the church, I couldn’t help but to try to fight my laughter while I watched him take a tissue like everyone in the room and dab his eyes to wipe away tears that weren’t there. He mimicked everything from the tissues to the proper Catholic church etiquette. It turns out all I had to do was give him a brief lesson and all he needed to do was take it from there. He just followed my lead, even giggling when I couldn’t contain my laughter at how silly he looked trying to mourn like everyone else. He learned the lesson of the mourning rituals, and was even more excited that he got free food out of it. Plus, he always did fancy an excuse to wear a tie.
This ties together 2 points I have made in my previous blogs. Point #1: I’m a terrible person that lacks social skills of how to behave in an acceptable manner. I could either change this or learn to accept that no one will really appreciate or accept me for this. I’m not changing, I don’t believe there is anything so wrong with me that I need an emotional soul-searching makeover. Point #2: Kids learn by example, there’s no denying that. My son didn’t know how he was supposed to behave so he behaved exactly like he saw everyone else behaved. There’s an emphasis on the “everyone else”. Children learn from everyone in a social environment and from things they see at home. Remember kids are sponges for knowledge, and unless you want an awful and inappropriate joke I’m probably a terrible person to console you.