Monday, December 17, 2012

Please don't

Please, don’t tell me “I’ll pray for you”

When a friend on Facebook loses a spouse, pet, family member, or otherwise encounters a downturn of one kind of another, I watch the repetitive posts of “I’ll pray for you” being put up on the friend’s page.  So what does “I’ll pray for you” really mean?  Are you praying because you have no intention of doing anything else but doing exactly what you’d been doing before, except that you typed “I’ll pray for you” on the person’s comment line? Is “I’ll pray for you” the new way of saying that you care but that you’re not going to, for whatever reason, get off your butt and do anything real to show your condolences or help the family in their time of need?

So you’re praying because you want to and not because it’s going to benefit the person in their hour of need.  Admit it.  You might believe that prayers work wonders, but nothing works wonders like getting out there and helping.  If you really wanted to help that friend, you’d actually “do” something.

When someone in a family died near us when I was growing up, my mom went into casserole mode immediately.  She made food for the family to eat after the funeral was over and nobody was going to want to cook.  She made comfort food because she knew they’d need it. She often filled their freezer with food, and then later on brought over baked goods and sandwiches.  She knew that it's hard to even function when you're in grief.  She did something.

Mom would offer to babysit the children if there were any, so that the folks could go attend to whatever they had to do for the funeral.  That's doing something.  When my uncle died, we flew to Illinois and mom immediately went into “doing laundry” mode so my aunt would have less to do while suffering in grief.  Helping could involve pitching in and helping with housework, yard work, or whatever.  It didn’t involve praying.  Mom got to work and tried to lighten the load.  Dad helped with things around the house as well.  Mom was the organizer of the help brigade.  She did something.

 When somebody in the family died, we’d go to visit the family left behind to say that we cared.  If they were far away we’d send handwritten notes and letters, but not just at funeral time, we’d do it later on so they’d know we remembered even after the funeral was over.  Mom taught us to “do” something.  True, this was in the age prior to Facebook, but even now, handwritten personalised notes are always appreciated more than a one line repetetive response on a computer.

 When my mom died, some family friends came to the house at first, but after the funeral was over, my dad, sister, and I were left sitting and looking at each other.  We weren't even able to think yet, much less function.  We had plenty of people that said “I’ll pray for you” to us, but you know, it was a non-effort on their part.  There was an empty house, empty fridge since we’d been busy with the funeral, and no food around.  There was nobody that came over to offer my dad to run to the store for him, because he was pretty devastated in his grief.  But there were plenty of “I’ll pray for you’s.” 
I've got to tell you, the Jewish way of "sitting Shiva" and having food brought to the house where friends are received for a week by the mourning family really beats the Christian way of having a funeral and maybe a quick lunch and then everyone going home for the grieving family.

 I also heard a lot of “god’s will” stuff when my mom died.  That’s when I stopped believing.  I got through it, so did my dad and sister somehow, but we were all so much more cynical as a result of it.

 So when my sister most recently died, I got a whole bunch of “I’ll pray for you’s” on Facebook.  I know people sometimes don’t know what to say, so I didn’t take offense.  But the one message I got was a handwritten letter from a month or two after from a dear friend that actually said something and let me know that he really cared.  And you know what?  He never once said that he’d pray for me.  And it was beautiful. 

 So if you want to pray yourself that’s fine, but leave me out of your feel-goodisms, ok? If you want to pray for the kids in CT’s families, I’m sure they’d rather you sent them a couple of dollars for a burial fund for their child, or how about sending a tray of food in a week or so when the families are dealing with the vacant chair at their dining room table.  Maybe you could send a couple of small toys for the rest of the children of the school.  How about maybe sending a small monetary gift if you can to the parents to be used to get the surviving kids some mental health help.  You could also do some volunteer work on their behalf.  But it all requires that you DO, rather than that you pray. 

 Also, how about not assuming that your Jesus holding their little lambs pictures are appreciated since quite a number of the families affected were not ardent, or even Christians?  Not everyone believes in Jesus, or even in god, though few are going to get into it on Facebook or wherever you’re posting the “I’ll pray for you”.  If you’re sorry for the loss, just say so. 

But whatever you do, please don’t say you're going to pray for me.

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