Lisa Kern

Lisa Kern
Pennsylvania, US
March 28
I'm a mom of three boys, a needy dog, and an insolent cat. When I'm not writing, vacuuming up pet hair, or cleaning pee off the toilet seat, I like to fantasize about jeans that actually fit and an all-you-can-eat-chocolate-and-cheese diet. Welcome to my party.


Lisa Kern's Links

MAY 4, 2012 9:04AM

Bringing spices

Rate: 10 Flag


I wasn't looking forward to the funeral.  My friend's daughter, Krissy, had been killed by a drunk driver a few days earlier.  She was only 26 years old.


I'd known her practically forever, having worked with her mother for over 20 years.  When Krissy was a little girl, she used to play next to my desk while she waited for her mom to finish up her work.  Her smile and laughter were always welcome distractions from the routine of my work.  As she grew older and took a job at the same company, we became co-workers.  Unable to reconcile the harshness of her young life taken so suddenly and in such a senseless way, I knew it wasn't going to be easy saying goodbye to her.


There was also the matter of what to say to her heartbroken parents.  I wanted to comfort them, to erase their pain, and to somehow fade their grief even though I knew that words would never be enough to help them through this inconceivable loss.  Was there any action at all that would be big enough?


Whenever I'd think of Krissy's passing, I'd automatically imagine how I'd feel if this had happened to one of my own children.  These thoughts were never productive.  My mind would shut down, refusing to even consider such an outcome.  If I couldn't even imagine losing a child, how would Krissy's parents handle having to endure it?  My heart ached for them and yet at the same time, I felt utterly powerless to help them.


As I struggled to come to terms with this tragedy, a friend of mine offered some advice.  He told me of a sermon he'd heard at his church on Easter Sunday.  "You know how when Jesus died, Mary Magdalene showed up at his tomb with spices?"


I nodded, although perplexed at what relevance Mary Magdalene could possibly have to the sudden death of a young woman.  He continued, "If you think about it, it was pretty ridiculous.  She brought spices, as if they were going to do any good.  I mean, Jesus was dead.  Still, she wanted to help, just like you.  When something tragic happens, we all want to do something, but maybe the best thing is to just show up and bring our spices."


Just show up.  I could definitely do that.  It didn't feel like enough, but it was something.


So that's what I did.  I showed up.  I hugged Krissy's parents and cried with them.  I sang hymns and joined in prayers.  I listened as family members and friends told stories about Krissy's short life and how much she meant to them.  I cried into an embarrassing amount of tissues.


A family friend spoke about Krissy, describing her as a free spirit who had to do things her own way and in her own time.  "Krissy was like a butterfly who needed to fly free, " she said.  Indeed, Krissy would rebel at any attempt to confine her spirit.  She had her own ideas for her life and wasn't about to allow anyone else to define it for her.  The butterfly analogy couldn't have been more precise.


After the funeral, my husband Dan and I walked outside.  It had been raining earlier, but now it was a bright sunny spring day.  Birds were chirping, and I felt refreshed by the abundant reminders of life all around us.   Suddenly, a butterfly flew right into us as if in a hurry to somewhere else.  It lingered a bit between us, then floated upward, seemingly confident of its mission, until it finally disappeared into the sun.


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so sad.

grief is it's own process. and you did the right thing, just being there, sharing their sadness. making it easier for them to cry and to laugh and remember. you eased their burden, taking some of it to you. that is an immeasurable gift. and a bond of friendship too. the greatest.

I remember a day I was mourning, sitting in my best friends kitchen, crying. they encouraged me to talk, we all talked. and we all cried together. it sometimes come back to me, what that day meant and how much the people who shared it with me mean to me now because of it.

you were a true friend. that's all you can do.

I believe back before refrigeration and embalming, spices were used to mask the smell of the decay of death.
This makes me so sad, Lisa. I can't even imagine losing a child. I can't make my mind go there. But you're right, to just show up.
Showing up is what's important. It really doesn't matter what you bring, other than an open heart.
A fellow teacher lost her daughter in a senseless accident, also. It was 8 or 9 years ago, and she and her family are still coming to terms with it. She believes that her daughter visited her in dreams for awhile, before saying (in a dream), "Mom, I can't keep coming back. I have work to do." That was the most comfort to her of all.

I have brought her daughter up in conversation with her over the years. She has told me several times how much she appreciates that. I guess the lesson is that we take our cue from the grieving person. It may be that two months from now, a year or more from now, when everyone has gone on with their lives, a conversation about Krissy will be balm to your friend.
Foolish Monkey - I think there is much value in sharing grief with others. It makes the burden lighter when distributed among several people. Thanks for the info about the spices. I guess I should tell my friend, huh?

Froggy - I have the same experience: I just can't even think about harm coming to my kids. It's just too terrible. Thank you for stopping by.
hugs, me - Thank you. I really appreciate your support. XOXO

Maria - the "showing up" part was such a profound lesson for me, especially as someone who always feels compelled to fix things for everyone else. Thank you for getting that. XOXO

Snippy - following the cues of Krissy's parents is great advice. I imagine, if it were me, I wouldn't want my child to be forgotten. Thank you so much.
It is almost always the simplest (and by simple, I don't mean necessarily easy) things that make the most difference. Krissy's mom and dad will always remember who was there, who showed up.

This is the second post I've read tonight about a young person being killed by a vehicle. What a horribly sad thing.
Sometimes showing up is all we can do, and sometimes it's enough.
The butterfly ~ Oh, that's just because it was mentioned in the service ...
Sure ;-)
Yep. Just show up. The family will remember who showed up. Years later they will look through the sign-in page and, one day, they'll be able to use those names as touchstone to their loved one's life, their own lives...connections remembered and lost, and not all of them sad. Just drifting and still connected. There is peace in that.