Feeling Very Sad and Guilty
Dear Cousin Butchie,
I read your blog/column all the time, and it helps me sometimes to understand questions about living my life as a gay young man. Right now I need advice of a different kind, and I don't want to share this with my family or friends. Plus, it would take too long to write to "Dear Abby" and wait for an answer, this is driving me crazy right now. I am 14 years old and I hope you will help.
My grandmother has always lived with my family. Like with any member of a family, there are so very happy moments and some not so good or happy. Several days ago, she made some very nasty remarks about a tattoo I had just acquired. I chose it because I like it and I think it's tasteful and will always have meaning to me. Grandma thought otherwise. She told me that it made me look like a hoodlum and that she never realized how stupid I could be until she saw that I had "this damn thing on my arm." I was not expecting this reaction, and without thinking I told her that she was a miserable old lady and that she could drop dead for all I cared.
Long story short-- Grandma died two days later. I am obsessed with the belief that it was my words which caused her death. I cannot share this with anyone in my family because they will blame me and hate me.
Out of Control ...aka Feeling Very Sad and Guilty
Hi, Out of Control,
I am answering this question immediately because I realize that you are quite young, possibly even a "twink" and you are probably in need of some positive reinforcement quickly.
First of all, Cousin Butchie offers his condolences at the passing of your grandmother. Death is always a major trauma in any family. I think that everyone tends to look for answers about WHY a death occurs. When a seemingly reasonable answer comes to mind it's difficult to ignore that reason. In your case, Out of Control, I assure you that your kind of harsh words to your grandmother did not cause her to pass away.
While it's difficult to rationalize or explain a person's death, we do know that it's what happens to everyone ever born, and it will be at a time we most often don't expect it. Everyone from the various faith traditions (and those with no specific belief system) must realize that no one knows exactly what occurs following a death.
Based on Cousin Butchie's beliefs, your grandmother is with you in spirit and will meet you again. I can almost assure you that your grandmother forgives you for the entire "tattoo situation." You did not cause her death for several reasons... but the paramount reason is that you don't have the power to cause a person's death with words said in anger.
The issue here is learning a lesson from it. We should never say angry or mean words to anyone-- but most especially to members of our families. Everyone knows that there are things we say that siblings or other relatives find offensive. It's a good idea to follow the age old practice of never letting the sun set without reconciling any harsh words or disagreements with people we love. Not meaning to be ultra-dramatic but, you need to make sure that the last words a loved one hears from you are loving and caring. It could be the last thing they ever hear...and not making a truce will make YOU feel sad for a long while. Start now to never let harsh words remain at the end of the day.
Just another brief but important consideration... When thousands of people died at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001... the last words shared by many of the victims and their families were "I love you." It is a beautiful way the survivors will remember their relatives.