Sunday, January 4, 2009

What the hell do you say?!

A friend I'd had since before kindergarten faced the worst sort of tragedy a couple of weeks before Christmas. I'll call her "Pam." Her mother called my mother with the news that Pam's son had taken his life. He was only 25. When she went to Germany as an exchange student during our senior year in high school, and a year later my family moved 800 miles away from our home town, we lost touch. Pam stayed in Germany and I've stayed in D.C. The first and last time I saw her since that time was at our 40th high school reunion the summer of '07. She briefly mentioned that "Josh" had been battling depression for much of his life. She'd been supporting his efforts to overcome it and seemed hopeful. It took me a week to work up the courage to phone her in Germany. I couldn't imagine how she was handling the devastation of losing her only child! I stumbled through awkward condolences. She ended up having to reassure me that my lack of expression was OK and that she appreciated my call. I felt like a total dolt when I hung up. Why couldn't I think of something supportive to say? Depression is something most everyone suffers at some point or another. Heaven knows I'm familiar with it. A combination of cowardice and innate optimism stopped me from acting on it. Meds that correct an imbalance in my brain finally have done the trick. Why hadn't meds saved Josh? I have experienced nothing remotely close to this tragedy. I have no children, so I can only imagine the gaping hole Pam must be feeling in the center of her being. To have struggled trying to help her son through so many painful years only to lose the battle. . . !! What they hell do you say?


Nan said...

There aren't adequate words in that situation—you know it and she knows it. The comfort comes from the fact that you tried to find some words because you wanted to provide some comfort.

I'm sorry he missed out on experiencing the rest of his life.


dcpeg said...

You have proven once again that you have great wisdom, Nan. It really helps knowing my fumbling for words was not uncommon.

You also pinpointed another reason I didn't do something drastic. My curiosity about the future is too strong!