Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Horrid Thing To Say

"That is a horrid thing to say, and you had no right to say it.  You don't know what it's like to lose a child!"

That's what the woman would have said if she had not been giving me "The Silent Treatment."

Girls, I'm going to let you in on a little secret:  IT DOESN'T WORK!

The "Silent Treatment" amuses and confuses, but it never has the intended effect, which presumably is to punish a man into recognition that whatever he did was wrong.  See, we're not actually all that put out when you ladies don't talk to us, and it is a decidedly ineffective means of giving us any new information or insights.

In this case, the woman who was not speaking to me (well, one of them) was a work acquaintance whom I barely know.  The conversation was about a friend of hers who had recently lost two children, one of whom went into a river and never came out again, and the other, her unborn baby, miscarried when the mother was confronted with the surprising and unexpected mortality of her first son.

Yes, it's a terrible, tragic event.  Yes, we all feel sadness at that mother's loss.  My mistake was not joining the pity-party, as I was expected to do, and taking a little piece of the pain into my own life.  As though that would help matters.

Instead, what I did which I shouldn't have done was to say:

"It's possible this could be the greatest thing to ever happen to her."

-     -      - 

Now, I recognize it was wrong for me to say this.  It was wrong for me to make a suggestion that the listener was not at all prepared to hear.  Is this what is meant by the somewhat unfortunate parable, "Cast not thy pearls before swine?"  Unfortunate because I would in no way wish to associate this essentially decent person with "swine." But the meaning is fairly clear.  Don't give people things, even precious things, that might do them more harm than good.

Of course I had no sure way of knowing beforehand what level this individual's state of personal growth and awareness would be.  I know now.

Was she correct in thinking the things she didn't say?  Was that a "horrid" thing to say and am I devoid of human empathy?  My assertion is, "No" and my reasons are twofold.

First of all, empathy.  I feel real compassion for the mother whom I don't know from a bar of soap.  As a matter of fact I do know what it's like to lose a child.  My own son was taken from me without good cause, legally, against my wishes and in spite of my every assertion and exertion.  I was forced to say goodbye to a child I would never see again, in the sense that he would be inches taller and a person I would not know anything about the next time I saw him.

I see my son about once a year for a couple of weeks.  That means I have basically no relationship with him at all, because he does not phone or write me.  His mother has neatly excised me out of his life, and I grieve my loss as much as any parent who loses a child.

Not only that, but I go through that grieving, months and months of soul-wrenching agony, all over again every time I say goodbye to him.  I will never see that child at that age and stage of development again.  Ever.  I will have no hand in raising him, helping him, enjoying his life with him, facing problems with him, or anything with him.  In another year I will be awkwardly introduced to a completely different young man who knows as little about me as I do of him, and with whom I have no connection.

Do I know what it might feel like to lose a child?  You're welcome to disagree, but I think I do know a thing or two about it.

Secondly, I have some reason for predicting a possible Divine outcome from this mother's experience.  We can run and we can sometimes hide from ordinary everyday setbacks, we can even take them in stride.  But something of this magnitude forces a person to ask some serious questions about life.  While I would never want anyone to suffer as I have, it is after all pretty much inevitable that many people will.  But suffering doesn't have to be in vain.  If the mother is an intelligent person as I assume she is, she will quickly recognize three things.

That this is way more than she ever thought she could handle.

That this amount of grief can't be ignored or just swept aside.  You don't just "get over it."

That barring something miraculous, she is about to serve a life sentence of grief and pain.

When someone realizes this, faces reality, does not run from life, run into drugs or alcohol, or escape through some other means, then that is the opportunity that a few lucky, blessed people have in life. This is their chance, because no other option is left, to look for that elusive door to the next level.

And when they have found that door, to open it.

And when the door is open, if she has the courage, she may even go through it.

She will enter a plane beyond sorrow, suffering, grief, conflict or pain.  A realm of light and knowledge, a place of pure understanding.  Just for a visit, you know.  Because the search for that door is one we can never be entirely finished with.

Some teachers explain this event as "dying before you die," and is one of the keys to really living.

When I heard that a mother experienced an inescapably tragic event, I felt a little rejoicing in my heart on her behalf.  My reflex reaction to the terrible news was one of hope for her.  This just might be the blessing that propels her to discover the door to her own personal End of Suffering.

As for the children, well, their problems are clearly over.  I like to imagine that they would gladly have given their lives for their mother to gain something that is worth far, far more than mere flesh and bone, mere matter and form. Infinitely more, and infinitely longer lasting besides.

Dear reader, if anything I wrote here offends you, feel free to give me all the silence you can muster. I think I can take it.  And if you broke a tooth on any of these pearls, I am sorry about that.  Really.


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