Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Telling

We are overwhelmed with the incredibly sad news of the events on December 14 in Newtown, Connecticut. 

One of the most wrenching details for me was about the way frantic parents had gathered awaiting news of their children.  One by one, children and parents were reunited, until—finally—there was only a handful of parents remaining.  While there was a protocol that was to be followed, apparently the governor of Connecticut thought that prolonging those parents’ agony was simply cruel, so he straightforwardly told them—if your child isn’t with you, they aren’t coming home.
Some people have criticized the governor for being so blunt.  But, his approach was the right one.

I don’t know if you have ever been in a situation where you have to be the one to tell the bad news.  I have. 
Many years ago, my father-in-law suffered a catastrophic health event, a dissecting aortic aneurysm.  He was rushed to the local hospital, and family members were quickly summoned.  We all gathered in the critical care unit awaiting news of his status as he underwent diagnostic tests.  During that time, the assembled family decided that someone needed to travel to his home town and be with his elderly mother.  That lot fell to me.

When I reached the home, I tried to comfort Grandma as best I could.  My father-in-law was her eldest child and very much a mainstay for her.  Suddenly, the phone rang.  When I answered, it was my husband calling to inform me that his father had not pulled through, and had died even before he could be operated on.  Something in my tone of voice tipped Grandma off—and, even though “the plan” was to wait until the pastor arrived to tell her, she demanded: Is he dead?

I had a choice—I could have postponed responding, temporizing and delaying the news until the pastor arrived, or I could answer her straightforwardly and honestly.  I chose the latter.

I replied simply: Yes, Grandma, he’s gone.  Immediately she began wailing and rocking back and forth.  After a bit, as I held her, she calmed down a bit.  I read some of the Psalms to her as she quieted.  Of course, my immediate telling in no way lessened her grief, but it gave her immediate information instead of making her stay in a suspended state, fearing and guessing the worst all the while hoping against hope it wasn’t true.

Of course, I don’t know if Governor Malloy was going through a similar calculus, but his decision to tell immediately was a small kindness in the midst of horrific grief. 

5 comments:

Beverly said...

I had not heard that. What a decision to be left to him. How hard that must have been.

Liza Lee Miller said...

I agree completely. I was struck by how painful that news must have been but also by how awful it would have been to deliver it. Still waiting longer would have been so unkind.

I was reading about the grandfather who lived near the school who ended up with a group of kids in his house who had fled. Hours after they'd been reunited with their families, a mother showed up at the door, hoping against hope that he had her child there. He didn't and when he looked at the names after they'd been released, her child's name was on the list.

The Governor's kind bluntness ended her frantic search and let her move to grief, I'm sure.

Everything about this is awful. Thank you for finding a glimmer of light in the news of that day.

Anvilcloud said...

Malloy was spot on ... as were you.

NCmountainwoman said...

In my nursing career I had many occasions to assist in informing family members that a loved one had died. I have little doubt that the direct way is best...the simple truth sincerely and compassionately spoken.

Climenheise said...

I remember the funeral afterwards. "Rejoice, the Lord is King ...." Grief and joy flow mingled down.