Ronda Lawson


Ronda Lawson

The thing you left behind turns
your feet to stone. The thing
you need and do without
breaks you down.
Sidewalks that you know,
lines and stains as personal as those
that leave your fingerprints.
Someone else you used to be, Dr. Jekyll
to someone now you hide, sipping
slowly from your soul. No one
but walls to lean on,
colored just outside the lines
by shame.
You are just the same as everyone,
you are emptier than most,
you breathe my air,
you have no shoes.
Madness makes sanctuary;
no one knows.
Quickly we have rendered you
easily we have tendered you
to someone else’s troubled sleep.
Strays, culled from the herd,
reasons never reasoned out.
Whatever words you whisper
to yourself echo
            and fall,
leaves and Coke cans
in the parking lot.
You fade away amid
the sighs of consciences.
Always looking for something,
maybe a piece of your heart
in the garbage can
sharp enough to cut your palm.

(c) 2006 Ronda Lawson

They are dust on
careless wind
harried into corners
and against grime
painted curbs.
They drift, they
settle down in
gray fatigue on
benches, in
the alleyways, beneath
the cards, behind
the dumpster, over
the shoulders of the city.
Brushed off, swept
aside, stepped
over, carried
out, tossed away.
One beam of light
may capture them
in momentary dance.
Fragments float and
fall forgotten in
the gutters.
(c) 2006 Ronda Lawson

Comments are always welcome. Feel free to e-mail me at Peace.


It’s bound to happen sooner or later… an employee loses a parent, a colleague’s spouse passes away, the child of a client dies. But most of the books on workplace etiquette conveniently skip right over the subject. Most of us want to do the right thing, but aren’t really sure what the right thing is.

It was easier in Victorian days, when society clearly spelled out the etiquette of grief. Stern manuals on correct behavior told us what color clothes we should wear and for how long, what should be said in a sympathy letter, and how long we must wait after a bereavement before we could be seen dancing in public.

Times have changed, and the rules of social conduct are much more obscure. There may no longer be a “right” thing to do, but consider the following suggestions.

Question: Should I send a card?

Answer: Absolutely. Or a personal note. Messages of sympathy acknowledge the bereavement, and can be enormously comforting to the grieving family. But avoid anything overtly religious unless you are close enough to the family to be absolutely certain of their beliefs.

Question: Should I send flowers?

Answer: Not automatically. Find out first if that is what the family wants. These days, many families prefer donations to be made to a specific charitable organization in lieu of flowers. If you’re not sure, and don’t see this information listed in a newspaper obituary, you can call the funeral home or the family and ask.

Question: Should I go to the funeral?

Answer: That depends. If the family has specifically invited you to attend, then by all means go if you feel you can. If not, then decide for yourself if you would like to attend. Remember that funerals are for the living, and not for the deceased. Your presence is a mark of respect, and offers a tangible show of support.

Question: What should I say to the bereaved when they return to the workplace, or when I meet them in the normal course of business?

Answer: Anything. It is better to say the wrong thing with sincerity than to say nothing at all. It takes time to heal from a loss, and if no one speaks of it the bereaved may feel even lonelier. Express your sympathy, ask how the person is doing, and even share a memory of the deceased if you have one. Remember to include the bereaved person in invitations. Often we distance ourselves from those who are grieving because we are uncomfortable, but this sends a painful message.

Question: I’d really like to do something practical to help, but what?

Answer: Vague offers of help are often made to the bereaved, but in the midst of grief it is sometimes difficult to think clearly enough to take advantage of them. If you see something specific that you feel would be helpful, offer to do it. Don’t automatically send food. Often this is the first response when a family has been bereaved, and can create an unintentional burden. Do consider providing gift certificates for local restaurants, or dropping off a bag of paper plates and plastic utensils to help the family cope with visitors. You might send a packet of “thank you for your sympathy” cards and a book of stamps, or even arrange for a house cleaning or gardening service to help deal with some of the chores.

Question: One of my employees has lost a family member. What kind of time off do I have to provide?

Answer: There are no state or federal laws mandating bereavement leave. Most companies, however, have some sort of paid time off in the event of a death in the family. Your employee handbook should include such a policy. Remember, however, that a few days off may not be all your employee needs. Assisting the employee with additional time off, counseling, or other benefits may ensure that he or she is able to return to regular work more quickly. In addition, your response to the situation may improve worker morale and help build loyalty.

Emily Post said, “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter which fork you use.” An awareness of how the bereaved person feels, even if you can’t understand or share the depth of emotion, is the best guide to doing the right thing.

(c) 2004 Ronda Lawson