I got to the funeral home early. I was there to pay respects to a man whose wife I once worked with. He died in a nursing home, God rest his soul.
As it happens, there were two visitations going on that day. And since I have the intelligence of a ripe summer squash, I found myself in the wrong place.
I knew this because the service was poorly attended. Which is also why I stayed.
The widow was mid-forties. She had tough skin, like someone had left her in the weather too long. Her kids were with her—one girl, one boy. Her face was waterlogged.
There was no casket. Only a table with photographs.
People in line said things like, “Time heals all wounds, honey.”
And this irks me.
Folks don’t mean to use such ridiculous sentences at funerals. It’s accidental. But they fire off corny phrases like buckshot just the same.
As a boy, my mama and I received a line of visitors just like this one. It was a morbid ordeal that lasted for hours, days, years. It never seemed to end.
In fact, sometimes I wonder if my adult life is nothing but a daydream some twelve-year-old boy’s having in a funeral parlor. I wonder if maybe one day I’ll awake, shaking hands with some fella pointing out how time can heal all wounds.
Anyway, I finally made it to the widow. She smiled, but not with her eyes, then she thanked me for coming. I smelled cigarettes on her breath. She didn’t know me from Adam’s beer-fridge, but she pretended to.
I hugged her scrawny body. Then, I told her something I’ve been waiting to say to a woman in her situation for a long time.
“You’re stronger than you think you are, ma’am.”
I didn’t mean to tear up. But mid-sentence, I realized I was saying something just as ridiculous as the others.
She gave me a plastic thank-you. I pumped hands with her son. And I left.
I sat outside on the curb. I felt something in my chest. A pain, throbbing so hard it almost felt pleasant.
Time must’ve forgotten to take this particular sting away because it still hurts like fire. Only now the ache is an old friend, I like to re-feel it now and then.
It’s been a long time. I’ve come a long way. And there’s something strong in the human heart that brought me here. It’s other-worldly—whether you believe in it or not.
It can withstand sickness, poverty, death, and whatever else you throw at it. It can turn widows into strong mamas. And I’ve seen it transform sad rural boys into men who like to laugh.
Time doesn’t heal all wounds. Time doesn’t heal a damn thing.
Carole Smith - January 31, 2017 1:44 pm
You are correct that time heals nothing.Grief is not something that you go thru and come out on the other side.Grief becomes part of you.Deal with it! That’s my humble opinion.
Regina - January 31, 2017 1:49 pm
My beautiful, precious daughter passed almost two years ago. Time has shown me no mercy. My feelings are as raw today as they were then. I am here because of the love surrounding me from family and friends. Your words are so picturesque and true. Thanks again.
Rick Story - January 31, 2017 1:52 pm
Love is letting go of fear.
Sandra Lee Van Dam - January 31, 2017 4:39 pm
You are a wonderful soul. So glad I found your posts. Thank you for sharing your life. We need this so much now.
Gene - January 31, 2017 4:40 pm
In 1966 I was you. My dad died when I was 12. I didn’t feel grief as much as sadness that my dad wouldn’t be there when we got home from his funeral. I still don’t feel grief, if I even know what that is supposed to feel like, but I do still feel the sadness. My wife/son/grandsons never had the opportunity to meet him which makes me sad to this day. Time hasn’t healed that and never will. I’ve learned to move on and not dwell on things I have no control of. Maybe that was the lesson I learned as time passed. Thanks for your insight and willingness to share with others like me.
Linda Lewis - January 31, 2017 5:39 pm
The thing people said when our daughter died of SIDS at two months old 37 years ago was, “It’s God’s will” as if that would comfort me. It still hurts and makes me angry. My husband and I both considered suicide we hurt so badly. We didn’t because we were lucky enough to have a son two years old. I found that there is something deep inside that keeps you going even when your guts have been ripped out. You’re right. Time doesn’t help. Love does.
Very well written, Sean, as I’m coming to expect now, after Day 3 of reading your posts. I feel as if I’ve won the lottery.
Kay Keel - January 31, 2017 7:30 pm
I’ve often said, “Love is an action verb.” which is kind of like your statement, “Love does.” Thanks for writing such beautiful words. I’ll keep sharing them!
JP - January 31, 2017 9:15 pm
Nancy Segovia - January 31, 2017 10:28 pm
Whoever said Time Heals all wounds was a liar. I lost my dad my husband and my best friend of 30 years last year all in a matter of two and a half months. I don’t know if I’m still sane anymore. I do know the pain does not go away sometimes it’s not as bad but it’s still there. And then, like you wrote it will hit you like a sledgehammer and put you down as if it was the day that it happened and you’re back where you started.
Carol DeLater - January 31, 2017 11:32 pm
we often relate our own stories here…just to let you know you touched a nerve, or brought back an almost forgotten memory, or just to add our own two cents.
SI hate those phrases uttered to someone who is grieving, mostly said because the one speaking doesn’t know what to say. “Sorry for your loss” is said so many times it seems to hold no meaning.
When I was young I often didn’t go to funerals or the “showing”. My excuse was I hate going. When my mother died I had no idea how much comfort it would bring to have an old friend or even an acquaintance come to pay their respects. No need for a cliche to be spoken. I hug and small talk was the best condolence to show support.
Yes, time can soothe the pain, but there is no healing it. For the pain is in the missing.
Susie Munz - February 1, 2017 1:07 am
Very true, Sean.
William - February 1, 2017 1:16 am
” time heals all wound” as bad as God needed another angel. Heck he could make another one instead of taking my loved one
Michael Hawke - February 1, 2017 2:46 am
Only thing I know to say is May God bless you.
Angie - February 1, 2017 3:25 am
From a widow…thank you. And from a momma of a boy who lost his daddy…thank you.
Lynn - February 28, 2017 2:08 pm
With time one learns to cope and; eventually, one can smile and shake their head at a memory or a moment that would have been shared. I never say sorry for you loss, they’re in a better place or any of those other clichéd platitudes. I always pray God’s peace on them and tell them how sorry I am they are going through this.
Connie Faivre - February 28, 2017 3:40 pm
I’m so grateful that a friend posted this on a Facebook. Thank you for your beautiful words. I have spent many years as an advocate for animals, and in that time have made feeble attempts to console people who have lost animals; even more so those who have had to make the gut-wrenching decision of euthanasia. The common thread is the loss of a being someone has loved with all their heart. Sadly, and all too often, many people discount this loss and offer no comfort… “It’s just a cat/dog/horse/hamster… Get over it.” Truth is, love is just love no matter the object of that love.
In that context, I came across a phrase that has helped me and many others as our hearts have shattered: With deep love, there is deep grief. You cannot grieve that which you do not love.
Morgan - February 28, 2017 6:23 pm
Next time I go to a funeral, I’m going to go through the receiving line and tell them, “it’s not true what they say. ‘Time doesn’t heal a damn thing. Love does.’ ”
Paula Kononow - March 1, 2017 5:51 pm
When our son died at 27 the line wound thru the funeral home and around the building. One young man’s words to me comforted me more than any other. He said I think everyone has an energy. Some like Justin have such a strong energy they attract everyone to them. But because they have such a strong energy they burn out young. It was so true. He had friends from teens to sixty year olds. His energy lives on in our memories of him and the stories we all tell.
Lilli Ann Snow - April 4, 2017 6:22 pm
At 14, I lost my Mama. The night before she died, I slept with a framed photograph of her under my nightgown, pulled against my heart. I prayed for God to let me die instead. Let my Mama live, God! Please…..
God didn’t take her because He needed another angel. God didn’t take her because it was her time. She died because her cancer was incurable.
In recurring dreams, Mama and another lady are sitting on the sofa in our tiny den…the sofa where Mama spent days lying down because of the severe headaches she suffered from after we collided with the back of a logging truck during a blinding rainstorm when I was 7. In my dreams, I’m incredulous! Mama, I thought you were dead! Why didn’t you tell me you were alive? Where have you been? I’m just around the corner, in the other room, she always says. Then, in the midst of my storm of emotions, she stands up with the other lady and says she has to go now. I cry so hard, tugging on her to hold her beside me. Mama! Mama! I can take care of you better than that lady! Please stay. Please… She looks at me with the softest eyes…and I think I can see her heart’s great wish to help me understand…help me let her go… She says, just remember I’m right around the corner…in the other room…and suddenly is gone again. I now know that was true. That is true. When my Daddy lay dying, I heard a voice calling, you who? You who? You who? I looked at the door of Daddy’s room and suddenly knew! Mama’s waiting for you, Daddy! She’s just around the corner…in the other room!
I’m not afraid of death now. I know it’s just a doorway. And I will be with my Mama when I step across that threshhold. I try to tell that story to those I wish to comfort at funerals. Death isn’t death. It’s a doorway. And we will meet again…one fine day.
Charaleen Wright - March 23, 2019 4:37 am