What to say when friends lose loved ones

I hope Jesus is up for sharing a banana split.

When you’re young, your parents and your friends’ parents seem immortal. This is because they are your parents, and they give you piggy back rides and make you egg sandwiches and pack tasty juice boxes in your lunches and buy cool toys for your birthdays and chauffeur you to practices and never run out of band-aids for your skinned kneecaps. Surely, they will live forever.

When you’re a teenager, those same individuals seem a little less immortal because you’re quick to zero in on their shortcomings (because you don’t have any) and lack of knowledge (because you know it all), because you’re a teenager, and you know everything and you’re always right. This doesn’t necessarily apply to your friends’ parents though, because your friends’ parents are cool and hip and do everything right.

When you reach your 20s and begin doing “parent-like things,” such as getting married, raising families, working 40-plus hours/week and taking on home ownership/mortgages, etc., all those individuals begin to look much less immortal, because, well, they are not immortal. Raising you was really, really hard work. Also, you realize now that your friends gave their parents a few grey hairs, too.

Inevitably, our formerly envisioned immortals lose their youthfulness, and their spryness begins to fade. They ever so slowly transition into that word previously reserved only for grandparents, great-grandparents and next-door neighbours: elderly. An adjective no youngster, teenager or adult ever really imagines their parents to be.

It’s a heartbreaking thing, this thing we call life. Because we all know that life and being elderly only lasts so long.

I have been fortunate to experience only a few family members’ deaths and those who passed on lived long, long lives. Their leaving us was not entirely unexpected. What has been unexpected is the number of friends around me who have lost and are losing loved ones well before their time. Well before entering the elderly stage even.

“What’s the right time?” you ask. I surely don’t know. When is anyone’s right time? Death never comes at a good time, even if you’re prepared for it. If it did, it certainly wouldn’t be called death. It would be called “going for ice cream.” Because, you always look forward to ice cream.

And, when you try and think about all the things you can say to comfort someone who has lost a parent, words fall short. Very short. Because you can’t fully understand unless you’ve lost someone. And, even if you have lost someone, everyone responds differently to loss.

Which can leave you at a loss for words beyond “I’m sorry” and “He was a wonderful person.” Perhaps, though, those are the words needed most. And, just knowing that someone is thinking about you and your family and caring for you and praying for you. And, most importantly, remembering your loved one.

So, tonight, my thoughts and prayers are with the Buck family, following the loss of their father, David. He truly was a great man and a wonderful person.

I hope he’s having some ice cream.

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