I counted out about $130 this morning. It wasn't mine. The small piles of sorted bills were intended for one of the people I supervise. Her daugter died last week. She was young, and the death was needless and preventable. I can't fathom losing a child that way. Honestly, I yet to really lose anyone to accident; age and illness, certainly, but not accident of violence.
I've been the keeper of this money since the poeple at work heard about the death. Being her supervisor, it just sort of works that way. I'm the bearer of information and condolences; I seek out the news reports and buy the card. I work the phone and take up the cash and find the funeral home. The money is the thing that gets to me, though.
I understand why we do it, on an intellectual level. Someone's going to have expenses and be out of work for a while. It's a way of saying, "I noticed, I care." Acquaintances can toss in something even if they don't feel close enough to call. It feels ... odd, though. The idea of mixing sympathy and money won't reconcile itself in my mind. Some people give significantly, but then the smaller donations look strange. What do three dollars say about your relationship with someone? Does it really say anything?
I received a bonus check around the time this happened. I thought a long time about just putting the whole thing in. I wasn't expecting the money. It'd be no loss to me, right? I've had the same internal conflict about it over and over. She'll need the money; there's no question. She wouldn't know that it was me, or that anyone had individually given that much; I was going to change all the small bills to large at the bank, anyway. Then, I also think that she wouldn't know the difference. She's not going to go through it and try to match money to people.
At any rate, I've always flet odd about giving money after a death, regardless of whether I had "spare" money to give. That just enhanced the strangeness of it. I try my best to be a good person. I like doing things for others; it helps keep me sane. I think it's an obligation of living in and enjoying the benefits of a modern society. The money thing just doesn't sit right, though. As useful as it is, as well as the gesture is probably going to be taken, it strikes me as crass and unfeeling compared to the loss. I feels like, when I hand this over, I'll be saying, "We're sorry your loved one is dead. Since we can't bring her back, here's a card and some money." I understand the reality of it, but something in my makeup just rails that the whole practice is an insult to human dignity and value.
I'm wrong, I think. That doesn't change how it feels, though.