I have erased the first line of this post about 20 times. I am having trouble finding the right words to write about words. How ironic. As a talker and a writer, I usually have a lot to say. I took this photo of those shiny words a few weeks ago and have been saving it to use as my image to write about words. But I am stumbling.
I want to tell you that certain words strung together have changed my life – I love you, marry me, it’s a girl.… I want to tell you that I have heard and said words during the past two years that I still can’t believe I absorbed or delivered – that’s cancer, your dad has cancer, your dad is dying. Someday I will tell you about my husband’s words, they were beautiful and precious – I wrote them down.
I want to tell you how words have kept me afloat, that I generated poem after poem and instead of collapsing inward, the poems helped me reach out. This blog is another opportunity for my words to bring connection.
We all know the power of words – I am not writing about anything new. Maybe that is why I am struggling. And maybe words can’t do the job of telling you how certain words have helped. There are many advice articles about what to say to the sick or the grieving. How big is the tumor – is on the no list for sure. Aren’t you lonely – I could have done without that one. Don’t cry – no thanks.
As I round the corner toward year two and the grief is not as fresh, I can look back on the words that have meant so much. The widow who rang my door bell and said you will feel joy again, the oncologist calling my house to say I am so so sorry, the mother of a high school friend who wrote one of the best things he did was pick you, his sisters writing to me in French to say you are our sister too. And his words are always in my head – you will be fine.
But what has meant the most to me is the intention behind the words. Shiny perfect words are forgotten if they are delivered to satisfy an obligation or spoken without feeling behind them. Bumbling, awkward words delivered with love for me, for him, or for our children, have been gifts. I want to remember this the next time I need to find words to offer comfort. And then I will remember to listen. Open and patient listening is truly what has helped the most.
A few weeks ago I was kayaking with a friend when she stopped rowing, looked up at the sky, and called out her nickname for my husband and yelled where are you? It was a stunning moment. She misses him too. So the best word, the one I want to hear and say is – his name. Say his name to me in your memories, your questions or just by calling it out. It’s the perfect word.
I wonder what words have helped you?