Late this morning I watched a memorial service remotely for someone whom I was not particularly close to but someone who I was at least somewhat familiar with and whose somewhat blunt and frequently entertaining comments I had become accustomed to. It is a lamentable thing to become more familiar with someone because of what is revealed in a memorial service after they have died. This has happened quite often, I must admit, because I have frequently attended memorial services of people whom I have only known for a few years at best and whose life histories have been largely unfamiliar to me because I have not been close to them or had the time to draw out such stories. As is frequently the case as well, the memorial service was particularly poignant because of the reactions of the relatives of the deceased, whose response and whose comments betrayed their deep sadness at having lost a wife and a mother. Even in the midst of such deep grief, though, there were moments of humor, as when the widower of the deceased spoke of how he met her at a party, and when one of the daughters of the deceased talked about her shoe collection by making reference to an eponymous president’s wife in Philippine history who was notorious for her massive shoe collection so that it became proverbial far outside of the Philippines to this day .
One of the more poignant comments, though, was one that was not particularly funny at all, and that was when the widower of the deceased talked about seeking to understand why it was that she did not let him know even as she was dying that it was time to say goodbye. As he understands it at least, she was too tired to say goodbye and simply lacked the energy to do more than prepare herself for her rest in the grave. As someone who has buried plenty of those who were close to me and who has pondered the way that emotionally reserved people (the tribe I happen to belong to) tend to be very constrained and limited in the way that they communicate their impending demise. After all, those who find it difficult to talk about how ordinary problems of life bother and irritate them are likely to be especially unwilling and/or unable to open up when faced with the exhaustion of the end of one’s life, which does not always change the glacial reserve that some of us maintain in order to help diminish the awkwardness and vulnerability of life. It can cause a great deal of strain, though, in the lives of survivors because a lack of awareness of how serious matters are and how little time someone has remaining makes it difficult to resolve all that needs to be resolved in the often complicated relationships that we have with other people.
For a variety of reasons, I have lingered long in the course of my life over the issue of goodbyes. For one, I am not very good at saying them. I dislike a big fuss being made of such things and if my own preference were met then I would simply slip out ninja-like from a place where I had been without anyone else being the wiser to it. This is admittedly a selfish feeling according to my own preferences and wishes, because the ceremonies of leave-taking that tend to make me feel uncomfortable are what make others feel more comfortable and prepared. As is often the case, my own preferences as a person tend to be exactly opposite to that which others feel. And even as someone who dislikes having a fuss made of me, I can recognize that it is worthwhile to inform others when a departure is imminent because it allows for the opportunity for things to be addressed, however awkward such matters may be. Yet it has frequently been my burden to deal with others who were as reserved as I am and as unwilling to have a fuss made over them and as unwilling and unable to resolve difficult and unpleasant matters while there is time to communicate them one to another. Sometimes we are all too tired to say goodbye, and that is deeply to be lamented. But what is to be done if we are unable or unwilling to move beyond our own shyness and reserve and discomfort in such matters?