Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Importance of Showing Up

My father died when I was twenty-two. My mother didn't arrange an official funeral or wake or, you know, public gathering. It was a very private goodbye and consequently people had no real vehicle or method or deadline to express their condolences. I remember feeling devastated and very alone during that time, and it was one of those periods where I gained a new perspective on what it means to be a friend.

When we're young, we don't know what to say to someone who's faced something awful. We want to say something--we want to say the right something--but we're sort of at a loss of what that is and we're afraid of saying  the wrong something, so very often we wind up saying nothing.

One particular gesture from that time has stuck with me ever since. A childhood chum of mine drove up from my old hometown to take me out to dinner and talk about my dad. Three hours on the highway up, an order of enchiladas (with no rice or beans) for dinner, two hours of talk and assurances that my father had done more living in his 52 years than most people could fit into 90, and then three hours on the highway back. I was so touched by this gesture of friendship and what I learned that night is the value of showing up.

A week ago Mark and I attended the funeral of the father of one of my high school students. His death was an accident and a shock. I didn't really know the man, except from back-to-school night and similar functions, and it's been at least 15 years since his son was my student. But I had an impression of the family from things the son had said (and the character that he exhibited) and I had a sense that this family of 7 was extraordinary because of their closeness and humor, which were obvious to anyone who even brushed up against them.

The funeral was held about an hour and a half drive from my home, and I had all the reasons in the world not to attend. It's not like I would be missed. But ever since my father's death, I've understood that it's important to show up. So I did.

Over time I've seen that this doesn't just apply to funerals. In big ways, in small ways, it applies to everything.

Friends show up.

That's not to say that if you don't show up, you're not a friend. I can't be everywhere and I sure don't expect my friends to be everywhere, either. But the friends who show up are remembered and appreciated and treasured.

And even in this small way, here you are.

Thank you for showing up.


Kylie said...

I can really relate to this.

This summer my Grandpa passed away. We knew that it was coming but it was terrible when it happened. At the funeral there was so many people there that I didn't know knew my grandpa. My first grade teacher, the old guy's from the coffee shop, the checkout lady from the grocery store. Everyone was there. I will always remember the group of people that were there for my family. And then a month later at the county fair everyone was coming up to us and telling us their fond memories of my grandpa.

It was nice. Nice of them to be there for us.

Papa if you are reading this, just know that I love you and miss you.

Have a great week everybody.


Jessica said...

I've been guilty of putting things off until I find the perfect way to say it or have more time, but then it gets forgotten.

But I remember at my grandmother's funeral how many of my mom's friends showed up, many of whom had never even met my grandma, and how moved my mom was (and confused, until we pointed out they were there for her). It was comforting to know that when the rest of us went back to our far-flung homes, she'd still have a loving support system there.

Since then, I've tried to make more of an effort, but your post has inspired me to try harder. Especially since you never know when a goodbye will become the final goodbye you ever say to someone. (My family always says "I love you" when saying goodnight or leaving the house or hanging up the phone. I should do something similar with friends.)

I'm sorry for the loss of your father. May your memories bring you comfort in those moments when you especially miss him.

Caradith Craven said...

Your dad would be so proud of the person you are today. It's not just the talents, successes and's the loving, caring way you live your life with honesty and integrity that keeps his legacy alive.

Amanda from Seattle said...

I totally relate to this post. When my Mom died, I was thrilled to have a friend from work make the effort to come out and I made her come back to the house with the family (she was reluctant, but I really needed to have her with me) It kept me centered and able to keep it together on a tough day. I will always remember that!!

strugglingwriter said...

"Friends show up."

This is so very true.

Excellent post.

Yusa said...

It's nice to be shown that people care...

Unknown said...

at this camp thing i went to last week, at night they always have meetings were a paster preaches and stuff, and friday night i think, he was talking about this guy he knew who had a handy-capped son. Then he kept telling us stories about the guys son until he showed us a video made of the guy. He was everywhere, running, swimming, lots of sports. And after that the preacher dude told us that that guy once said to his dad, "Dad, I want to run in that race and help that school."
And his dad replied, "But how? Who will run with you?"
And he said, "Dad, I want you to run with me"
Some people cried when they watched the video,
the look on his face was pure joy.

Unknown said...
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Yusa said...

This girl in my english class said "Oh my gosh i love your converse. Where'd you get them? I have so many and i always want them on my birthday or christmas because i love them!"
me: "Yeah, i like them too."
me inside: OMG, OMG! Because her name is..... SAMMY!

Isabel said...

Lol wish i was there to see that sadly i could not.... to Yusa. :)
Oh to Wendalin Van Draanen,
It is nice to have friends by u :)

Optimistic4ever said...

It's really great when friends are there for you. I've never actually known someone who passed away, but it's true for bad days too. Everything seems to be going wrong, and you're all snappy but there's the one friend who'll just sit there with you and it makes you feel a whole lot better. I guess it's the same concept.

Jessica said...

Today would have been my grandma's 90th birthday. I made sure to call my mom. At first, she acted like I had reminded her, making me feel bad for bringing it up, but then she admitted that she had bought two pieces of my grandma's favorite cake for her and my dad's dessert tonight.

Anniversaries (birth, death, wedding) and holidays can be tough, and it's nice when others remember, no matter how long it's been.

O4E -- you're right; it's just as nice to have someone that will let you be grouchy sometimes. And someone to tell you off for being grouchy for too long!

Gabrielle said...

I did have someone in my family that died a few years back,but I didn't remember him,but my mom was upset which made me upset,it was really sad. Anyways this is so off topic but,I had a book fair at school and they had that jack gantos book,and they had flipped! Obviously I bought them! So I'm pretty excited to read them. :)

AbaGayleb said...
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AbaGayleb said...

My uncle passed away of an overdose January 2011. We got a call from my grandfather, but I thought it was my uncle. I told my Dad,"I think it's uncle Pat."
No, it was just about him. I remember that day like it was yesterday, and I regret ever saying those words. I will tell you, though, my last words to him were 'goodbye,' and 'I love you.'
I'm very glad of that.
And my uncle wasn't exactly the most trustworthy, best guy ever, but all of his high school friends, his family, his daughter's friends showed up. He was loved. And I believe by showing up, you can reassure someone of that.

g said...

awww (: