Hearing of the death today of a friend’s son in a war zone I was struck again by the many feelings a Mother’s Day evokes and how comforting others is as vital as celebrating on this day. Here’s my related story to share (bet you have some too).
Both have sons serving in the same Marine unit in Iraq. Patricia is describing the fear that grabs her the moment her doorbell rings unexpectedly, thinking that the officer on the other side has come to tell her that her son is dead. Tracy understands.
Hint One: Through shared experience, expressed aloud, we adopt “shorthand” expressions and feel understood, closer and comforted in that familiarity.
When Tracy’s son, Derrick was deployed, she knew that those who would most understand her feelings were other mothers in the same situation so she started a support group.
Cynthia Gorney’s wrote about these mothers way back in 2005 when the war still seemed new:
“Draped over a banister in Tracy's house was an unwashed T-shirt Derrick had dropped during his last visit home. I thought Tracy was apologizing for her housekeeping, which I had already seen was much better than mine, but she cleared her throat and said that what I needed to understand was that she hadn't washed the T-shirt because if the Marine Corps has to send you your deceased child's personal effects, it launders the clothing first.
‘That means there's no smell,’” Tracy said.”
Hint Two: Smell is the most directly emotional sense. Nothing else comes close. Turn to smell as memory anchors of your shared, comforting experience
“Tracy's closest friends in the world right now are other parents whose sons and daughters have served in Iraq or are serving there now.”
Hint Three: Expressing vulnerability as you feel it can create an opening for others to do likewise, bring you closer, in the moment and over time.
~ “Tracy knows that the grandfather clock in Patricia's house chimes
nine times when the other clocks say it's noon because the grandfather clock is
set to Baghdad time. Tracy
knows that Patricia has figured out how to tell if someone is in her driveway
by squinting at the reflection off a certain glass-covered picture in the
dining room, so that if it should ever be two men in uniform, Patricia will
know they have arrived before they start ringing the bell and before she is
obliged to look directly at them and hear what they have come to say.”
Hint Four: The specific detail you share paints the general picture that listeners will see in their mind’s eye and will shape how they will feel and remember what you say.
"One measure of friendship consists not in the number of things friends can discuss, but in the number of things they need no longer mention." ~ Clifton Fadiman