After my father died, and after the public services, a couple who I am friendly with but not close to, called to express their condolences. The man did so quite generously, and then handed the phone to his wife.

“I’m sorry for your loss,” she said. “I tried to watch some of the services but I really couldn’t because I disagreed with your father on so many things.”

I was too stunned to say anything, and frankly too exhausted by having had to grieve in front of the world — something which no one who hasn’t been through it knows anything about. I got off the phone and wondered how anyone could justify making their political opinions more important than simply feeling compassion for a daughter who just lost her father. Of course, that wasn’t the end of this particular life-lesson. Social media was rife with criticisms, judgments, and the political opinions of people who weren’t exactly asked for their opinions.

The same thing is happening now with Barbara Bush. I’m quite aware of things she said during her life that were not commendable. But I’m more aware of the fact that family members are mourning the loss of a woman they loved, and if strangers can’t have respect and compassion for that, it reveals their heartlessness. Why do people feel an obligation to dissect a public figure’s life 12 hours after they died? What it’s really saying is, This is about me, to hell with how the family feels. It’s an air of self-importance that I’m pretty sure they would resent if the tables were turned and their own grief wasn’t honored.

You don’t have to look too far to see that kindness is in very short supply these days. Social media has become a playground for whatever feelings come into people’s minds. It would be nice if they remembered that’s it’s a very big playground and a very public one. Unkindness leaves a mark, even if it’s only posted on your Facebook page.



  1. Elizabeth saenz says:

    Spot on. Now is the time for mourners. Anyone who thinks they can sum up a person’s life with one or two words doesn’t know people at all and should remain silent at this time.

  2. Craig Burns says:

    Thank you for the reminder on human compassion.

  3. Gigi Shapiro says:

    You nailed it Patti. I am in shock
    At the heartlessness of so many who don’t let a wife mother grandmother Rest In Peace let her family grieve. I had to delete the thread quoting your words as it turned so nasty and mean and political even though I was just trying to share that a brave kind woman had just died leaving behind a large living family. I am so sorry for what you have gone through after your parents passed away. You would think people would have common decency… but so many do not. I would like to post this.. would it be ok? I think people need to read how hurtful words can be. Xxx. Gigi

  4. Melanie Howard says:

    I was aghast and disappointed at the heartless remarks when I posted a tribute to Barbara Bush in FB. Thank you for the reminder that these are real people with feelings and deserving of kindness and respect.

  5. David Marks says:

    Remarkably poignant, and stunning in its message of intimacy. All too often, and I am as guilty as the next, people charge the mountain, looking for a bended knee, fraught(sic) with a dynamism of good intentions, reflective of rejected insights. Patti, I’ve been searching for a healthy answer to my own failings now for nearly 24 hours, perhaps more, and without juggling concepts and emotions, you have brilliantly put into simplicity, a wondrous answer, a beautiful instrument of love, of sentiment, of the goodness that delineates the good from the bad, the right from the wrong, I tried to read to the death of Barbara Bush in a guttural way; in a way that paid homage to characters while detracting a life well lived, and now I can do just that. I can walk away and breathe, inhale the kindness of her beauty, while dismissing any negativity I might express when history is written. You did it again; you allowed for a stellar air of clean breathing, of the very tunes that makes words turn to music, and I thank you. I needed that. I needed to hear this from you, only, and in your words, I learned what can take a lifetime. I love you, Patti; you have been generous enough to embark on the lessons that life should. by nature, teach us, but often fail to do. Thank you, Patti, for a life lesson which I will not forget. One day, I will repay you.

  6. Ken W. Brown says:

    Always look to the importance of the person who has passed to there family, not to what that person meant to you.That is the truest meaning of compassion, sympathy and condolences.

    • Andrew Kaplan says:

      Sad commentary on people not having empathy or common sense. You have such a unique voice and perspective that is so needed.

  7. Nora Fraser says:

    Thank you so much for this. Your message is resonating with me, because I was so tempted to say something snarky about Barbara Bush and I am now forced to look at why that was my first reaction. Did I want to appear smart and detached? Was I trying to elevate myself by putting this icon down? After reading your piece, I am so glad I resisted that base temptation and instead, watched her tributes with a more open mind..and after seeing the many sides of her I had missed before, I Have a new appreciation and respect for the outstanding human being she was. Thank you.

  8. Michael Hiland says:

    This popped into my eclectic mind: You Gotta Walk That Lonesome Valley, Mississippi John Hurt. Sharing sorrow…

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