St. Patrick’s Day was a watershed day on the journey

St. Patrick’s Day 2015 will go down as a watershed day on my journey.

Much to my dismay I could not find anything green or Irish to wear this morning. As I frantically searched, I fondly remembered that my late wife Jean used to order me a snappy green boutonniere every March 17th when I was working at the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

As I reflected, a deep joy came over me as I remembered that typically sweet, loving gesture Jean made every year. It was vintage Jean. It was kind, imaginative and full of love. Jean always heard a different drummer and came up with cute, unique expressions of affection for everyone in the family. Her creativity made loving her a special adventure

It was a wonderfully delightful memory that I savored for several minutes.

And, that’s the watershed part.

That delightful memory triggered deep love, gratitude and affection instead of the grief it would have provoked just a few months ago. This time I savored. I didn’t sob. I didn’t tear up. The memory wasn’t full of regret and sadness.

I celebrated. Nine months after Jean’s death I have reached a point where memories are sweet celebrations of love and not debilitating moments of grief and sorrow.

I immediately went to the florist to buy a green boutonniere. Unsurprisingly, you had to have the foresight to order it in advance as Jean always did so thoughtfully.

So if you see me today you will not see a green boutonniere on my lapel, but I assure you it’s there on my heart. And, I am smiling, not crying. The journey goes on.

Tim J McGuire is the author of “Some People Even Take Them Home” A Disabled Dad, A Down Syndrome Son and Our Journey To Acceptance

Let a simple “I am sorry” suffice

At my wife Jean’s funeral, a long-time family friend who lost her mother three years ago, walked up to my daughter Tracy and said, “I know there is nothing I can say.”

That friend was so wise. She had been through it. She knew that well-meaning people have a great deal of difficulty saying the right thing to grieving family members. The grieving party simply wants to know you care. The last thing they want is advice, spiritual observations or explanations of why this horrible, terrible thing happened.

Death is so inexplicable, so profound and so disturbing for everyone that words become very complicated and fraught with danger. Some people are tempted to withdraw and avoid confronting the bereaved. That’s the wrong answer too.

I have found that a simple “I am very sorry,” is the most comforting thing I can hear. The people who run the risk of getting kicked in the shins are the nice folks who tell me how I feel. I have been told “you must be so devastated right now.” I am tempted to respond, “Actually I have been pretty good for the last hour, but you just screwed that up.”

Please don’t try to make yourself feel better by telling me what I am going through. You simply can’t imagine what it feels like. I knew in the last two weeks that Jean was going to die. Yet, I can honestly say I never imagined the reality of “dead.” It is simply overwhelming.

Without question the grieving party is carrying a lot of baggage from coping with that sudden reality, but the most sympathetic approach is to understand that baggage and simply express sorrow.