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Moderated by : Eva Rosenberg mailto:email@example.com
Assisted By : Gunjan Saraf mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
26th September 2001 #
"True friendship comes when silence between two people
-- Dave Tyson Gentry
IN THIS DIGEST :
Moderator's Comment -
The Money Trail
How to write a condolence message
Real Life Death
The Garden needs weeding
~ J D Lentz
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I have had a very limited experience with death
(and I certainly can't say 'been there, done that').
But from the few experiences of near ones dying,
or near ones of friends dying, I've learnt a few lessons,
which if you bear with me I'll share with you. (This
issue of I-Laugh will be serious but I hope it's helpful.)
The first thing which comes to my mind is a conversation
I had with Dr. Sridhar. I don't recall what exactly had
prompted the discussion, but I remember asking Sridhar
about doctors getting desensitized to death and thus not
being as respectful of the dead.
And he had replied - "Sure, in a way it's very true. I'm a
doctor not a priest. There is nothing that I can do for the one
who is dead. My training prepares me only for the still living
whom I can and must look after. Thus my focus is completely
on the near and dear ones who are still alive and how I can
help them face their trauma. Due to my focus if I'm insensitive
to the dead, I'm sorry I can't help it, and I don't think I'm
doing anything wrong".
It had been such an eye opener for me. So many times
out of respect for the dead, or to respect his or her
wishes or in our zeal to pay our respects, we're being
so insensitive to the living. Take this incident as example.
Akash's father passed away around March this year.
At this time Akash's wife was pregnant. The burial was
conducted around noon with the hot Indian sun overhead.
So as it is we were concerned about her. Just before the
grave is lowered when the nearest ones say a few last words,
a little old lady said she wanted to say a few words and then
spoke for 15 full minutes.
The craziest part - After the funeral Akash, his mother and
close family were discussing and none of them had the
faintest idea who this grandma was!
Another thing related to Akash, a few of his ex-students
keep in touch with him regularly on the phone. One of them
didn't call for 3 months after his father's death. When she did
call here's how the conversation went -
"Hey, S, haven't heard from you for a long time, were you
out of station or just plain busy?"
"No Sir, I was right here, and not too busy .... but ... ummm ...
I didn't know what to say about your father ..... so I just didn't
"Oh I see! I understand, S. It's very difficult I know, and
even I'm still not very sure what are the best words to say
in a situation, like this. So I really do understand."
"But did you realize that because you didn't call I assumed
you were out of town. What if I'd needed your help? So
if you don't mind my saying so, in future please do call/write
to anybody who has lost a friend or relative. If you can't
think of anything better to say, just say you heard that -------
passed away. You're sorry. Is there anything you can do?"
So in this issue, as I know that all of us are already doing
our best for the living in terms of donating money/blood
etc., we'll discuss writing condolence messages for those
of us who are stuck for words and have not contacted
friends or other people we know who have lost somebody
in this disaster. If you have not already sent out condolence
messages to anyone you know who has lost somebody please
do so immediately. (According to etiquette a condolence message
can be sent anytime from hours after death to within 2-3 weeks
so it's not too late.)
I know this note has become too long, yet I'd like to recount
one more incident which will indicate why I say send a message
to anyone you know.
When I was just out of college, P's father died. I wasn't
too close to P so I wasn't sure whether I needed to go.
On asking my parents I was told of an old Indian saying -
"Never attend a wedding without an invitation, for a funeral
don't wait for an invitation." So I was packed off (I guess more
as a learning experience.)
As soon as I reached P's place, I was shocked that P gave
me a hug, cried for a moment on my shoulder and then
asked to me help dress up her father, for the burial.
Naturally I did, but I was still dazed as I knew P had a
great friend's circle. I knew they weren't the sort to ditch
her. So where were they all? I found out later, that P's
dad had been a Hindu by birth and converted to Christianity,
so some of his old family members (Hindus) were trying to
'redeem' him by having him cremated instead of letting him be
buried as per his wishes, and most of the near and dear ones
had all got caught up in that battle and that's why this poor
girl was almost all alone.
So don't assume that you don't know such and such too well,
and they'll definitely have much closer friends to help. Just go
ahead - visit, call or at least send a message.
P.S - Hope you've been keeping our sponsors happy.
They're the ones that keep us I-Laughing. Also
hope you've done your good deed for the day and
invited at least 2 of your friends to join I-Laugh.
Please, send any comments to:
===> The Money Trail
As I sit here, editing Gunjan's work, I am listening to
President Bush, finally, saying what I've been waiting
for him to say. He is going to freeze all the finances of
known terrorists and those who raise funds to help them.
No doubt, he has waited this long to say this because
he was waiting until he had agreements from the
civilized nations of the world that they would do the
same in their countries.
Had it not been so tragic, we would have found it
amusing that not only did Bin Laden cause all this
destruction, he also sold 'short' on a great many
stocks, in anticipation of their rapid drop in value after
the attacks. He was successful at generating a great
deal of profit - in Germany. Hopefully, those known
accounts, and those of anyone who had 'short sale'
orders of any magnitude at the time, around the world
will be frozen.
You see, this battle isn't really one of bombs, it is one
that will be won in the banks, in the long run. So, I am
jubilant that this bloodless battle has begun.
Your Comic Guide,
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===== New Discussions =====
====> Tips for writing a condolence message
You sit down with pen and paper to write a note of sympathy
to a friend. You sit for some time with the pen poised at the
top of the page, but everything you can think of saying sounds
trite or clichéd or fake. You want to be warm and supportive and
genuine. You want to say just the right thing. But you end up
feeling helpless and inadequate in the grip of writer's block.
For many people it seems easier to say nothing at all.
There are several reasons why people don't send condolence
messages. They may fear making a mistake and saying the
wrong thing. They may fear that contact may mean involvement,
which may cause us discomfort if the grieving person leans on
us too much. Or they may fear opening up their own feelings
about mortality and the possibility of being alone.
A condolence letter is a message of compassion and an
acknowledgement of loss generally experienced as comforting
to those in grief. Don't let your fear of saying the wrong
thing stop you from saying anything at all!
Here are some tips for writing your condolence letter:
Acknowledge the loss. Phrases expressing your shock
and sorrow are perfectly acceptable here. Mention the
deceased by name.
Express your sympathy. Let the grieving person know
you care. It is permissible to use the word death and to
mention the cause of death.
Note special qualities of the deceased. Write about those personality
traits you valued. If you did not know the deceased
you may have to do this by reputation or write something that
helps the grieving person know the value of their loved one.
Recount a memory about the deceased. This personalizes
your letter. Share an anecdote or tell how this person influenced
your life. Do not avoid humorous incidents; these can be
affirming, especially if the deceased was known for his or
her sense of humor.
Note special qualities of the bereaved person. The loss of
a loved one can be traumatizing and make the bereaved question
his or her own ability to handle things. This is the time for offering
support to the bereaved.
Offer assistance. Do not use the phrase "If there is anything I
can do, please call me." That puts too much of a burden on the
grieving party. Offer something specific...grocery shopping,
watching children, running errands, walking the dog, cutting
the lawn or any other kind of service is greatly appreciated.
Remember that the person may be dealing with changes and
sorrow in their life for quite some time, so while they may not
take you up on your offer of assistance now it may be very
welcomed at some future time.
Close with a thoughtful word or phrase such as "Our
love is always with you," or "You're in my thoughts."
is the time to express your support.
There are a few things to avoid when it comes to condolences.
"Be thankful you're young and can have another child."
(Or "Be thankful you have your other children.")
"You must get on with your life."
"It really was a blessing, you must be relieved."
"You are lucky to have had him for so long."
While expressing your sorrow and support through a
condolence letter may feel awkward or may make you
feel vulnerable yourself, you can be sure that your efforts
will be appreciated by the grieving person. Your ability to
relate to them at this important time will help them feel
less isolated and will help sustain them through a difficult
Gunjan's Note - Please remember these are just tips.
Follow whichever of the tips you feel comfortable with,
and how close you were to the deceased or the person/family
you are writing too. If you follow all the tips there is a chance
your note may be too long especially if you weren't too close
to the deceased. So use your own judgment finally, but I
feel these are excellent tips or guidelines.
===> Real Life Death
Death, like this, is too harsh to contemplate.
Sadly, though, I am not a stranger to death. Most of the
people I have loved most, who have been closest to me,
The earliest, in my memory, was my mother. I can't tell
you when she died. Why? Because no one told me.
My father was the most wonderful, joyful, vibrant man
you could ever meet. He never had a negative thing to
say about anyone or anything. Nor did he permit such
things to be said in his presence. The other side of this
goodness was, my father was incapable of speaking of
unhappy things. So, when my mother died, he was
incapable of telling me.
I finally learned about my mother's demise at a very
odd place and time. At a birthday party for my cousin,
my aunt tried to pull me away from the other children
to talk to me. Something about her manner felt wrong
to me, so I didn't want to go off alone with her.
Finally, losing patience, she just blurted out, "I've
been trying to tell you - your mother is dead."
I was furious with her. And I marveled, why would an
adult make such mean jokes. Well, you know the answer
to that. She wasn't joking. I was five years old.
There's more, but you don't need to read about it.
Why do I bring this up here? Many children have lost
their parent or parents. And many families are faced with
how to speak to them. They want to make things easier,
better, less terrible.
My friends, your little children are not stupid. They are
not ignorant. They are not blind, or deaf. They are just
In my case, I knew there was something wrong. My
father had been uncharacteristically subdued for some
time. He refused to tell me why.
But, I will admit, the last time the ambulance came to
take her away (and there had been many previous times),
I feared that I would never see my mother again. They lied
and claimed that she would be right back. Soon.
Don't lie to your children. Or nieces. Or nephews. Or
Hold them close and tell them the truth.
You needn't be graphic.
But respect them enough to answer their questions.
They need to get their heads around this whole experience.
And understand, they want to please you. So, if you can't
bear to talk about it, they will back off from asking you
For all of my childhood, I believed that I had caused my
mother's death. That had to be why my father wouldn't tell me.
I had been so bad. I had caused her heart attack.
Shortly before I got married, my step-mother took me aside
and told me that, when I talked to my gynecologist about
birth control pills, he would need to know about the history
of cancer in my family. He would need to know that my
mother had died of breast cancer. I can't tell you how shocked
I was to learn that she hadn't died of a heart attack!
You don't have any idea how your children will internalize
the information you give them. Remember, children only
know a small part of the world. They often believe that they
are responsible for things around them. Don't give them an
excuse for guilt.
Your child might think, if I had stayed home from school,
sick, dad wouldn't have gone to work. He'd be alive now.
If I hadn't had a tantrum, mom wouldn't have run off to
work early. She'd be alive now.
Don't be afraid to laugh. Don't be afraid to remember
something warm and funny and laugh with your child.
And don't chide them for laughing at inappropriate times.
Find out, gently, what they viewed as funny.
Many years ago, a very close cousin of my father, a Holocaust
survivor died. At his funeral, my cousin, Judy and I, standing
together near the grave, looked at each other and started
giggling. We both had the same black thought, at the same
time: This is a dress-rehearsal for her father's imminent funeral.
Les, my uncle, her father, was dying, too. She was an only child
and had been having such a hard time facing losing her father.
This was the first time she'd laughed since we'd learned he was
terminal. When we told her father, later that day, he roared!
Les never lost his sense of humor. Why should we?
You see that the late-night comedians are finding it so hard to
find an appropriate way to bring humor back. They must.
We will grieve. But we must laugh.....or we will be like those
Holocaust survivors who have never moved on with their
lives. Fifty years later, people close to me still live with the
horror and transmit the stress to those around them.
Other Holocaust survivors have gone on to get the best
revenge - living well!
And so, friends. Live well and prosper.
Your humbled Comic Guide,
====> The Garden needs weeding
After the first issue of Jest for Pun that I sent out, after Sept 11.
I received this note from J D (the doc) Lentz. I found it really
beautiful so I'm sharing some parts of it with all of you.
(Hope you don't mind Doc!)
Your introduction is perfect, Gunjan. Words cannot heal pain,
and yet we presume them to be mightier than the sword. In
furor at the unspeakable horror brought to our doorstep, we
cannot find words, so we itch to reach for our guns. Vengeance
is in our blood -- "blood will have blood, they say."
There are some things which we cannot, maybe dare not, equal.
Those who prepared and carried out this unthinkable act do
something which we cannot -- they allow the darkest thoughts
which flitted across their minds to enter therein while those others
of us refuse it a place to stay. Even in our desire to strike back at
such a moment, we must recognize that we cannot become that
which we abhor.
That single thing that gives rise to a civilized nation and a civilized
man is what was absent from these animals this past week: restraint.
Restraint is the only thing that we practice which keeps us from
the degradation that those without restraint can exhibit. But it is
a two-edged sword. In practicing restraint from committing abominable
we make ourselves vulnerable to attack by
those who do not have any. So that thing that we must consider
is simply this: do we give up the restraint that we have learned
and put into our hearts so we will not be like these men who
have done this, or do we demonstrate to them that the only difference
between us is something which we have chosen to
do and can just as easily choose to put aside?
And so all decent men choose.
And then, as reward for that, we become what we have
chosen. We are the result of the choices, and we are such
because we are able to recognize that we have choices. No,
we cannot let such unspeakable horror go unfettered. Just as
we have put it away from our own hearts, so we must put
these animals away from those they can harm. We must
for every decent man's sake. But we must do so with sorrow
that it needs to be done, with shame that those who appear
as we do still have no control of the darkness that surrounds
them, and with a steadfastness of belief that what we do, we
do of necessity, not merely because we can.
I hear no applause for this act around the world. The world
does not see this as a gallant or brave deed. No parades
will welcome the memories of this act; no grief will be shed
over the death of those who piloted those planes; they will
not be memorialized with statues, nor prayed for at any
gatherings, nor protected from their destiny. The world will
find no purpose in the destruction they have created, there
will be no vainglorious victory over the West precipitated by
this destruction; there will be no groundswell of the Eastern,
or Northern worlds to follow this act with others of
its kind in order to destroy the Western savage that we are
viewed as being. This is a wound that angers, not
tempers. This is a wound that creates strength in its
overcoming. This is not a crippling blow.
We must demonstrate morality and wisdom, because we are
held to a higher standard.
I doubt we shall ever stop mourning this moment nor recover
from the extent of the loss. There is a darkness that pervades
it and tempts us to it. I pray we do not go with that seductress,
but perform as we must without giving this evil any power
through recognition. To that seductress I would say, be gone
to hell with you and those you have seduced. You shall have
none of me or of any good man's heart from this place or
this moment. The ground is too hallowed, so be gone, now
and forever. Be gone.
===== Replies =====
Thanks for the column it all helps.
An artist - Duncan Long has designed 2 graphic flags.
He is letting you use them free...The url is:
One flag is being used
quite a bit that says "Our Colors do Not Run"..
Thought all our Laughmates might be interested...
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