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August 6, 2009

This Wonderful Life: Open letter to a friend whose mother is dying

There is nothing good or right or fair about this. Until it happened to my husband and then to me, when I heard someone speak of losing a parent, I did not appreciate the full weight of what they had lost. Now I wonder how something so commonplace can be so excruciating.



It seems that its everydayness should dull its edges and turn it into a tumbled stone you can carry in your pocket or plonk into your jewelry box, where it will sit silently until you have the need to feel its glassy, cool weight in the palm of your hand. Instead, it is a sharp and heavy thing with unexpected spines and razor edges. You forget that it’s there, then you cut yourself on it while fishing in your purse for quarters or lip gloss.



It is unbelievably hard - an emotional tri-athalon - but it gets easier. In the meantime, if you are looking for someone who has been there and is happy to talk shopping or gossip about celebrities or just send you clips from Marx Brothers movies, I’m here.



Finding a good, small-batch whiskey and a couple good friends with sympathetic pouring skills is a perfectly reasonable response. So is climbing to the highest peak in town and throwing rocks at God. I’m up for either, and God is certainly strong enough to withstand whatever we can deliver. Remember that you are surrounded by people who love you and would give anything to know how to make this easier for you and your family.



The vast majority of people our age, which is to say somewhere around 30s and early 40s, never learned the delicate art of Bringing a Casserole. We want to help, but we don’t know what to say. We don’t want to intrude on someone’s private anguish. And we sure as hell don’t know what to do.

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