Sometimes You Get What You Need

The morning after my mother died, the doorbell rang; flowers were sitting on my doorstep.

And again a few hours later, there was another bright, beautiful bouquet at my door.

Later that day, the phone rang: How are you doing? Have you eaten? I am bringing dinner.

I am not surprised that my friends tried to rescue me.  For many years, I had tried to do the same. I’d sent flowers and notecards; attended wakes and funerals; made charitable contributions.

But it had always seemed pointless; do you really assuage grief with your sympathy”? How could a store-bought card could begin to offer solace in the face of profound sorrow and loss.

I was wrong.

I had never expected my friends’ efforts would mean so much; I was astounded that the trappings of the “grief industry” could actually lessen my pain.

To this day, I take tremendous comfort from the gestures to honor my Mother.

Friends called: You don’t have to get back to me. I just want to know I am here for you.

Friends sent cards; prayer cards, Mass cards, and an avalanche of condolence cards appeared in my mailbox.

You know the cards; they have poems and flowers and sunsets…the cards you reluctantly peruse in the store; the cards that don’t begin to say what you would say if you only knew what to say.

I studied each word as though it held the secret to the universe.

Part of me thought I was nuts. And part of me lingered over every poem; every flower; every sunset.

Friends got on airplanes.  Friends got in their cars.  As I crossed the church parking lot, I greeted people from every chapter of our lives.  I will never forget those faces; childhood friends, cousins from other cities, business colleagues who drove hours to be with us.

At the same time, faraway friends sent emails and texts.

I wasn’t the only one holding my heart.

“’In lieu of flowers,” we requested contributions to a high school scholarship in our parents’ names.  But a group of childhood friends sent a bouquet to the church, providing a sweet adornment on the altar.

Sometimes people just know what to do.  And some of those friends contributed to the scholarship as well.

The scholarship; a young woman is getting a great education.  A young woman knows my parents’ names.   School officials sent updates about new contributions, and shared that they were deeply moved by the outpouring of support.

I was startled by one of the names on the very first list; a friend of a friend whom I had met only twice. I called her: Well, you know darlin’, in the South when we hear someone is in trouble, we grab our checkbooks.

Someone in trouble”… that was me.

But I should not give the impression that all of this support just flowed in my direction.  It is true that my friends knew what to do.  It is also true that I asked for their help.

I reached out to everyone.  I sent emails about the funeral and snail mail notes to her Christmas card friends. I wrote her obituary for the newspaper. I used Facebook to share photos and prayers and Jackson Browne’s For A Dancer.

And when people said: is there anything I can do, I probably surprised them.  Yes, I said, there is a scholarship!

Rescue Me.

One year later, on the first anniversary of my Mother’s death, I received a copy of the high school Annual Report.

And there she was: my Mother’s name, followed by name after name after name after name…

Team Louise

Sometimes you get what you need.

A Swift Current || Sometimes You Get What You Need

Swift Current Sunset Photo by Hallie Swift


4 thoughts on “Sometimes You Get What You Need

  1. Once again you have taken us through your journey and helped us to think deeply about our own. I am grateful for your generosity and candor. You are a beacon over stormy seas.

  2. Once again, a beautiful commentary on loss. As my darling mom once told me “do something”…obviously, she was right…doing something does help carry the burden of grief.

  3. Once again, as in each previous blog, you have beautifully captured so many feelings and thoughts that go along with the death of a loved one — particularly a parent. I know how proud your parents would be of what you have created here, and I’m sure you realize it as well. While reading these blogs is sad, it is also comforting. Thank you for doing this, and keep them coming!

  4. I just noticed that three of us, totally separately and independently of each other, started our comments with “Once again…” Obviously you are conveying something here that is bringing your readers together in at least one single thought. Maybe it’s a coincidence, but I thought it was worth mentioning!

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