Posts Tagged ‘what to say when someone dies’

Can you complete this sentence? – Before I die I want to _________________.

Click photo to see more of the "Before I die... " exhibit.


Designer, Urban Planner and Artist Candy Chang has installed an interactive exhibit in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas area. One wall in the gallery is now a giant chalkboard.  Visitors can finish this sentence.   It will be so beautiful when it’s done.

Limiting to just one comment is difficult for me, I have about 10,000 more things to do, but if I get only one entry then, my contribution is  “Before I die I want  to be sure I have helped others love and be loved”   I’ve been fortunate in love and I know everything good grows from the roots of love.

I’m wondering what your answers are – leave them in the comments section below – or make a trip to East/West Gallery in Dallas and write your contribution to the wall and post a photo of your contribution.


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Angels are comforting to many people, so I am posting a few here.   I can’t say for sure that angels exist, but if they don’t, I will be a little disappointed.  These are angel sculptures from Recoleta, the magnificent cemetary in Buenos Aires.  I was there last month and was amazed at the tributes people built to their loved ones.  You can see all four photos here in the gallery –

Peace to you.

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      My heart looks for you everywhere.  When I arrive at the airport.  When I enter your house.  Looking in the dining room I see Regina – and for a second – my heart thinks she is you.  My heart skips a beat and a flash of excitement runs through me – only to be sobered by reality.
     My mind imagines that our grief over losing you is greater than your grief over losing your mother and I know that is not true.  I’m embarrassed at how little we knew about how to assist you through that experience.

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Dear Mother,
     Right now, everyone is gone.  It is evening and I sit in the living room in the middle of the sofa and I feel only a fraction of what you must have felt every time the troops arrived and departed.  There is a lump in my throat, a sadness in my eyes, a breaking open of my heart, a tingle in my stomach.
     And now, a curiosity enters my eyes and a sense of excitement.  So I imagine that sad moment would translate into freedom and excitement for you, too. 
     You were so brave.  I know that for you it was nothing, but to me you seemed so brave.  To let 9 pieces of your heart loose into the world for better things and sometimes for worse things. 
   And my first desire is to sit at the piano and play.  How can that be?  Are you inside of me?  I am happy to play for you – just remember, I don’t play the piano as well as you – I only stumble.
    I feel your stance, your nobility, your way in me as I consider it and so I know it is your desire.  So I will play.

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Leave the bedroom and perhaps the desk of the deceased undisturbed for as long as you can.  You can feel their presence among those things for quite a while. 
     We invaded Mother’s room probably a little too early.  This was brought to my attention by my sister, Theresa.  She was right.  Mother’s shoes were where she had left them – some clothing, her hairbrush.  These things become very precious when you know they are exactly where your loved one left them.
     One friend left her husband’s clothes in his closet for almost 2 years, and didn’t move them until for practical reasons, she needed the closet for the way her new life was growing.

My mother, though, while trying to put on a brave face for her children, wanted to begin discarding things after less than 2 weeks. It was clear to me from the tones in her voice and the way her body language and words did not match what I saw on her face, that this was not what she wanted to do. It seemed rather to be what she “thought” she should do to show us her strength and how to carry on.

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Chop wood and carry water.  The simple things.  These are the things to tend to when someone dies.  The laundry.
The dishes.
Taking out the trash.
Cutting the grass.
The groceries.
The bathrooms.
Stay with the children.
Just show up and do them.
There is so much love in those acts. 
Make sure the family is drinking enough water (really).
When my mother died, another friend came from California to stay with me for a few days when I returned from Texas — and she did the groceries, the laundry, the driving.  Showing up is a beautiful gift and makes the transition easier.

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    When the parent of a friend dies, or someone else close to you dies and you want to attend the funeral or the wake, you’ll want to know what to say.  Wouldn’t it be great if you could say something that is not a cliche, or say something profound, and say “the word” that will make everyone feel better?  That’s a noble goal, but for funeral situations, I’m going to suggest you go for the simpler goal. 
     If you can’t think of anything to say — don’t worry — you don’t have to say anything. 
           Let your eyes talk.  Look softly and carefully into people’s eyes.  They’ll feel that. 
          Just tell them that you love them.  Most times that is enough. 
          Or just let them hear you breathe if you’re calling by phone.
          Hugs speak much louder than words.

People can feel you.
Just let them feel your love.
Your presence speaks volumes and is usually the best gift.  Depending on the circumstances there usually isn’t much to say – and everyone knows there isn’t much to say that won’t sound like a cliche.  It’s a touching moment of humanity.  Silence can work.  Our culture needs new scripts for funerals.
If you feel that you really, really want to say something, try these:
“I love you.”
“We love you.”
“We love our memories of your father/mother/whomever has passed.”
“Your father/mother gave us such good times – and we hold those memories very close to our hearts.”
“___insert name___ was such a good friend to us and we want you to know how much we appreciate him/her.”
“Peace to you.”
“We are here for you.”
These are enough.

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