Dispatches from Suburbia

If I played an instrument, I would have a band called "The Simon Thomsen Sex Tape"; and other musings, rants, and disconnected ramblings.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Unintentional Poor Taste

"I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter."

-Winston Churchill

When I was in elementary school, the father of one of my classmates hanged himself. When Josh finally returned to school, he very bravely stood before the class and told us how he helped cut his daddy down from the noose. Afterwards, the counselor wrapped her arm around his shoulder and escorted him out of the classroom.

In Josh’s absence, we were given construction paper and crayons and instructed to make sympathy cards. The project, though it was difficult for our little minds to conceive, was good for fertilizing our budding creativity. Though I was sympathetic to Josh’s situation, I was secretly thrilled because I had recently learned how to draw a fairly convincing rose, and this provided me the opportunity to show off. I eagerly got to work, knowing that my delicate, painstakingly drawn roses would stand above the rest and brighten Josh’s day, making him feel so much better.

When Josh returned to class and sat in his little yellow plastic seat, we all gathered around and gave him our cards. Unfortunately, I was too young to actually grasp the concept of death and, more importantly, the mourning process. Even more unfortunately, our teacher never previewed our cards before having us present them to poor young Josh.

Though my card included some very kind words and lots of incredibly pretty, lifelike flowers that I was quite proud of, I had drawn them surrounding a black coffin. At the time, my idea of death was so immersed in skulls and tombstones and Halloween and funerals that I’d never realized that somebody in mourning may not want to be reminded of death with something as concrete as a coffin or a corpse. My well thought-out words of sympathy showed that I’d obviously grasped the concept of sentimentality. As for the concept of subtlety, I was clueless.

When I gently placed the card on the desk, with the coffin facing up, Josh looked at me with sad, wet eyes. He did not seem horrified or angry at my ignorance, but almost understanding. I remember to this day that very look, the way his eyes peered into me; and behind those eyes I recognized something unfamiliar. I think today, however, I'd have something to call it: "wisdom beyond his years".


At 1:41 PM, Blogger Laura said...

Good post and a very sad story. It's a shame when children have to go through such terrible things such as this. I'm just glad that this child had people around him that he could talk to about what happened. Even if all the children didn't understand fully the concept of the death of this poor boy's father, he was aloud to talk about it openly and had the other children to listen to his words. And that always helps one who is going through a painful situation whether they be very young or old.


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