Not a word, with one exception: He did come up in the context of a story told by his twin brother.
What was that, that reluctance to name the one person who was foremost in everyone's thoughts? I know that he wasn't forgotten, but the jovial insistence on behaving as if all were as usual only enhanced my feelings of sadness and isolation. In the absence of conversation about the person never absent from my thoughts, I found that I had hardly a word to say.
Such an odd disjunction. My in-laws are the steady family of churchgoers, those with a lifetime of committment to religious community behind them. But it's me, the one with the disjointed history of religious engagement and observance, the one with the family whose narrative defies that of any soap opera, who longs for ritual and articulation.
But it wasn't my home, and so I skipped even my usual toast to Digory Priest, my Mayflower ancestor, knowing that one toast might lead to another, or to an atmosphere of "should we say something?"
An advance phone call, I think, asking what might be done to honor the empty place at the table and maybe bring us some comfort. Along with an acceptance of the reality that comfort might be a hollow word. Even better, knowing how many such decisions have to be tackled by the heartbroken immediate family on a daily basis, a phone call offering a plan -- a plan to which we could have acquiesced, or which we could have rejected -- would have been most welcome. A simple acknowledgment of the difficulties of the holiday season, a suggestion for consciously incorporating the new reality into them, a spoken willingness to share the burden. Sometimes words do matter as much as actions do.