What to Say

“Going to Noah’s!” I yelled as I headed to our front door. But as soon as I saw my parents in the kitchen, I skidded to a stop. Something was wrong.

“Jaiven, hold on,” said Baba, clearing his throat. “Your Ma and I spoke with Noah’s parents a little while ago.”

I sat down at the kitchen table, wondering if Noah was in trouble. Was my best friend and neighbor grounded?

“It’s sad news, I’m afraid,” said Ma. “Noah’s grandmother just passed away.” She put her hand on my shoulder and said, “This is going to be a tough time for your friend. If you want to go to the funeral, your Baba and I can take you.”

Noah’s quiet grandma often visited him. Sometimes, when I’d gone next door, she watched over both of us. She laughed at the jokes I told her, and she once taught me how to make gingerbread. I was sad that I wouldn’t see her again, but I couldn’t imagine how Noah felt. Even though my grandparents lived far away, I texted and called all four of them all the time. What would it be like if one of them were gone?

I had never been to a funeral before. The only relative I knew who had died was my uncle, Bhaskar Mama. Since he lived in India, I didn’t know him very well. My parents and I watched the puja, the ceremony to remember him, over the internet.

Ma explained that Noah’s grandma’s funeral would be a little different.

“How different?” I asked.

“It will be at their family’s church,” said Ma. “People will make speeches, and you can go up to Noah before the family leaves for the cemetery to speak to him.”

I knew that we were supposed to talk to the family at the funeral. That’s what I was the most worried about. How was I supposed to act? In my room, I took out my tablet and typed into Google, “What to say to person at funeral,” but the answers weren’t helpful.

There is no “right” thing to say at a funeral. Say what is in your heart.

What did that mean?!

Ma knocked on my door. “Beta, are you okay? Do you have any questions?”

“Ma? I don’t know what I’m supposed to say to Noah.”

My mother sat down next to me and was quiet for a bit. “Do you remember when Bhaskar Mama passed away, Jaiven? He was my brother, and I was so sad. People didn’t really know what to say to me, but that was okay. I just needed to know that they cared. It helped to see that people were thinking about me.”

The next morning, I dressed in dark clothes. Outside, I saw Noah sitting by himself on his front steps. My mother nodded when I asked if I could go over for a few minutes.

“Hey, Noah,” I said, walking up to him slowly.

“Oh, hey, Jaiven,” he said, looking back down.

“I’m really sorry,” I said. “Is it okay if I sit here too?”

Noah smiled a little and scooted over. I sat down next to him, and we were just there, in silence, for a bit. He was still sad. But I think it kind of helped.