By Tracy Lee
Yesterday, as I was working in my office, one of my assistants asked me if she should publish a memory submitted on our website. I asked her why she wouldn’t, and she read this submission to me.
“Helen was her youngest sister, not her daughter. She was my ‘difficult’ Aunt. She was lonely because she was the meanest person anyone ever met. No one could stand (to be) around her. She did her best to ruin her daughter’s life and actually succeeded. There are no warm gentle memories of her because she lacked the ability to be compassionate or kind or loving. My uncle said she was mean because she was raised by their grandparents. I don’t know what that means. She was a toxic human and even (though) her faith was strong I will never believe she learned what it meant to be a loving, kind human.”
It just so happens that the woman whom this writer describes was a friend of mine. I buried her a few years ago. Upon her death, I wrote an article about her entitled “A Difficult Woman.” While my friend was indeed a difficult woman, she was not mean. At least, in the latter years of her life, when I became friends with her, her meanness was gone. She did, however, remain awkward and somewhat unapproachable.
The issue for my friend was that as her mortality became a looming reality, she desired to make amends with those whom she had become estranged. Unfortunately, during that last stage of life, she lacked the social skills and physical strength to obtain her goal. In her innermost self, however, my friend wanted friends, she tried her very best to be friendly. Unfortunately, my friend did not know how to become the person she so desperately wanted to be: an approachable, friendly person.
I instructed my assistant to publish the posting. Although the words are unflattering to my friend, she probably earned them. As she is deceased, her niece’s words will not harm her, however, not publishing them would stifle the writer’s recovery from the pain of grief, the sting of abuse, and the opportunity of peace.
My friend may not have been the kindest woman to her niece. However, knowing her as I did, I know that although she would have found it difficult to express her sorrow for her dreadful actions toward her niece, she would have wanted me to assist her survivors in any way possible to recover from any ill behavior she may have imposed during her lifetime.
While it is true that none of us is perfect, at the moment of death, imperfection is frozen.
Unfinished business remains unfinished; estrangement remains estranged, meanness remains mean, etc.
Death robs the living of the opportunity for resolution and blocks the comfort of peace.
My friend is dead. Her unkind and thoughtless deeds toward others, however, remain as painful reminders of a legacy she strove daily to overcome. Unfortunately, her imperfection is frozen in her niece’s heart, and, I fear, in many others.
I wish my friend’s niece could have known her toward the end of her life. Perhaps she would have met the woman that I knew; a woman struggling to overcome lifelong habits distasteful even to herself.