I had some kind of weekend. Not the good kind. The “dreaded phone call” kind. And from that, I reached to something I wrote from my own website www.lisafischersaid.com I posted after our best friend died. Below is the edited version of that post.
I present to you:
Tips for that Grieving Friend
I, like so many people, have experienced grief. I have told publicly many times my story about losing my mother and custodial parent when I was 12, and how I was plucked up from my home in Gretna, LA, a suburb of New Orleans and sent to live with cousins in Arkansas for whom I am eternally grateful. The first cousin who adopted me became my mother, and I’m sad to report, she died over the weekend. Suddenly. She was 76 and was in good physical health but had experienced considerable mental decline.
- Don’t say, “call me if you need anything.” Those in grief don’t know what they need. They probably can’t even think of your name if pressed. Grief affects memory. Just do something for the grieving family.
- Don’t stay too long when serving them. If you take food, drop it off. Then scoot out the door. Those in grief have a hard time watching you in those awkward moments where you are weeping more than the grieving family.
- Don’t say, “God needed an angel.” Or “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” Neither is biblical. Just stop it.
- “I know how you feel.” No, you don’t. You haven’t lost the loved one that person lost. Everyone’s grief is so unique.
- “When my (husband, brother, wife, mother, sister, daughter) died, I…” No one asked you. I hate to be blunt. But come on. You had your time. Just listen.
Now some things you can say and do.
- “I’m sorry.”
- “I will miss your loved one, too.”
- “I have a housekeeper coming tomorrow.” This was something I did for my best friend when her 56 year-old husband dropped dead. Even though she’s my bestie, I asked her, “would you rather strangers come clean your home or friends?” She quickly answered, “strangers.” I got the message loud and clear. She didn’t want to be judged by friends on her home. I get it. So Molly Maid came a couple of times and that helped her so much.
- We live in the south. We always feed people when someone dies, a baby is born, or a new neighbor moves in. Food is always a great idea. You can begin a meal train by using an online source for people to sign up.
- Take paper products. Those don’t spoil.
- What about clothing? I know this sounds petty but depending on family size, everyone needs funeral clothing. Some families have different standards than what you have so find out. New clothes? Thrift store clothing?
- Clean up the family’s yard or wherever they will be receiving guests.
- Plant flowers or have something nice in the front yard to show signs of life in the home.
- Help with the obituary if you’re a writer. It’s one way I knew for certain I could serve my friend. My friend Christina and her family still thank me often.
- The Bible says to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, grieve with those who grieve.” There is a time for both. They will see joy again; it just might take more time than you could ever imagine.
Here is the obituary I wrote for today’s newspaper.
Sherry Jones Gibson, 76, of Dermott, passed away in her home in Dermott, Ark. July 13. She was born in Crossett, Ark. and a proud majorette with the marching band for the Crossett Eagles. Sherry was predeceased by her parents, James (Jimmie) Clyburn Jones and Earl Jones, and her son, Dan. She is survived by her husband of 56 years, Charles Sidney Gibson; daughter, Lisa Fischer (Kris) of Little Rock and Chuck of Little Rock and Dermott and Gina Ware Gibson of Dermott, the mother of her grandchildren. She is survived by her seven grandchildren, Kristen Gibson and Charles Gibson of Little Rock; twins Madeline Gibson of Atlanta and Courtney Gibson Endsley of Dermott; Sidney Fischer Head (John) of Little Rock; Gibson Fischer and Anna Margaret Fischer of Dallas; one great grandchild, Kameron Kay Head of Little Rock, a brother K. C. Jones (Stacy) of Little Rock and an aunt, Sherwin Skidmore of Dermott.
Sherry’s life was characterized by artistic endeavors, breeding and showing her beloved golden retrievers, and even raising horses in her own backyard. Sherry was the one who decorated her house for Christmas in big ways before it was a trend which characterized the way she approached all of her projects. She never did anything in a small way or because other people did it. In the 70s, she got interested in tennis and charmingly convinced the small town of Dermott to build a tennis facility.
She was known for her generous spirit including taking in her 12 year-old first cousin in the 70s whom she raised as her only daughter. She moved Lisa into the boys’ bedroom so she could be accommodated with all the things a 12 year- old wanted.
She attracted media attention with her unique style. The Arkansas Gazette once featured her in a fashion segment that showed her status as southeast Arkansas’ style icon and quoted her daughter by calling Sherry “the Joan Collins of Dermott.”
Sherry was a trail-blazer in everything she did. She started going west to Snowmass at Aspen to take her family skiing in the 70s. She and Charles Sidney even hosted a high school group of students to Crested Butte, Colorado, in the early 80s. That’s the year the skiing for spring break was known as “mud skiing” due to the warm temperatures.
Once internet access came to Dermott, it gave Sherry an outlet to entertain the world. Her “dog show pals” as she called them were able to chat with SherryLiketheWine on the reg. Her friends even bought the domain name and gave her a website which has since gone dark. She received the moniker “SherryLiketheWine” when her friends would ask her what her name was, and when she answered, she would say, “Sherry, you know, like the wine.
Son Chuck began practicing law with her husband and that brought her so much joy. Chuck’s family continued to grow with four children in three years so Sherry was called in often for back-up. Sherry worked at Gibson Law Office for years as a helper for the Gibson men, but she probably spent more time getting to know the clients than actually preparing legal briefs.
Her legacy is her unique style and her fierce loyalty to her husband and children. In a battle, you’d want SherryLiketheWine by your side.
Arrangements are pending and will likely be held at the end of the month at Dermott Presbyterian Church where Sherry had been a member since she moved to Dermott after her husband finished law school in 1970. Arrangements by Griffin-Culpepper Funeral Service of McGehee, Ark. Online guest book may be signed at www.griffinculpepper.com.