A few months ago I got a notice that included my late husband’s name on a list of various people and entities related to an event that happened nearly three years after his death. I jumped through the hoops necessary to notify the appropriate parties that he was deceased and ask that his name be removed from the list. I got written confirmation of that this week, which I wanted and needed. What was, to quote Ouiser Boudreaux in Steel Magnolias, “too twisted for color tv” was the wording used to convey that fact.
The legal document confirming the removal of Bill’s name was titled “Suggestion of Death”.
I swear I am not making this up.
I wish I was.
Would that it were merely a “suggestion” and not reality. A weird dream I could wake up from. A quirky SNL comedy sketch I could prattle through, and at the end, give my best Emily Litella grin, tell everyone to “never mind!” and move on.
That legal oxymoron was bad enough, “but, wait!” as inventor and marketing maven Ron Popeil always insisted, “there’s more!”. The document showed up in my inbox on the anniversary of the day of Bill’s funeral. I wasn’t sure whether I should laugh or cry. For the record, I did both.
And then I fired off a reply to the person who’d forwarded the confirmation thanking him for passing it on to me but also including a snarky aside about the terminology and the timing.
I was miserable for the rest of the day. Because of what day it was and the extra layer of emotions that document had piled on, but also because I eventually realized this wasn’t done intentionally to make me even sadder than I already was and my snark was misplaced and unnecessary. None of the people involved had any direct control over when that information was going to be delivered. And most of them had no idea what day it was for me or how emotionally fragile I was feeling. It was just a regular workday for them, and they were just doing their jobs.
Or so I surmised. But maybe not.
Maybe nothing about that day was “regular” for them either. Maybe some of them were grieving their own losses and unhappy anniversaries. Maybe they’d recently placed a family member in a skilled nursing facility and focusing on work rather than the welfare of their loved one was a real challenge. Maybe their autoimmune disorder was flaring, making every keystroke, every mouse click, every movement pure agony. Or they were sitting in front of a computer screen trying to type while nearly blinded by a pounding migraine. Maybe their anxiety level was already at Defcon 1 and they were now staring yet another crisis in the face. Maybe their partner or child or pet was seriously ill. Maybe they’d been blindsided by the end of a relationship they thought was forever. Maybe their roof was leaking or their washing machine died. Or they’d lost their keys.
I didn’t know any more about what was going on in their world than they did about what was going on in mine. Any one (or all) of them could have needed just as much slack (or more) that day than I did.
The next morning, I fired off an apology to the sender of the document, who I found out had, because of the wording, debated about whether to send it at all or just let me know it had arrived.
The “suggestion” that made its way to my inbox Monday wasn’t what I expected and it didn’t show up the way suggestions usually do. It was, however, extremely powerful. It held the power to remind me that while I continue to journey through grief and pain, and that needs to be acknowledged and dealt with, I don’t have a patent on it. I’m not the only one on the planet dealing with stuff. Others are carrying burdens and wounds as well, often invisible to the rest of us, and just as I do, they deserve courtesy and consideration, not snark.
It’s called grace in my faith tradition, and just as badly as I need it, I need to be equally as intentional about offering it to others.
May you greet all those who cross your path this day with grace and mercy.