First things First:
Happy 26th bday to son K!
“K” and his cat, “Tootsie,” a few years back 
You both look a lot younger, eh?
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Department Of Well Which Is It?
Dateline: Monday 6:45 am. My personal, non-cellular, weather forecast app – opening the front door and sticking my nose outside – is not encouraging. Seeking confirmation, I check my phone’s weather apps before going for a morning walk. Willy Weather says the temp is 27˚ F but “feels like 17˚ F;” AccuWeather says 22˚F but RealFeel ® is 29˚ F.
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Department Of I Suppose I Could Have Just Said Thank You
This summer it will have been twenty two years ago that our friend GJ died in a motorcycle accident. GJ left behind a brokenhearted husband and their five bereft children, and numerous grieving friends, family, neighbors, students,  and colleagues.
The day we learned of her death I did not want to leave the house and certainly had no desire to speak with strangers, but I had two pressing/related tasks to accomplish that evening. After errand #1 my car “blew up” (translation: the battery had a mini explosion when I turned the key in the ignition).
Not a good night, to say the least.
MH came to rescue me; we traded cars and he called AAA for an emergency battery replacement while I attended to task #2, which involved purchasing…something related to the fulfillment of task #1 at a Target-like store.  After I made my purchase the store’s clerk, a somnolent young woman seemingly operating on autopilot, handed me my item and receipt. In a voice that indicated she was giving an instruction rather than a wish or a suggestion, she told me to Have a nice day.
I took two steps toward the exit door, turned around and said,
“You know, that’s just not gonna happen.“
I’ve often thought back on that incident; specifically, wondering what the clerk must have thought about my reply.  She, of course, had no way of knowing what was going on in my head – no way of understanding that I would take her robotic, store-policy mandated departure phrase as a slap in the face of my sorrow.
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Department Of This Is Related To That
Many is the time I’ve seen the various “list“ headlines on Facebook postings, and several times I’ve perused a few of the lists. You might be familiar with them: They take a usually well-meaning – if sometimes vaguely grouchy, know-it-all and/or punitive – tone on advising on how not to be insensitive to people dealing with certain conditions or afflictions:
*What Not To Say To A Pregnant Woman
*What Not To Say To A Person Living With Clinical Depression
*What Not To Say To Parents Of A Stillborn Infant
*What Not To Say To…
– Someone Living With Parkinson’s Disease…A Rape Victim…A Recovering Addict…A Cancer Survivor…Trump Supporters And Others with Cognitive Deficits…
These lists are often compiled by people who’ve had the jaw-clenching experience of being on the wrong end of “well-meaning but clueless”comments and questions about their circumstances, from total strangers to their should-know-better family members.
Regular readers of this blog may recall that several times during the past five weeks I have written in this space about the recent murder of the adult child of my beloved friends. Acquaintances and friends whom I haven’t seen since I received that devastating news have extended the customary inquiry/greeting when they encounter me: Hey, how are you doing – what’s been going on in your life? In some cases I have resisted telling the truth, resorting to the standard American  brush-off (Fine, thanks, how about you?). Other times I have felt like an open wound and blurt it out – to both friends and strangers (like the clerk at the Subaru Service center – so sorry, dude)…usually prefacing it with a joking, Am I ever gonna make you feel bad for asking!
Early last week I had two days in a row where, at the end of the day, I realized, Hey my first thought upon waking up this morning was not about ______’s death.  Then came a setback, also two days in a row. First on Tuesday and then Wednesday, in separate incidents involving people with whom I have longstanding warm and friendly if professional relationships, I was asked about what was going on in my life. In each case, the askers also remarked that I seemed somewhat…”subdued? Down? Sad?”
I responded with a Reader’s Digest condensed version of what had been occupying my thoughts since the end of January. The askers’ heartfelt expressions of shock and dismay and extensions of condolences on behalf of myself and my friends were comforting to me. They also each proceeded to share horrific stories of the deaths of someone they knew: in one case the suicide of the child of a friend, and in the other, a grandfather and an aunt slain by a mutual acquaintance.
My thoughts, not at the time but soon afterward: Uh…thanks for adding those dreadful images to the ones already in my brain!
Department Of The List I Am Making:
What Not To Say To People After Someone They Loved Has Been Murdered
Here’s the thing: I am not making that list. Because I understand what they tried to do.
I surprised moiself by my reaction, when I realized that although I really could have done without hearing those stories I was not holding ill-will toward the people who told them. They are both kind and compassionate people; I truly felt their concern on my behalf. They were not engaging in Catastrophe One-Upmanship ® (as in, “my tragedy is bigger than yours”).  Rather, IMHO both of those incidents sprang from all-too-human, sincere attempts at showing me that they understood what it’s like to deal with such heartbreak.
I have been trying to read everything I can stand to read on the subject of bereavement and grief experienced by families of murder victims (one of the better sources, if you’re interested, is A Grief Like No Other). A common experience reported by the families is that people start avoiding them, or talk obliquely around them and never refer to the situation or their lost loved one, and this hurts the family. These avoiders don’t mean to compound the families’ grief – they are so very afraid of “saying the wrong thing“and thereby adding to it that they can’t think of anything to say at all, and don’t take (what they see as) the risk of expressing themselves.
This experience – responding to and caring for friends and family who’ve lost loved ones via murder – is…beyond awkward, to drastically understate it. Most of us never got the memo, so to speak, of how to respond in such circumstances.
What can I speak about, when it involves the unspeakable? Anything I can say might just add to the families’ burden… so I will just not say anything.
And what happens to your relationships with those to whom you fear saying anything substantive? What happens with people when you feel you are unable to talk about the most important issues in their lives? You may start avoiding them, due in large part to your own discomfort.
So, while I was not pleased to have more disturbing stories and images added to my mental file cabinet, I understand the intentions. And the sharing of both stories served as a powerful illustration of what I’ve been reading: of how homicidal violence has lingering (and in most cases, lifelong) repercussions, affecting people outside the immediate families of the victims. It was obvious that, years after the they incidents recalled to moiself, those two people’s lives were forever altered. And, in both cases, they went on to discuss with moiself the sad fact that there are a growing number of people in this country, across all walks of life, whose strongest (or perhaps only) thing in common is that their lives have been fractured by homicidal violence. Each in their own way, those two people were trying to reassure me that my friend’s family is – and that I am – not alone in this.
In the case of the person whose aunt and grandfather were killed, I found myself thinking, It’s like an IED of homicide detonated near her family. Those who survived the explosion are “whole” now, their external injuries long healed, but they carry reminders that most outsiders will never see – pieces of mental and emotional shrapnel remain embedded in their minds and hearts.
So, what’s on the list I’m not making? Nothing…except for the suggestion to keep in mind that you never know. This is neither new nor profound, but it stands the test of time: try to give people the benefit of doubt. Any person you encounter, from your BFF  to the stranger on the street – you never fully know what that person is dealing with. The guy who snapped at you seemingly out of nowhere? He may have just found out that his best friend/twin brother was killed by a stray bullet fired during a convenience story robbery. Snapper Guy may be having one of The Worst Days Of His Life ®…. and you just happened to be in the vicinity.
* * *
May you never be so consumed with fear about saying the wrong thing
that you neglect to say anything;
May you stop saying Have a nice day unless you really mean it;
May you not need to consult a list to remember that you should never
ask a “pregnant-looking” woman if she is pregnant;
…and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
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 GJ was an elementary school teacher.
 Something about a committee I was serving on. To this day, although the specific moiself-clerk is burned in my brain, I cannot remember what those pressing tasks were, nor what store I went to.
 Other than, “Cranky bitch!”
 Several times when traveling in Europe and enjoying a discussion with the locals re cultural differences, I’ve had the natives ask me about one of their pet peeves: why it is that Americans use the phrase “How are you?” as a greeting, and not as an evident (to the European mind) inquiry as to their welfare? When they (the Europeans) take it as a sincere question and actually begin to say how they are doing, the asker seems annoyed. “If they are not really interested in how I am, why did they ask? Can’t they just say, “Hello?”
 Ah, but then of course it obviously was one of my last thoughts of the day.
 I really, really hate that acronym. Pretend I didn’t use it.
 I can of course only speak for myself regarding the death of ___, and I realize that the sense of loss I am experiencing is peanuts compared to her family’s devastation. And I’m sorry if you who are reading this have a peanut allergy, but I’m sticking with this metaphor.