Toward the end of March, I posted the words to a song I had written titled "When The Words." The song was inspired by a Facebook conversation with another musician/songwriter about inspiration and how it often comes at inconvenient times, such as when we are doing dishes or taking a shower.
This post has nothing to do with that song, but the title seemed appropriate. Words are supposed to help us make sense of things good and bad, help us explain things to others, help us to communicate. There are, however, other times when words seem inadequate, even though they are all we have.
This is one of those times.
Earlier today, I got word that my brother-in-law had died suddenly, of an apparent heart attack. When such events occur, I imagine most people go through some series of reactions and emotions. First and foremost is the feeling of sadness for the family, in this case my sister and her children and grandchildren.
Second, perhaps, is a feeling of shock. My brother-in-law was my age, perhaps a year or two younger. Third for many people, though they would not want to admit it and might even be likely to deny it, is a sense of relief that it isn't them. This feeling may be stronger the further removed one is.
Right now, I suppose I am rather numb. I liked my brother-in-law and know he was a good husband to my sister and a good father to his three children, but I can't say we were particularly close. I had only seen him (and my sister) a handful of times in the last ten or 15 years. I don't know that anyone is to blame for that. It's just how things worked out.
I know my sister is hurting right now. I know her children are hurting right now. I'm not quite sure what to say to them. The words have all washed away.
At times like this, words have a tendency to become cliches or platitudes, all uttered by well-meaning well-wishers who, like me, are not sure what to say. Perhaps platitudes and cliches are exactly the things to say. Having never been much good at platitudes and cliches myself, I am left at a loss for words.
Not being a religious man myself (though hopefully a spiritual one), I have no words to offer up on high. I hope that God is watching over the family, but I don't claim to know one way or another.
There is, though, one thing I do believe and have for some time. So long as you keep the memories of a loved one close to you, hold those memories in your heart, the person is never really gone or lost. Perhaps that is the true afterlife.
I think there was a line in a movie or television show to the effect that death is but another step in the journey each of us makes. That notion appeals to me. If that is, in fact, the case, I hope my brother-in-law and I can get together for a conversation and a drink and make up for the time we lost on this side.
Until then, Godspeed, Kenny.