Acts of Empathy

empathy

When someone dies, there is an entire cavalry of people who dash to offer the griever the comfort they know that they themselves would need.  In a world inundated with violence and hate there are a whole group of people with a whole lot of love just waiting to share it.  I know this because I have experienced this during the darkest time of my life.

A week before my father died he was rushed to the hospital by ambulance. 

Immediately following that ambulance ride all these beautiful acts of empathy were displayed.  One by one, friends near and far were reaching out with one purpose in mind, to display acts of kindness and compassion during my family’s darkest moments.

And here are those acts of empathy as I remember:

The nurse taking care of my father sat with me outside my father’s room as I sipped a cup of coffee.  She touched my shoulder as I cried and said, “I know how you feel, I lost my Dad after a long illness.” Nurses are busy people!  This woman had an entire floor of sick patients but made the time to console ME.

A friend made a point of asking me every single morning for a status update.  One particular morning all I could say was “I hate all the tubes and wires sticking out of him, there are so many.” Tears filled both of our eyes and we kinda just remained there in a very comforting moment of silence.

Other friends were calling and texting non stop to see how my family was coping.

A week later my father died surrounded by his family. 

As far as death’s go it was a beautiful send off.  My Dad went straight to heaven, this I know for sure.  His suffering ended and ours was just beginning.  We needed our friends and family more than ever and they knew it.

Immediately following my father’s death more beautiful acts of empathy were displayed.  I’m not sure how or why but something as heartbreaking and tragic as my father’s death set off a chain of events that kept my head above water, these acts gave me a very tiny glimpse into a very tiny light during such a dark time.

And here are those random acts of empathy I so vividly remember:

My mom’s neighbor came by with a platter of sandwiches and cookies.  She sat on the couch held my moms hand and quietly listened.

Another neighbor delivered dinner for the next two nights.  She sat on the couch, held my mom’s hand and prayed with her.

A platter of sandwiches arrived from friends with a note that said, “We love you.”

Flowers, beautiful flowers were arriving with even more beautiful messages.

Friends called, texted and called again despite me losing my voice and not answering my phone.  Their messages were, “when you’re ready we are here for you”

Family and friends began sending old photos of my Dad.  With each photo they wrote a memory of my Dad.  I loved seeing the photos, new and old.  It was like looking into a mirror and seeing a part of me.

And the cards, so many beautiful cards were sent to my home, my mother’s home and my sisters home.  Each card was accompanied with a beautiful note.  I knew my Dad was an awesome guy, but these notes supported my theory!  Some of the stories even put a smile on my face and made me giggle. Each note was like receiving a big virtual hug.

I understand death is something so many would rather just not deal with unless it’s their inner circle.  It’s that giant white elephant in the room.  I’ve even written about people, family who have disappointed me by their cold non reaction to my grief.  People who have met my father, spent holidays with my father and never even took 5 seconds to express condolences.

Look I get it, there was a time when I would have totally rather done anything other than pay respects for some dead guy.  I’ve done it myself, we all do.  But now death has taken my one and only father, the man who raised me.  My best friend, the guy you met.  The guy who asked about you regularly despite the monster he was battling.  Death has hit home now.

I can only hope that all these wonderful acts of empathy have opened my eyes and will enable me to be a better person, to shower others with random acts of empathy when they are being pulled into the black hole of grief.

“Empathy is pain’s best antidote…The pain doesn’t go away, but somehow or other, empathy gives the pain meaning and pain with meaning is more bearable.”

Ann Finkenbeiner

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