During a lecture last March , I spoke fondly of a friend whom I had recently lost to cancer. Halfway through the anecdote, I suddenly recognized his wife, the mother of his two young children, in the audience, listening in rapt attention. She was far from home, a surprise visitor. I almost choked. And I suddenly began weighing my words with much greater care. Had I represented her husband well?
Loss makes artists out of all of us. We become storytellers, portrait painters, recreating the departed.
During grief’s early days, we break heavy silences to recall the scenes we want to remember. For strangers, we’ll sketch an outline, fill in some details. We simplify, generalize, organize.
We consider questions that will never be answered, dreams never realized. And we might carefully acknowledge their rougher edges, the ways they tested our patience—but we’ll wince if anyone blurts out words of criticism or judgment.
It’s a challenge, to keep someone’s memory alive with honesty and honor. It’s a responsibility, a delicate art. [Read more…]