So, so, so sorry

My husband’s closest friend in Madison, who is 84, just suffered a terrible loss. Back in the 2008 recession, his son had lost his good-paying job and ever since then had just worked whatever minor jobs he could find, hourly, not the salaried work his family of four was accustomed to him doing. Eventually his wife divorced him and he moved in with his widowed father, back in his childhood home, into a room in the basement since his father was a morning bird and he was a night owl who played video games and watched tv late into the nights. During this pandemic time, the son had taken over all the grocery shopping and had taken up most of the cooking as well. They would eat dinner together most nights. One night a week ago the son asked the father if the father could clean up the dishes after the dinner because he wasn’t feeling so well. The next day it was quiet in the house and the son didn’t come up for dinner and the father had some charity work to attend to outside the home. The day after that the father decided to go down and check on the son and found him dead, some problem with his heart. The autopsy found him Covid negative but his heart had been greatly enlarged and swollen.
Yesterday I cooked poppyseed kheer (an earthy warming milk drink) and dhokla (rice and dals that are soaked, then ground, then fermented, then steamed, then sliced into small diamond shapes, then fried in ghee after popping mustard seeds and adding curry leaves and green chilli cut in paper thin rounds): a savory snack that is eaten while drinking the hot kheer. And I wrote a card from our family for the bereaved father and I put it in a new cotton shopping bag with bright beautiful colors that I had bought years ago but had always found too pretty to use. And added in 2 beautiful new kitchen towels, that I had also bought years ago with the idea to gift sometime. And then also a toffee-crunch chocolate bar and a peppermint chocolate bar that my husband had brought home with the groceries earlier that day. Then asked my husband if he would deliver the food and drink and pretty bag with the card and towels and chocolates to his friend. As we were packing it into his car, my husband said to me, “In India we may certainly give nourishing food, but we don’t give gifts or sweets when someone dies. I told him that in America we also don’t do this. But that I was remembering when our younger son was three years old and the only time I ever remember him stubbing his toe and how he immediately ran and climbed up onto our futon couch and proceeded to vigorously jam his stubbed toe into a throw pillow stuffed with semal. Pillows stuffed with semal (kapok) are unimaginably soft. “Did that help?” I had asked him after a bit. “Yes,” he had said, relieved. “All the softness took away all the bang.”
In this situation here the hurt seemed a critical wound, and I badly wanted to take away some tiny part of the sting, of the bitter, of the horror.
The funeral (burial of the son’s cremated ashes) was today, because of Covid restrictions, just family, all of the deceased’s immediate relatives, father, sister, former wife, two teenage daughters.
I know that my small gesture is not enough, that it is practically nothing. May it just be the start.

Comments Off on So, so, so sorry