It took three tries, but I finally came up with some words of sympathy for a family that lost a wife and mother to cancer at age 54.
I hadn’t seen any of the family for a few years, as our common bond — sons in the same grade who played on the same basketball team — evaporated when the boys went off to college.
I knew of the family’s health crisis, and would occasionally hear updates from members of the community. I hadn’t heard anything for quite some time, and it was a shock to see the obituary. Memories of our sons’ time together came flooding back.
My son had already known his friend’s mom had died when I called him. The next day, and the day after that, I logged on to the funeral home website’s guestbook to offer condolences from our family. As usual, I froze.
Cliches automatically pop into my head when I write condolence notes (too often lately, it seems) and my attempts seem trite, almost empty.
In my head, I scroll through the usual — “thoughts and prayers” . . . “my condolences” . . . “so sorry for your loss,” etc.
It’s difficult enough to stare at a blank sympathy card and come up empty. It’s no better on an online guestbook, where I invariably begin looking at what others have written.
That’s in part a search for inspiration, but also so it doesn’t appear that I’m copying someone else.
This is all silly to worry about, of course. The people who really matter, the surviving family members, are hardly going to judge — or even remember — the specifics of what most people write.
I’ve been on the receiving end of sympathy cards a few times, and those events were such a blur, any written sentiments pale in comparison to remembered acts of kindness.
The grieving family is more likely to be thankful that friends took a few minutes to post something online or, more appropriately, send a handwritten card.
This morning, for my third attempt, I stopped worrying about the exact phrasing. An image of the mom at the boys’ basketball games came to me, so I just wrote something about that.
I hope my son’s former teammate finds comfort knowing that other parents remember his mom’s smiling face at so many games over the years.