Two weeks ago, on March 4th, one of my best friends lost his father very suddenly. He was seemingly healthy, active & by all accounts, led a very full life.
And yet one minute he was here, and the next minute he was gone.
His death came just seven days after my birthday, when I shared this post about my own experience with my father's death exactly 10 years ago. My father--who also transitioned very suddenly--passed away on the day before my 28th birthday, so it's a date I've never forgotten. And it's eerie how I publicly shared these words about that time in my life just days before his father's death, completely unaware that I was actually talking directly to someone in my inner circle.
As you can imagine I've spent much of the last 2 weeks thinking a lot about grief, death, friendship, love & how we care for those closest to us. This post is about one of those things.
After my father died I quickly came to the conclusion that asking bereaved people that all too familiar, "How are you doing?" was quite possibly the dumbest question in the world. Every time someone asked I'd always think to myself, "I just lost my father--how the fuck do you think I'm doing right now???". The question seemed to be simple, thoughtless & terribly annoying.
But then, 13 days ago, one of MY people lost one of HIS people. And all I really wanted, every day, was to ask him how he was doing.
How is your soul feeling today? Where are you emotionally? How are you processing things?
Because as much as we're socialized to automatically ask "How are you?" as a mindless form of greeting, there are moments in life when that question truly is the only thing in the world that you want to know.
How is your heart in this moment? How do you feel in the world today?
And now I understand, in a way that I couldn't have before, why asking people "How are you?" actually isn't the worst question in the world.
You wanna know what the worst question is?
No question at all.
Because not asking is to presume that you already know the answer.
And that in itself can be like an act of aggression.
You ask so that you can give people a space to own their own feelings. And you ask because inquiring how someone is doing--and truly meaning it--is actually an act of love.
One of my favorite authors, Rob Bell, taught me that the simplest things are often the most profound. He reminds me of the importance of making old things new again & encourages me to constantly uncover new meaning in the midst of the everydayness of life. Because perspective, time & evolution have shown me that simple question--the one we mindlessly ask all the time & the one I once thought to be the "dumbest question in the world"--is actually one of the most powerful questions I can ever ask.
This experience, even though we're just a few days in, has helped me bring profound meaning to what has always been right in front of me.
My friend is grieving because he loved someone. And I'm here, writing this, because I love my friend.
I can't tell you much about the road he must now walk but I can tell you all about the one I walk beside him.
It starts & ends with four simple words:
How are you doing???