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A Handbook for Grieving

(Source: nytimes.com)

Buy an entirely inappropriate, form-fitting, off-the-shoulder dress (which will hang in your closet, unworn, until you finally take it to a consignment store). Accept your tissue-wrapped purchase from the saleswoman who says, “Have fun at your event!”

Escape with your friend to a restaurant and down a glass of wine, very fast.

Seven days before her death, stand at your mother’s bedside while a priest gives her the Last Rites. Two days later try to control yourself, at church, when the same priest says that he is “bad at the Last Rites” because the recipients don’t actually die. Do not catch your sister’s eye, and definitely do not look at the woman the priest points to as proof; she is not your mother.

After church, race back to your mother’s bedside where your brothers have been keeping vigil. Lean in close and smile when she gestures toward your outfit and whispers, “I like this.”

Tell her you chose it with her in mind. Be so glad that “I’m hurting” won’t be the last thing she says to you.

Take turns with your father, sister and brothers, sitting with your mother and holding her hand. Notice when her tight grip, which you have had to peel off finger by finger, loosens, but don’t comment on it. Pass her hand gently to each family member in turn, like the baton in a terrible relay race.

Read to her and play music. Try not to flinch when the nurse nods approvingly and says, “Hearing is the last thing to go … well, nearly the last thing.” Wonder at how quickly you have become accustomed to your mother, your bright and opinionated mother, lying unconscious, mouth open and breathing heavily. Listen to her breathing and try to memorize the sound of it.

Three days before your mother’s death, start to sleep with the phone by your bedside. Be grateful on the two mornings you wake up without it having rung.

More Info: nytimes.com

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