Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Big Small Thing

Several months ago, a friend of mine told me about a neighborhood acquaintance who had died by suicide, leaving behind a wife and three children.

(Aside: I used to think that if only my son had had children, he could have survived; surely he would have found a way to live for them.  I have learned that, as with just about everything else related to suicide, my gut assumption was wrong.)

My friend told me that he felt so helpless; he had no idea what to do.

"Mark your calendar for six months from now," I said, "and invite them to dinner.  By then everyone will have drifted away, and most people will have no idea how searing the pain is with which they live every  minute.  Just invite them to dinner and make space for conversation."

This afternoon, after a meeting at church, he reminded me of our own conversation  and said, "They're coming for dinner tonight."

I had, of course, completely forgotten our discussion, but it's the same suggestion I make to everyone who has the courage to admit not knowing what to do.  Mark your calendar.  Six months, nine, a year, three years, whatever.  I promise you that, in the absence of an announcement by the bereaved family, yours will be almost the only note or call or invitation they receive.  And that it will mean more than you will ever know.


  1. What a solid suggestion. Thank you, Robin. I know you deeply know how it is to survive. Love to you.

  2. I would call it a small BIG thing. As always, I appreciate your insight. In 1990 my parents were in an accident which claimed by father's life and paralyzed my mother. She too, as a survivor, noticed that people just stopped dropping by or calling on her.

  3. This is a perfect suggestion. Friends just seem to disappear after a death, and there is a natural inclination to withdraw for awhile. I will forever be thankful for a certain friend who just wouldn't let me retreat even further.

  4. Thank you for telling us all that, Robin. Good to know.


  5. Thank you for this. Like so many responses to unspeakable loss, so simple, so obviously a wonderful idea-- and so hard for people to think of on their own.

  6. I have done this, at your suggestion, and while I hope the family was "helped" or "comforted" I know that *I* was moved beyond measure.

    You help me (and others) to slow down and to savor the ability to do these kinds of small/big things. I thank you for that.