My paternal grandmother is in her 90’s and counting. She has her good days and bad days that mostly revolve around her mind as muddled as mud or as clear as day. She has ‘lost’ two of her children. One she knew about and was there to bury. The other one is her youngest son that she does not know about.
I think one of the worst devastations in life is when a parent loses a child. Sometimes, I will think about this in reference to my second organ donor as a 4-year-old girl and how her parents ‘lost’ her. ‘Loses’ and ‘Lost’ are used loosely to try to ward off the truth of buries or death of a child. We think life should be a certain way that children should be spared suffering and sadness, that the death of a child supersedes in tragedy over a death of the old, and that parents naturally die before their children. Life beats to its own beat.
On the eve of my grandmother’s youngest son’s death, her mind was an odd combination of clear and muddled with a demand of knowing from all her children about her youngest son: “He hasn’t called me to wish me a ‘Merry Christmas.’ Where is he?”
The questions and comments erupted: Do we tell her the truth about his death? What do we say? How do we say it?
I vocalized my thoughts, “She isn’t stupid. Clearly, she knows something isn’t right. The truth is going to come out and when it does, it is going to be bad. Very bad. It is going to be more of a betrayal pain along with the pain of her child’s death than solely the pain of her child’s death if she isn’t told the truth.”
Someone said, “If I were in my 90’s and could not attend my child’s funeral, then maybe it is best for me to not know the truth. I think it is okay to lie to spare people’s feelings, especially at grandma’s age. If there isn’t any good to come out of saying something, then why say it? There are good lies that people say all the time or truths that people do not even say for the greater good of the person and their feelings.”
I asked out of curiosity: “What makes a lie good then? Who decides and determines a lie is good if the person was never told the truth and lied to from the beginning?”
No one could answer me. As a child, I was always told that ‘honesty is the best policy.’ However, as I’m getting older, I see that the lines between truth and lies and fact and fiction can be very blurred when it comes to perceptions and preservation of certain people and of certain relationships with people. As a child, I was a very bad liar. The worst liar, in fact. Everyone could see through me. As relationships among family and outside of family has formed and grew in my life, I can honestly tell you that I am the ultimate secret keeper and will tell good lies for the sake of spared feelings, in the act and treatment of kindness over righteousness, and to preserve a person and a relationship. I find that most people want to be told what they want to hear rather than told truth that could potentially enhance or shatter. It all depends on the situation and the person AND especially how whatever truth is presented.
As far as the determination of my grandmother being told the truth about her youngest son’s death, it will be told to her in the surrounding care, love, support, and gentleness of all of her children. To be put in the position and place to present or keep truth holds a great responsibility and is daunting, challenging, and difficult with no concrete right or wrong or black and white. ‘Good lies’ are sometimes what keep our spirits and strength above to go forward and far until the truth does come out and is spoken and shared.
Is keeping a secret the same as subtly telling a lie? Is telling a lie to make another feel good or to try to prevent pain a ‘bad’ thing? Is not telling the truth or revealing or sharing the same as lying? Is it ever ‘ok’ to lie? Is there, indeed, good to ‘good lies’?
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,