What to Say When You Meet the Angel of Death at a Party – The New York Times

A tragedy is like a fault line. A life is split into a before and an after, and most of the time, the before was better. Few people will let you admit that out loud.

Source: What to Say When You Meet the Angel of Death at a Party – The New York Times

That bit resonated. Actually, the whole article resonated a bit more than I’m comfortable with. Small talk becomes a bit like navigating a mental minefield. “How are you?” is either answered with a gentle lie, or with the truth. The gentle lie is what people are usually asking for, and, frankly, is what I usually want to say anyway. The truth is brutal and scary and life-altering and nuanced and exhausting. “I’m fine. How are you?”

3 thoughts on “What to Say When You Meet the Angel of Death at a Party – The New York Times

  1. I get where you are coming from. Talking about disease has never gotten easier for me, and I don’t think it will. The discomforting hermeneutic circle between speaker and listener is a mess of sadness, concern, adrenaline (sometimes anger), and confusion for both parties. Over time I’ve come to really appreciate small talk. I think of it as an opportunity to think about something else or talk about another person, like a polite and quiet detour from my train of thought of “oh god, I’ll be blind sooner than I thought”. It also brings to mind the old adage to be kind to others because you never know the battles they are fighting – if their battles feel anything like mine, perhaps they’d rather joke about Calgary weather for the moment, too…

    1. Yeah. Scary stuff. I get the value of smalltalk to help whistle past the graveyard. I do that more with dark humour, though. Still not sure how to approach the “how are you?” line – it’s loaded.

      1. My guess is you’ll have to work that one out however is best for you… For me, I think: “How am I doing outside of this ‘thing’ that’s on my mind and the emotions I’m feeling about it?” The answer is usually, “I’m pretty good”. In the end, one’s diagnosis is only a part of one’s whole life/identity – sometimes a gross and overbearing part, but still just a part. And a little dark humour doesn’t hurt.

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