What to Say

A - Lotus 荷 (2)s

Some people are very good in saying something at any situation; I am not one of them. Many times in my life I felt disappointed at myself for keeping my mouth shut when I wanted and should say something.

My sister Karin always dressed nicely; I, on the other hand, prefer comfortable clothes. After chemo, Karin lost all her hair. She started wearing a wig wherever she went. I knew how uncomfortable she felt on hot humid summer days, so I kept telling her to wear a scarf instead. I even wore one myself several times just to show her it didn’t look bad. She was finally ready to give it a try.

We went out for breakfast at a restaurant where she and my brother-in-law went often. A waiter, who had worked there for a long time and knew them well, stopped by our table to chat. After telling Karin about his recent family trip, he laughed and pointed at Karin’s head and said, “What are you wearing on your head? A scarf? Why? I have never seen you wear –” He stopped after he, apparently, realized what was going on. He stood there, didn’t know what to do.

Karin put on a brave smile, but I knew she was about to cry.

I desperately wanted to say something to ease the situation. I remember frantically searching for words, but my brain failed on me.

Karin had passed away for more than a year. From time to time, I dreamed that I did say something on that day.

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About Helen C

A retired computer programmer who loves writing and photographing, and has managed to publish a YA novel "Jin-Ling’s Two Left".
This entry was posted in Memoir. Bookmark the permalink.

72 Responses to What to Say

  1. Mother Hen says:

    I extend my condolences to you Helen and your family..I think we have all been there too. It is unfortunate that too many speak before they think, like the waiter. I hope that he later considered her feelings. I admire your ability to express yourself so very well in writing..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Helen C says:

      Thanks, Roberta. We weren’t upset with the waiter. Karin treated everyone there like a friend, and this waiter was excited to see her – he hadn’t seen her for a while. It was just that I wanted to protect Karin, but couldn’t. I felt helpless. Interestingly, the older I get, the more helpless I feel 😉

      Like

      • Mother Hen says:

        I can relate to that Helen,, my hubby is in the hospital and I was faced with having to drive in the city.. I needed prayer for that. I have found that in my older age I can allow fear try to defeat me. It is a battle in my mind and so I need to look to God who is my source of everything and He helps me in my weakness.. the inspiration for my current post.. Have a great day my friend.. we can overcome…

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Marie says:

    Lovely post, Helen.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Mabel Kwong says:

    My condolences to you Helen, and the rest of your family. This was a very well written post, not many words but so much emotion and shows that you loved your sister very much. I’m sure she’s looking down upon you now and smiling at this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. M-R says:

    Helen, Helen … H and I both can share your grief in losing a beloved sister. And I should think that most of the bloody WORLD can share your regret at not being able to come up with the right thing to say at the right time … Eventually your deep sadness will fade, and the guilt that always accompanies the loss of someone we loved greatly; but meanwhile we always manage to come up with something to feel that guilt about. Seems to be part of our DNA …

    Liked by 2 people

    • Helen C says:

      Thank you, M-R. I lost my parents 14 years ago. I know you are right… eventually our deep sadness will fade. In a strange way, part of me doesn’t really want that sadness go. Is that in our DNA also? 😉
      I am doing well. I think of my parents and Karin often. When I do, I don’t feel sad… It is more on the sweet side, if only I can describe it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • M-R says:

        Yes, I believe it is. It took me 6 years to emerge from the madness of my grief for my husband; and when I did I felt as if I was naked, without its protective layer …

        Liked by 1 person

        • Helen C says:

          Were you angry? After my mom passed away, I was very angry for at least 4 years. Every story I’d written during that time, some character died 😉 I am not angry this time though…
          Thanks, M-R.

          Liked by 1 person

          • M-R says:

            No, not at all. Not ever.
            Well, other than with the health service here that, on three or four occasions during his final illness treated him badly. But no, not in relation to losing him. Just totally confused. I couldn’t understand. So I wrote my book !

            Liked by 1 person

  5. pike says:

    Thank you for sharing, Helen! Our hearts bears joys and sorrows…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. loisajay says:

    Oh, Helen. I am sorry. I think your silence said so much to that waiter–more than you know. Sometimes silence truly is golden. XO

    Liked by 1 person

    • Helen C says:

      Thanks, Lois. It’s part of life. I remember wanting to hug Karin, but I couldn’t reach her — the dining table was huge (we sat on each side of the table). Funny that when I went back to the restaurant recently, the table didn’t look as big even though I still couldn’t touch the person on the other side.
      Even sad memories brings some sweetness to us…

      Like

  7. carol1945 says:

    Oh, Helen, I am someone who cannot make easy conversation, or quips, or those little interchanges other people seem to have easily with waiters, shopkeepers, and others waiting in lines. You have conveyed the pain of this situation with your sister so beautifully. I feel it right now as I read your words, and that communication is worth more than being able to” say the right thing.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Helen C says:

      Thanks, Carol. Like you, making a conversation is not easy for me, but I do find it easier as I grow older. I guess it is because I am more believed in myself and less concerned about what people think. Do you feel the same way?

      Like

  8. Amy says:

    My condolences to you, Helen. You expressed so beautifully of the emotion you have for your sister.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. joannesisco says:

    I think we all share the regret and disappointment of not having the right words to say in an awkward moment. My condolences to you on the loss of a sister who was obviously well loved by you ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Helen C says:

      Thanks, Joanne. When we had family gathering, I was always able to say things making everyone laugh, so I thought I could do it then. I learned more about my ability that day, I guess. 😉

      Like

  10. Cee Neuner says:

    Helen, you story of you and your beloved Karin has touched so many people here on our blog. I know how much you miss her. I am so glad that you can now remember the sweet things about your loses. That helps the grieving and healing process. The more we can remember in love and the wonderful times, the more their love is let back into your heart. Much love and hugs to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. seeker says:

    Glad you are saying something now in memory of Karin. They say that for as long as you remember the person, no one is really dead. Take care, H. P

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Lignum Draco says:

    Delayed reaction, troubles us all at times. What if…?
    Sorry to hear about the loss of your sister.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Pingback: Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Catching People Unaware | The World Is a Book...

  14. Sue Slaght says:

    Helen I am so very sorry for your loss. My guess is that your loving presence was really what your sister needed. Like so many thing in life it is much easier when we have time to reflect ot figure out what we would have said. Not so easy at the time. Hugs to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Jet Eliot says:

    Beautiful post. Sometimes we can speak, sometimes we cannot, but always we can hold the love…and clearly you did then and still do. Amy “The World is a Book” sent me your way, and I’m glad to meet you. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Helen C says:

      Thanks, Jet, for visiting and following my blog. I visited your blog and like it a lot.
      I used to call Karin at night asking her what TV program she was watching, and then I would watch the same show. You are right that I can hold the love. I really do.
      Isn’t Amy amazing? I often encourage myself to be nice, and helpful like Amy. I will keep working on that. 😉 Thanks again.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. such a poignant post! I can relate having been through something similar myself. Blessings and may you always remember the joys!! I’ts a hard thing being human!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Helen C says:

      >> It’s a hard thing being human!
      I smiled when I read this line. You are absolutely right! 😉
      How are you doing?
      I’m, actually, doing all right. Even when I feel sad, I remember all the good time we had had together, and I am grateful for that.
      Please take care.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Helen, not only did go through the big C and went into remission but I lost my brother who took his own life a few years back. I have just had to become philosophical – and try to see life as a journey, much of it about loss, and yet still beautiful- not always easy but easier as I get older. The pain softens but never goes away – it changes you but that’s not always a bad thing. I hope your memories will bring you joy!

        Liked by 1 person

  17. RMW says:

    I’m sure the waiter felt bad enough when he realized his mistake and saying the wrong thing at that moment (which I probably would have done) could have made things much worse for everybody… sometimes silence is the best choice… beautiful photo… the two flowers are like two sisters…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Helen C says:

      Thank you, RMW. You read my mind about the two flowers. Thank you!
      I did feel bad for the waiter, and I could tell that Karin felt the same way. Hope I’ve learned the lesson through him and never make that same mistake myself ;-).

      Like

  18. DG MARYOGA says:

    I am here thanks to my beloved friend Amy,dear Helen.I am deeply touched not only by the sad story but also by the sweet way you narrated it and the elegant lotus photo you accompanied it.I am so sorry for the loss;live to remember her and all the moments of happiness you lived together.Silence is Golden,we say in my country,but it should be broken sometimes … Doda 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Helen C says:

      Thanks, Doda. I love Amy dearly, too! I enjoy reading her blog, seeing her photos and I have learned so much from her. She is amazing! 😉
      Thank you, Doda, for stopping by. As I age, I find out that friendship is the most beautiful thing. Take care.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. PS such a beautiful image!!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. shoreacres says:

    That had to be an uncomfortable experience for the waiter, too. I’ve sometimes said the “wrong” thing, but the problem is, once you step in it there’s no graceful way to back out. Sometimes pure honesty will do it, but we all have trouble with that.

    I’m sure your sister just was happy to have you with her, with or without words.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Helen C says:

      I’ve said the “wrong” thing plenty of times, too. 😉 None of us was upset with the waiter. I just couldn’t help wishing I could fix all of Karin’s problem, and it was a humble experience to realize how little I was able to do. ;-(

      Like

  21. Sue says:

    Oh Helen- I am so sorry! Many of us struggle with finding the right words to say. I’m glad you are able to express your love and experiences in your writing. Thank you for sharing with us and letting us in your life.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. restlessjo says:

    Because I don’t know you, Helen, the ending came like a thump to the stomache. I’m glad Amy directed me here though. I had a much younger half sister. When she died, very suddenly, I was full of remorse that we hadn’t been close. You will never have that, and your memories will be beautiful. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Helen C says:

      Thanks, Jo. It took me a while to connect you to the blogger whom Amy mentions on every Monday. 😉 You have a wonderful blog!
      I am so sorry to hear about your half sister. My mom died suddenly on 2001, and that was an experience I don’t want anyone to live through. Even though Karin was battling with cancer, she was still energetic, so her death was a surprise to all of us (including herself.)
      I have learned that I can only count on this moment, and I want to try making every moment worthwhile. Thanks again.

      Like

  23. Amy says:

    What a community we have. Reading their kind words and your gracious responses, I’m so touched…

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Adhika says:

    My condolences, Helen. I apologize for my tardiness catching up with the news. I offer up my prayer for Karin so that she may find her rest in peace.

    Liked by 1 person

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