(Originally written: June 2, 2019)
When you lose someone you love, the people you still have left will look at you and say an iteration of the following two words:
I don’t know what they mean by that. In most cases, they did not kill the person you lost. They are just as powerless and mortal as you. Perhaps that’s what they’re apologizing for. They’re saying, “I’m sorry I can’t bring them back”. They understand the pain that you are feeling and know that if your loved one returned, the pain would be gone. But they can’t bring them back. Instead they apologize for not being able to do something even God can’t do.
So really they’re saying, “I’m sorry I can’t make you feel better”. They have felt what you are feeling and know that nothing can make it go away. Most condolences turn into platitudes and gestures are appreciated but don’t even dent the suffering. Even time, an oft called upon healer, only blunts the pain. Again, they want to help but they can’t.
Instead they say those two words. Maybe hug you before, during, or after. Then they leave with you on their minds and their imagined failure weighing down their hearts. It’s nothing short of arrogance to expect ourselves to surpass God. But it’s okay in this case as it is a sincere act of compassion.