People often share anecdotes when someone dies. We tell stories of how that person fit into our lives. Stories about us, really. And how our lives intersected with the person who no longer exists.
Ultimately, those stories are about how we were fractionally made into who we are by the deceased.
At one level this seems sort of narcissistic – to talk about oneself rather than talking about the deceased’s accomplishments.
But its not. If you have ever been bereaved, you know the fascination and comfort that comes from hearing these sorts of stories. They are life affirming and important to remembering the person meant something.
Compare that to the dry list of accomplishments that you often see in obits. Even of famous people. Its really not nearly as meaningful to hear that someone was a manager of this, or had 3 kids, or got an award for this, or climbed Kilimanjaro.
But to hear how they touched a life is immediately life affirming. Their life meant something – they touched someone. And honestly, it doesn’t even have to be in a profound way. Just a story, funny, touching or banal.
Humans are defined by those moments. We don’t think too much about it, but every time you interact with someone you influence in some small way they way they view life.
Human interaction is where life is enjoyed. You can own a yacht, but the yacht itself is not what brings joy. Having friends out to play on the yacht with you is what is enjoyable. Its the human part of equation that makes the moment.
Human interaction is where life gains meaning.
We don’t exist but for a moment in time. We are terrified of the loss of the moment. The only way to extend the moment beyond our own consciousness is to have a place in someone elses. And that only happens when we interact – when we touch other people mentally and emotionally.
So the next time you don’t know what to say to someone who has lost a dear one, see if you can’t share a story about the deceased. If you knew them at all, you probably can. If you can’t, sit down with the bereaved and ask them to share stories about the person.
2 thoughts on “Words of Sympathy”
I could literally like this post many times over.
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I agree with this 100%. When my dad died, it was marvelous to see several couples who met in college like my mom and dad did come to his funeral and share remembrances. I try to offer this input when I knew the deceased, who was the parent or spouse of friend. The commenter has a different perspective and often a new story of kindness, inspiration, or advice the deceased had offered, which the survivors may not have known about. Nicely done, Keith
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