You know that conversation? The one someone begins with you even though you never asked to be part of it? You are standing in line with your family at your loved one’s funeral and someone says, “I know how you feel. I lost so-and-so x number of years ago.” Trying to keep peace and get on with the terrible task at hand, you nod your head and apologize for their loss and say a small prayer that they move. That they move fast to the next person in line. Sometimes they move along and sometimes it just doesn’t end. “God has a plan, you know.” “You’ll get over it.”
I understand both ends of this. There is nothing much more uncomfortable than standing in that line to comfort a friend or family member after the death of someone they love. Every time I end up in this situation, I find myself having this raw conversation in my head: “What do I say? Do I hug them? What if I begin to cry?” The truth is that this stupid conversation in my head is selfish. So is the fact that I am uncomfortable at all. At the end of the day, my presence at a wake or funeral is to provide some comfort to the family and show my respect.
On the other hand, it is almost equally uncomfortable on the receiving end. Many times during my brother’s funeral, I faced awkward introductions to friends of his I had never met before. Then hugs with several random strangers. I am not a big germaphobe, but I couldn’t wait to wash my hands after touching all those people. My feet hurt, my back hurt, and I just wanted to crawl into bed and wake up the next morning thankful that the nightmare was over. Hoping it hadn’t happened, that I could call Mike and we could do lunch like we had talked about the week before he passed. But alas, I woke up on my couch with my eyes burning and heart aching.
And now. . . years have passed. I have definitely gained some wisdom along the way. Now I realize that it is okay. It is okay to feel uncomfortable whether you are on the receiving or giving end of these conversations. It is OKAY. At the end of the day, I know that everyone that came through the line on the day of my brother’s wake and funeral had the very best of intentions. Intentions to provide comfort, to share stories, and share their love with our family. Sometimes what we want to share in these times doesn’t come out the way we hoped. That is okay. And I’m thankful. I’m thankful for each and everyone of those hugs, handshakes and awkward conversations.