It is just something that people say. They sum up difficult or awkward moments, these polite aphorisms that find their way into our collective vernacular. They help us transition from those subjects most difficult for humans to process. As such, funerals are rife with the well-intended cliches: “Her death is a blessing, really.” Really? The devastated family is looking to make order of the inconsolable loss. Maybe it is really, really a blessing. Still, we imagine that there may have been better days ahead had it not been for the finality of earthly parting. No sane person wishes suffering of another soul, yet is pain sometimes required to find one’s way to recovery? How long do we hold out?
“You look just like your dad,” they say. “Thanks. Dad was a handsome guy,” replies the sheepish teen. But he wonders, how could it be? Adopted as a child, father and son could not claim a biological likeness. He keeps the fact to himself. Having been told the same by numerous others through the years, he came to see the disappointment in their eyes when he helped them understand that what they believed they’d noticed was more through the power of suggestion than that of observation.
Is it the very trite nature of these expressions in which we find comfort and therefore learn to embrace? These truisms have been shared countless times for generations and serve to remind us of our common humanity. We can’t think of anything more to say but desperately seek connection. If sad, we’ll offer support. If happy, we’ll offer a compliment. Is the insight particularly deep? Maybe not. Yet, if we recognize these words not as didactic admonishments but instead as hopeful reminders that others care for us, are we assured of solace in their banality?