There are always loads of birthday, leaving and other cards going around in my work place and despite being able to bang out 600 words each week for a blog and many more for other pieces of writing, I find it difficult knowing what to say in those cards.
Usually I go for the ‘have a great day’, ‘good luck in your new job’ or ‘I’m sorry to hear that…’ but it always seems quite plain and I can’t help but think that I have only added in quantity not quality of the card.
This is not a problem when I don’t know the person well, they probably don’t even know my name. But it is awkward when I do or when it is only a few people signing the card. Worst still is when I buy the card and it is just from me.
Back in the day it wasn’t a major issue, just signing my name was all that was required as the card had pre existing words in it. But these days cards have gone minimalist, and when someone writes an essay inside a card for you, when it comes to their turn just signing the name feels inadequate.
Saying this it is only a card and you can get away with just signing your name when push comes to shove. But when you have to give the message in person you want to convey more than the standard but not say the wrong thing.
For instance when my cousin passed away, my sister went to one of her best friend’s house and when she found out she said, ‘At least he’s not suffering anymore’. Understandably it is not want you want to hear, but at the same time, ‘I’m sorry for your loss’ is said so many times that it seems hollow.
Everyone wants to sound genuine because they want that person to know how sorry they are that this has happened to them. You want to tell them that you understand their loss is hurting them and you wish it was not. Or you want to share with them how much that person meant to you but at the same time you want them to know that you are not trying to compare your grief to theirs. And you want to inform them that if they need your ear to talk, you may not have much to say in response but that you will happily listen.
But when someone is in grief, you don’t want to give them a whole speech, compare what has happened to them to something that has happened to you or you take their time by conveying all this information.
That’s why I wish there were scripts that you could just say. In Ghanaian culture when someone dies and you first hear there is kind of script which allows you to ask, what has happened, which gives the freedom of having that person tell you and you not feel bad that you are making them relive it. Then you can say your words at the end and sit down and you don’t feel bad that you haven’t said the right thing.
I wish it was the same here, in person and in cards. If there was a script you wouldn’t have to worry about saying too much or too little, taking someone’s time or not getting across how sorry or happy you are for them.
Until then, I suppose, I’ll just muddle along and hope that people can read through the written and spoken words to see what I truly mean.