Just thought I’d share:
In the ‘recently deceased’ section of the parish notices last week, I read that longstanding parishioner Karen Appleby had died and there was a big funeral for her this week. I didn’t know Karen at all but I knew Bill Appleby to be a tall, older fellow who I’d often see about the place. I would nod at him and say “Bill.” and he would nod back rather aloofly and this was the full extent of our relationship.
When I spoke to another parishioner about Karen and Bill, she said that they had lost a child many years ago and did a lot of ministry for parents who had lost children. My heart went out to Bill and I realised why he sometimes seemed rather distant.
At Mass this morning, I saw him. I always feel awkward in this kind of situation, but I know Mum’s always said it’s better to say something than to avoid the person and make them feel even worse. I also knew from experience that it’s better to say something sooner rather than later because it will only get more awkward.
At the morning tea after Mass I found myself side by side with the man in question so I seized my opportunity. I turned to him, gave him a little hug and said “Bill, I’m so sorry about Karen”
In the moments that followed, I discovered the following useful facts:
- Karen wasn’t actually his wife
- His wife is still alive and at home at the moment
- This man was not Bill Appleby
- This man’s name was Brian
I also discovered:
- There may be another reason why this man was so unresponsive when I called him ‘Bill’ all these years
- Sometimes ‘sooner rather than later’ does not avoid an awkward situation if soon is too soon to confirm a positive ID
He was really quite gentle and lovely about it. It was like he wished he could be Bill for my sake but he could not escape the fact that he was in fact Brian and he did indeed have a live wife.
Whatever. Just tell Bill I said hi.