Monday, August 3, 2009

An avoided subject

I had a conversation last week that has been on my mind...

I was getting my haircut during lunch with a really nice stylist. We talked about the economy, healthcare, and then of course family came up...

"Do you have any kids?"

I had a feeling this question was coming. It occasionally has during my 15 minute haircuts and I just have a hard time getting into the conversation in this situation. I clammed up (darnit!) and kinda avoided the question directly...

"Well, we have one on the way."

Darnit, why didn't I mention Cara?

"Are you going to have a baby shower?"

Here's my chance.

"No, we already had a baby shower for our first daughter that was stillborn a little over a year ago."

The pretty awkward conversation continued on from there. The stylist went on asking me about Cynthia's due date and a couple other typical questions.

I was a little taken back at how quickly our conversation "moved on" after I mentioned Cara's death. I don't fault the stylist because I'm sure she was shocked by my news, and in a way I fault myself because I know I didn't dwell on it too much either because my lack of repsonse to her first question was hard and frustrating for me.

This whole exchange later reminded me of how death, grief, and suffering is often avoided and ignored in our society. On the whole, we just don't like talking about "bad things." We'd prefer to just "move on." In too many cases, the suffering and sick are ignored.

I remember feeling this strongly after I returned to work two weeks after Cara's death. The office environment seemed so sterile and dry. Less than a handful of people actually stopped by to see me or took the time to really ask how I was doing. Suddenly, I realized how taboo death and open, honest grieving was in the workplace.

All of this just makes me equally sad and frustrated. Why do we avoid death? Why do we act like it doesn't happen or that it can't ever happen to us?

My only guess is that with all the technological advances in healthcare over the years and the way in which death has been moved away from us (from our homes, places of work, etc.) and into hospitals and funeral homes, it all just seems so foreign and unknown to us. We tend to think in the back of our minds that no matter how bad things get, we'll find a way to get through the sickness or pain. But what happens when all the technology and drugs in the world just don't work? Or what happens when a baby dies for no clear reason?

My prayer in all of this is that we all would all become more open and familiar to the pain, suffering and even death that is all around us. This isn't a morbid request, but rather a prayer. A friend reminded me on her blog that our Pastor says that prayer is "being aware." And it seems like in being aware, when we care for the sick we find new life and glimmers of hope in the process. When we don't ignore the pain, we are somehow deeply blessed in the process.

I don't want to avoid the subject of death, and I don't want our family too either. I want us to know that there are people everyday that are suffering and hurting that need prayer, that need someone to go and care for them to offer them a healing hand and an open heart.

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