Archive | April, 2012

I’m Sorry, But You Really Don’t Know How I Feel

17 Apr

This post is about something I’ve been thinking about for a while, but I haven’t gotten around to putting it into words. And since today has been exactly one month since the event that caused these thoughts, I figured today was as good a day as any other.

When someone dies, it’s natural to want to comfort those who were closest to that person. Obviously, they are grieving, even devastated. Even people on the periphery of a tragedy often need to be comforted. And that’s fine, but I think most of us realize that finding the right words is difficult. Nothing you say can bring that person back, so what’s the point? Still, you have to say something. But I really believe the absolute worst thing you can say is “I know how you feel.”

Let me explain why. One month ago, one of my very best friends, Meagan, lost her younger brother. He was 20 years old, and he was killed in a single car accident very early in the morning (or very late at night, depending on how you look at it). I was extremely upset about this, having known Taylor, and also just knowing Meagan and the rest of her family. The following Monday, I told my co-workers about this incident and asked them to pray for my friend and her family (I work at a Christian company, so this was normal). Everyone was very understanding, especially since I choked up while telling them about it, and several people said things to me like “we’re praying for them” and “I’m so sorry,” etc. But one person, who is an absolutely wonderful person, so this is nothing against them, said to me “I know how you feel Samantha, I really do.” I absolutely know that this person meant well, and was just trying to comfort me. And it’s not so much that it made me upset, it’s just that it’s kind of crazy how inaccurate and inappropriate that statement was.

I’m sure all they meant was that they had lost someone of a similar relationship, or in a similar circumstance, to the one I described. But the thing is, that doesn’t mean they knew how I felt. By it’s very definition, “I know how you feel” is totally false. Feelings are the absolute most personal and intimate thing we have. They’re completely internal, and even if you tell someone exactly how you feel, they still probably don’t know the whole story. So how can anyone ever “know how I feel?”

The reason this struck me so much is because of all the feelings I had about this loss. There was no way for anyone to know exactly how I felt. For one thing, I was truly sad because like I said, I knew the young man who was killed. He was such a wonderful person, and it was a tragedy that his life was cut so short. On the other hand, I am closer to his sister than I was to him. I was hurting terribly for Meagan, who had lost her only brother, who she was incredibly close with. Her life would never be the same, and that made me incredibly sad as well.

On top of that, just six months earlier, Meagan had married my best friend from high school, Patrick, in Austria. Jon and I attended the wedding, along with Meagan’s entire family of course. Over the four or five days we were all together (not to mention the other wedding events before and after), I got to know the entire family pretty well – her mom, step-dad, dad, step-mom, two sisters, and of course her brother. That wedding was one of the most fun times I’ve had recently, and I really came to know and love Meagan’s family. I will never forget during the wedding ceremony, when all the parents were asked to stand, and Meagan had four parents, instead of two. I had always thought of divorced families as being “more complicated” especially when it came to things like a wedding. But in Meagan’s case, it was so beautiful to realize that instead of complications, she just had more love. More parents to love her and be so happy for her on the most important day of her life. So when Taylor died, I was also hurting for the entire family, who I knew were all devastated. Knowing them all individually just multiplied the pain, realizing how much they were each individually hurting.

But it doesn’t stop there – because I, like Meagan, am also an older sister. I have two younger brothers who I love more than anything. One of them in particular is not much younger than Taylor was, and I couldn’t help thinking of him. What if this had been him? I know it’s a terrible way to think, but it was involuntary. It made me put myself in Meagan’s shoes even more, and it was almost immobilizing.

But one of the biggest ways that this tragedy affected me, and the main reason why no one could really know how I felt, was the memories that it brought back. My senior year of high school, my best friend Lauren was killed in a car accident very similar to the one that killed Taylor. That was the hardest time of my life, and while I still think of and miss Lauren every day, it’s not often that all the hard memories of her death come rushing back like that. I couldn’t help thinking of her and how devastated I was, and again projecting those feelings onto Meagan and putting myself in her shoes even more. Through each step of the days that followed Taylor’s death, I remembered how I’d felt at that stage after Lauren’s, and I felt those feelings all over again.

I hope this doesn’t come out sounding selfish or self-pitying, because I don’t mean it to. I was not even close to being the person most impacted by the tragedy of Taylor’s death, obviously. I was on the periphery, but I still needed to be comforted. And while everyone means well, and no one can ever know the right things to say, no one could have truly known how I felt. You never can. You never know what life events and relationships have colored the grief of someone who has lost a loved one. No matter how well you know them, you can never know how they feel. So tell them that you love them, that you’re there for them if they need to talk. Tell them you’re sorry for their loss, even though they’ll hear those words a million times. Most importantly, share your wonderful memories of their loved one with them. Sometimes that helps the most.

Just remember that you don’t know how they feel.


Painting Part Two

13 Apr

After my first (pretty successful) attempt at painting – described here – I figured since I’d bought all that paint, I might as well get some more use out of it.  So I picked up a couple of small 11″ x 14″ canvases and decided to paint something for my future niece, Evelyn Rose (who is scheduled to arrive in 3 weeks!!).  I’d seen some of the things my sister-in-law Amy had picked out for the nursery (she’s going for a colorful shabby chic look) so I tried to stick with the theme.  I didn’t do anything too impressive, but I’m especially pleased with the first one, which I gave to Chris and Amy at their baby shower.

Pretty cute right?  It was fun to paint, too.  For the second canvas, I wanted to do something a little different.  I decided to paint one of my favorite quotes (by one of my favorite people), which I thought would be great for a little girl’s room.  It’s never to early to start building up positive feminine values, right?

This one was quite tedious to paint, but I still enjoyed it.  There’s just one thing that bothers me about it, that almost makes me want to redo the whole thing: if I had rearranged a couple of the lines of text, I could have easily made the overall shape into a letter ‘E’ – for Evelyn!  I’m so kicking myself that I didn’t think of that, but it never occurred to me until I actually took this picture and looked at it. So close!!

Oh well, hopefully Evelyn likes it anyway.  And her parents, too – they actually haven’t seen this one yet.

Now, what should I paint next??

Easter Guacamole

9 Apr

This past weekend Jon and I traveled to Louisiana to celebrate Easter with my extended family (mom’s side) as per our usual tradition. Every year we have a big family reunion with all of my grandma’s family – her siblings and all of their various offspring. This year we were missing several people (including my two brothers, and a few other family units) and the total attendance was still around 50 to 60. We don’t mess around.

The different sides of the family usually take turns hosting, providing the main meal, appetizers, desserts, etc. and this year our side was assigned appetizers. Along with everything else, my mom came up with the idea of bringing guacamole – after all, who doesn’t love a good guac. Plus, we kinda have this awesome “family” recipe*. So, I was put in charge of the guac. I made a big batch of it Sunday morning, and let’s just say it was a hit. Several people told me how good it was, and asked for the recipe. My cousin Kerri, who had apparently discovered my blog recently, suggested that I put the recipe here for anyone who was interested. Such a smarty pants, that one. 😉 So this is for you Kerri!

Yeah I didn't take any pics of the finished guac.

Guacamole For A Crowd

This is based on the batch I made for a large group. There was plenty for the ~50 people who were snacking on it along with a lot of other snacks. You can of course adjust up or down very easily, and to be completely honest, I usually just guess at all of these measurements.

There are two keys to this recipe – cilantro, and NOT mashing the avocados. Everything else is negotiable. 

4 Roma tomatoes
1 small red onion
3 limes
1 orange
1 bunch cilantro (or if you’re shopping at Wal-Mart in a small town in Louisiana, you may have to purchase a tube of chopped cilantro…)
7 ripe avocados (leave them whole – follow the recipe for slicing)

Dice the tomatoes and onion and toss them in a large bowl. Squeeze in the limes and orange. Chop up as much cilantro as you’d like (I use a LOT, but you can adjust it to your taste) and stir it in. Season with salt and pepper and mix everything up.

Cut each avocado in half and scoop out each half into the bowl (tip: to remove the pit, after halving the avocado, take a sharp knife and tap it firmly into the center of the pit. Twist the knife and the pit should come loose. Then just scoop out the avocado in one piece with a spoon.)

Once you’ve added all the avocado halves to the bowl, take two knives and chop up the avocados in the bowl, leaving them pretty chunky. This is key. This makes the guac – chunky avocados. Once they’re pretty well chopped, you can mix everything up, which will naturally mash some of the avocado, which is fine. But you want most of it to remain chunky, so don’t stir any more than you have to. Then just taste it to check the seasoning, and enjoy with some tortilla chips!

*I should probably add that this “family” recipe originated from a restaurant called Boudro’s on the San Antonio River Walk. My family ate there years and years ago and ordered the table-side guacamole (and have since eaten there many more times and always ordered it again). They make the guac fresh at your table, and it’s amazing. Since they make it in front of you, the recipe isn’t exactly a secret, so my dad started copying it at home, and I took it from there.