One Thing Grieving People Want us to Know

Last week we had our carpets cleaned. As I was talking to the Larry the cleaner guy, he noticed and commented on a framed note one of our daughters wrote when she was about 5 years old.IMG_3323

“Do you have kids?” I asked.

“Yeah, I have five kids. Actually, I had five. One died.”

“Oh”, I said. “I’m so sorry. When did that happen?”

“18 years ago” he responded. “Matthew was 6 years old. He died of cancer.”

It was clear he wanted to talk and I wanted to learn from him, so I asked him to tell me about his experience and his son.

Larry is a Christian and shared what his church community had done at the time that had carried them and showed them the love of God. But the one time he teared up was when he said, “But then it stopped. And no one asked how we were doing anymore. And no one talked about Matthew – how they missed him, or what they loved about him. The kids his age went on and grew up and no one talked about Matthew anymore. And that’s the painful part.”

This is what I hear over and over again from people who have lost a loved one.

“We don’t want you to forget our person.”

“We want you to tell us what you remember and what you loved and what you miss. A month after they’re gone, or a year, or 18 years.”

Often, I think we may be afraid if we bring up the name of someone who has died, it will make our friends sad, butI’m trying to learn from those who have lost people they love, and they’re telling me something different. Don’t be afraid of the emotion. Tears may be those of joy mixed with sadness and gratitude.

I didn’t know Matthew, but the next time Larry comes to clean our carpet I’m going to make a point to ask him what he loved the most about Matthew.

I’m going to call my mom and re-tell some special stories about my grandparents.

I’m going to write my cousin and tell her what I miss about her mom.

And today when I saw a friend at church who had lost his wife of 60 years, I asked what he missed most.  “Her bossiness.” he said with a smile and teary eyes.

Is there someone you might remember today?


  1. “It was clear he wanted to talk and I wanted to learn from him, so I asked him to tell me…”

    Love this part. Like David Brooks says in his new book, the foundation of character building is humility.

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