When our country experiences the loss of life of a member of the Armed Services or a public safety agency in the line of duty, it makes us angry.
As the anger subsides, we grieve.
On many occasions during the past four years, I have stood with grieving widows, parents and friends who have lost a loved one from the law enforcement ranks in the line of duty.
Sometimes, we share a handshake, but more often it is an embrace. I have left many funeral settings having held a grieving young widow as she openly sobbed for the loss of a husband.
Grieving is not easy. When we are kids, we play “house” or “mommies and daddies.” The role-playing does not evolve into a situation of death or loss. Nobody really teaches us about that.
I think some people take extraordinary steps to shield their children from death. We shouldn’t.
Death is a part of life. Depending on your beliefs, you either see death as the finale of this chapter or the complete ending of a life.
We use a lot of terms with children to over-simplify death.
“Papa has gone to a better place.” “Grandma went to sleep and has gone away.” “Aunt Sue is now together with her dog, Rover.”
We offer too many soft-sell ideas that really don’t convey someone is gone and they are not coming back. I know it is a fragile time, but kids are more resilient than you think.
You can tell this when a high school student is suddenly killed. Teens struggle at how to express their grief.
One of the expressions in the past few years is the impromptu memorial. It starts with a couple of balloons, a little sign and before you know it there is an avalanche of stuff.
Some of them are legitimate expressions of grief. I’m afraid others show up in hopes of getting on TV. Impromptu memorials are great fodder for TV stations.
Perhaps if we thought about this a little more, we might serve a more noble purpose. If you took the $10 or $20 you spend on balloons or teddy bears and gave it to a soup kitchen or a food bank, somebody might have a night without hunger. If you gave it to a charitable medical clinic, somebody who might do something crazy could get the medicine they need to function normally.
Most of the time, the receiving charity will send a notice to the loved ones of a friend that you have given a living gift in their honor or memory.
I know some people have to send flowers to a funeral to express their grief. I wouldn’t want to ever tell someone they can’t do that, but I hope they might think what the money could do in a living memorial gift.
I have lost many folks I love and for the life of me, I can’t remember a single arrangement of flowers sent. Yes, they were beautiful flowers and helped make a sad place brighter. But, I can recall many gifts given to end cancer, help the needy or fill another community need.
I’ll take that over a teddy bear and a balloon any day.
Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com/harris.