I was up in Salem, MA, a suburb of Boston, this week for business. One evening the people I was with wanted to go out to karaoke, but being in the state I have been in, I was in no mood to join them in their festive singing. So I called my cousin Phil, out of the blue, around 8PM and asked if I can come by and say hello – Phil lives in the next town over from where I was staying. I have not talked to Phil for a year or two, but he had e-mailed me about my writing a while back, and we were close when I was growing up. I just needed to go and hang out with someone who was family, and Phil was more than glad to have me over.
I got to their home in Peabody around 8:15 and was greeted by Phil and his wife Claudia with hugs and smiles. I knew I had made the right choice rather than going out and being miserable, or staying in the hotel alone and being sad.
We started talking about work, what I was doing in Boston, and life in general – all pretty safe subjects. Eventually we talked about Nicole, how she was doing, about her school and her hockey. We talked about Dorothy, about her work and her family. We talked about a lot of stuff. In hindsight though, much of the conversation was related to Andrew – about his school, about his son and about Jovi, about my new tattoo of his signature (I will write about that soon, I promise). We talked about Andrew’s funeral, and they shared some stories about that week that I didn’t remember, or chose not to. We talked for almost five hours. I cried here and there during some of the stories, I got choked up more times that I care to remember. I shared pictures of Andrew’s son, and stories I had not told in years. We covered so much and went from topic to topic.
We talked about family, and of friends. About the ones we still talk to, and the ones that have moved on with their own lives. We talked about those friends that have stepped up and have helped us through this ordeal, as well as those who have disappeared from our lives for one reason or another. They shared their perspective, as well as listened to mine.
It was pretty late. Claudia had long since gone to bed, and it was time for us to hug, say goodbye and hope to see each other again some time.
On my way home, as I started to write this essay in my mind, like I always do, I came to realize that I had done much of the talking. Well, maybe most of the talking. Well, maybe Phil was able to get a word in here and there. When I left their home after hours of talking, I felt pretty good, almost relieved. We had talked about so much. I had gotten a lot off my chest, I bitched about people, I moaned, I expressed my feelings in ways I have not been able to, to a person I felt very safe to be with. Phil didn’t judge me, he didn’t interrupt me, and he made no judgments about what I was saying. He just let me talk – he could see that I needed to talk, and he would throw in a pearl of wisdom here and there. But more importantly, and the most important thing – is that he was there to listen to me.
There is a reason why I titled this journal We need to talk, instead of I need to talk. I hope this journal speaks not to my fellow bereaved parents or bereaved siblings, but to our family and friends. We need to talk. I found that out this week. We need you there to sit and listen to us. No matter what we have to say. Not to make judgments about us or our grief, not to analyze us, not to try to make us feel better – just to listen. Just to let us let off steam, let us cry about our children, let us bitch and moan if we need to, let us talk about what we need to. You don’t have to council us, we don’t expect you to understand some of what we say, or to understand or appreciate our grief. We know that. We hope and pray that you never truly understand how we feel, or what we are going through without our children in our arms. We just need someone to talk to.
Let me repeat that – that is how important it is. We don’t expect you to analyze us, or provide us with some amazing feedback that will take our burden away. We don’t expect or want anything from you but a soft smile, caring eyes, and love. Just like what Phil did so perfectly.
I wish you all find your own Cousin Phil.