Would it be presumptuous to attend the funeral? Should I just leave a condolence message online? How do I get the wording right for a colleague whose father has just died? In this matter are they a plain-speaker or do they prefer euphemisms? What are their religious beliefs? Was the relationship close or difficult or both?
They were farm kids way down in Dixie
They met in high school in the ‘sixties.
Everyone knew it was love from the start.
Should I pick up the phone? What do I say to a friend in another city who’s just had a scary diagnosis? What if I say the wrong thing or catch them at the wrong moment? Do they even want to talk about their problem or do they want to be distracted, to pretend that everything is still OK? How long is long enough to talk? Will I know when it’s time to bail?
One July in the midnight hour,
He climbed up on the water tower,
Stood on the rail and painted a ten-foot heart.
Should I ask? What can I say when an acquaintance seems kinda worn down by life? What if my hunch is wrong? Will they be embarrassed? Will I? And what if my hunch is right? Then what do I do?
In John Deere green, on a hot summer night,
He wrote “Billy Bob loves Charlene”
In letters three-foot high.
Are they allergic to some flowers? Sensitive to scent? Will this bouquet last well? Will it be too big for the hospital room? Too small in comparison to others? Will it be received with surprise, as coming from someone not expected to send flowers?
And the whole town said that he should have used red
But it looked good to Charlene . . .
In John Deere green.
– Joe Diffie, John Deere Green
Some things invite the pursuit of perfection. The manufacture of interchangeable parts comes to mind, as does surgery.
Most things don’t.
Like times of joy, times of trouble invite expressions of caring, and perfect doesn’t come into it. There are no perfect actions to be taken, words to be found, or flowers to be had.
It’s OK for me to be thoughtful in how I execute, but it’s silly to get bogged down in a quest for perfection or to worry about how it looks to anyone else. All that matters is that it look good to Charlene.
And it will, even in John Deere green.