‘We shall do well to offer our condolences to her after the service’ the pastor said.
I was still recovering from the news that Mrs. Dupe lost her 9 year old son. It was very hard to imagine that a little body filled with so much vigor and energy could be snuffed out by death. Why then was I still alive? Why had I lived all these years on earth with not so much as a major accident? I mean, I know one shouldn’t record life with near-death experiences or with death itself, but when you have come so far in life without dying, it’s something worth pointing out and being thankful for.
I wanted so bad to share condolences with Mrs. Dupe but after sharing the Grace, my bum was stuck to my seat because I kept wondering why we really ‘offer condolences’?
Is it to let the grieving person know that you understand her? Is it merely to acknowledge her pain? Is it to let her know that the loss she suffered is worth a hug? Is it to let her know that there are people much alive who care about her? Is it to just make her cry some more? Is it to guide her safely to the final path of the acceptance of her loss?
And then, what does it mean to ‘offer condolences’? What are condolences?
‘I’m sorry for your loss’?
‘You’re going to be fine.’?
‘Please call me if you need anything’?
‘Everything happens for a reason’?
‘Everything would work out fine’?
‘God is still in control’?
‘Satan is a liar’?
‘It is well’?
What are those words and which is most appropriate?
I sat there on my chair and told myself that I’d rather not share any condolences at all, than share cliché sentences as my condolences. I glanced at Mrs. Dupe and I saw a crowd of people gathered around her. She stood awkwardly in the center, wringing her palms and smiling such a sad sad smile. In her head, she was trying to be strong; she was holding tight. She was mentally counting how many more people were left; how many more, ‘God will restore your loss’ and ‘It is well’, before she would throw herself into the comfort of her home and wail like a bush baby.
I waited for her to walk to her car before I stopped her.
‘Good afternoon ma’ I said, walking as her driver opened the passenger seat for her. She smiled a fake smile and said, ‘How are you doing my darling? How is work?’
‘Very good ma. I know you want to leave like yesterday, but can I just have a short word with you?’
She smiled again, this time tired, and said, ‘Of course dear.’
‘Thank you’ I said ‘I’m here to offer my condolences to you but I don’t know what that truly means. I know many people have said to you that ‘it is well’, and that ‘you’ll be fine’, but is it okay if my condolences to you include me acknowledging that you might not be fine for a while, neither might you feel well for a while? Many people would also tell you that it’s okay to cry. I agree. In fact, it’s more normal than okay, to cry, to be sad, to have several downtimes and all. But I just want you to know as well that it’s okay to laugh; it’s okay to be happy; it’s okay to relax; it’s okay to be grateful to God. They are not the natural things you’ll feel like doing, but if you ever catch yourself being happy or laughing or eating, please embrace it. The potency of any victory is how long it takes to not forget it quickly. If you want to take the power away from death, you have to embrace life and living. I know that these are not the normal condolences, but they are my condolences. And yes ma, eventually, you’ll be super fine.’
She hugged me and broke down on my shoulders.