My mother passed away a few weeks ago, but I don’t tell you this to garner your condolences or make you feel sad for me. No. I tell you this because, besides the whole dying thing, which was bad enough, I had to make a lot of phone calls in order to share the awful news. Much to my surprise, most of the calls were strangely comforting, because reconnecting with old family friends and relatives, to whom I rarely speak, gave me a sense of re-birth and renewal, and allowed me to share old memories of my mom as well as a few laughs and a few tears.
But then it hit me-I was going to have to call my ex. After all, he and my mom had been close at one time and he needed to be informed, just like everybody else. But I dreaded making the call and that dread overpowered my grief to the point that the mere thought of placing the call would temporarily eclipse the pain of losing her. It was kind of strange but I didn’t have to guess why this was so. I knew. I couldn’t bear to hear the sound of his voice, especially when I was sure the first words out of his mouth would be “God Bless!”
Now, I want to clear something up right off the bat. The phrase “God Bless” is not repugnant to me when it’s being uttered by anyone except the man I was married to and there’s a reason for this. He used to say it all the frigging time! Whenever we had to pull off the road to let an ambulance scream by, he would say “God bless!” as if he actually knew the person lying prostrate in the back of the vehicle. And he would get very solemn, as if their fate was actually in his hands and if he blessed them on their way, their lives would be spared. When the life-flight helicopter would zoom over our house on an otherwise still and quiet evening, he would say “God bless!” intoning the phrase like some insincere televangelist, almost tearing up as he did so. And God forbid we heard of someone dying or were attending a funeral. He would “God Bless!” them into oblivion, regardless of the fact that they had long since exited the building.
As the years spent with him dragged on and on, this phrase began to grate on my nerves more and more. Somehow, it seemed wholly inappropriate for him to say it out loud every time some poor soul was in harms way. It seemed like a phrase he should have kept to himself. To me it was akin to telling a new mother that her baby’s head was disproportionately large for it’s body or sharing one’s entire life story with a stranger, after being asked how you are. It’s just too much information. And when my husband said “God bless” to every passing stranger with a health problem, it felt to me like he was stepping into their personal space wearing golf cleats; it drove me absolutely nuts.
I know it sounds like my reaction to this seemingly innocuous phrase is over the top, but really, the thought of calling my ex made my stomach churn and tumble like an old fashioned washing machine. So I kept putting it off and putting it off, until two weeks had passed, and I thought I’d better get the news to him somehow. In the end, I decided an email would be best, and in the fewest words possible I dashed off a note about my mother’s passing and attached a copy of the detailed letter I had sent out to family and friends. Of course, he replied as I knew he would and true to form, at the end of his general condolences he added the time-worn phrase I had learned to loath- “God bless!” But the only thing that kept me from going stark raving mad this time was the fact that it was a silent uttering and that was really a blessing.