Condolence – noun – an expression of sympathy with a person who is suffering sorrow, misfortune or grief.
It’s a strange word and one that you don’t usually hear at any other time. That’s one of the things that I love about English; you can have a hundred words that are nuances of basically the same thing, but, usually, if you really need it, there is also a word that means exactly what you’re looking for.
“My sincere condolences….”
It sounds so formal and unnatural, probably because everything about death and loss is so foreign to how our lives are structured. I have had many different expressions of sympathy from many people over recent weeks. All have been appreciated. It’s interesting, though, that the ones that “touch” deepest are the simple ones. A mate said to me the other night, “I really have no idea how you must be feeling. I cannot comprehend it, but I am so sorry.” Oddly enough, that meant so much more to me than someone who may be offering comfort from a philosophical/ideological/spiritual viewpoint. Not that those aren’t appreciated, it’s just that, before Ngaire died, I had my own viewpoint, which would, in many ways, have looked or sounded just like many of the expressions that I have received. But really, my mate was right.
Along this road, I have experienced a lot of death. The ones that touched deepest were, of course, those closest: my mother, father, and before Ngaire, my brother’s death was the most devastating. However, though Ngaire’s passing was a possibility that was never far from my thoughts over much of the last few years, there is no comparison with anything that I have experienced before.
“….and the two shall become one flesh.”
There’s the difference; the other losses were just that: tragic losses. But this is like a disembowelment of the soul, the sundering of a union formed at the deepest level of being, so there are not many words that can come close to easing that. I also feel ashamed that I have been oblivious to the pain that those friends and loved ones who have lost partners must have endured. Then again, how could I possibly have known?
I am honoured that people have bravely ventured into that territory with us, though. Some have written letters, cards, sent emails, flowers, boxes of fruit, delivered meals, invited us for meals – so many expressions of love, for which I am immeasurably grateful and which have been a balm. In fact, without them, this journey would be bleak and dark indeed. Thank you.
As time draws the slow separation which gradually begins to make the loss manageable, the staggering and daunting realisation is that there is no going back; everything is new, and life – lives – must be rebuilt. I left a friend’s place last night, after dinner and, as I went over the evening’s conversation, began to fashion in my mind how I would tell Ngaire about it when she came home……but that will have to wait.
Here’s a poem about another aspect of life now:
Apparently now you have an estate,
Or so some letters are addressed.
They want to tidy things up
While I want to keep things going.
But when I read your name on other dispatches
From The Chamber Orchestra, the Art Gallery
Or even the bank, it tells me that you are
Still here, still interested and full of life.
The Art Store, the Fabric Store tell me
That you are still creating, flowing in love
Living in all that meant so much to you
And others, not silenced
But juvenescent, absorbing journals
And how-to mags, always thinking
How to bless, honour, bring joy
Through word, gift or effort.
Those who received show where
Your true estate lies; those whose
Lives were changed, enlightened,
Warmed are those who, part of the larger
Domain of grace and light, walk now on land
Reclaimed, with hearts imbued
With hope and worth, who feel the loss,
Not as that to be tidied, but as a precious seed.
Beautifully said Matt…..as always.
Yes, indeed Matt, I know many of us are ‘at a loss’ because we know the only thing we can offer you as you grieve is acknowledgement that we can’t possibly feel the same pain you do and to let you know we are here when you need us, and to hope that we can in some way share your burden.
Blessings, Mick & Sue
Thanks Mate, looking forward to catching up with you guys in a few weeks.
Love the poem…it speaks volumes…
Thank you, Rebecca. I’m not in the space to be reading a lot at the moment – started to read your letter and found it a bit difficult; I’m less than two months out from losing my wife. But I will read it – just have to pick the right time. Thanks for your kind comment. Matt
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