Tag Archives: death

Stardust #David #Bowie


I woke up this morning and did the usual thing: scanned my phone for headlines.

Despite the Redskins losing in a semi-final, the Washington Post chose to lead the morning’s news with an image of David Bowie. No argument here.

I thought it curious and incredible (in the truest sense of the word). The headline words were in an off-kilter, seemingly not-dedicated past tense, “Charismatic singer-songwriter possessed mesmerizing talents” sub head: “David Bowie influenced glam rock, new wave, punk and high fashion with edgy and androgynous alter egos who invited listeners to explore their personal mysteries.”

Read headline.  Hmm. David Bowie.

Look at image. Nice pic. Groovy, hot. Defiant. 

Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 8.57.25 AM

Re-read subheadline. … Past tense. He has reinvented himself yet again, new album… it makes sense… but hmmm.

Look at image. He’s young here, looks great. Something’s off… 

Re-re-read subheadline…  Noooooo…. 

Tap on link. Scan scan scan… WHAT?!

I read the article and was summarily seven minutes late attending to my youngest son who was prepping for school.

I was NOT a little bummed out about this.

I don’t expect my dad to understand my sadness. I suppose that this loss is like his generation’s learning the Mozart had died.

In all fairness, I do remember my mother being a little blue when hearing that Elvis had died. She was sort of in a little funk after that. Alternately she would speak of his sexuality and her appreciation of his art as being “terrible music” and a worse actor. “Your father is more handsome than Elvis, and they were in the army at the same time…” She’d often said for decades after The King had died.

I remember being very very sad when the stuttered news of John Lennon had balanced across the airwaves. I was in the living room of our Buffalo house. My brother came rushing into the room after maybe hearing it somewhere else in the house. Or maybe we were together and he heard it there too; he was pretty busted up. All I knew is that the Beatles were never getting back together after that.

Kurt Cobain, another unbelievable loss. I remember exactly where I was when I found out he had died. I was 23 and working as an editorial assistant at a local publishing house. It was my job (and everyone else’s) to scan the bank of our A/P Newswire, Reuters, and UPI dot matrix printers which all seemed to have had a simultaneous seizure attack with the news of Nirvana’s crushingly self-conscious front man.

But for the majority of them, I was young when I’d heard about them. I was still a kid and so hearing that a rock star had died was sort of not terribly sad for me. It was half expected. Even Cobain, he was a contemporary and to me, hell-bent on achieving some horrific end.

But Bowie… Hearing about Bowie today is different.

Bowie was a pioneer, a legend, larger than life, and a fantastically in-your-face pot stirrer. I loved him. I didn’t ever own a lot of anyone’s music, but I really loved him. No matter what I was doing, when a Bowie tune came on the radio years ago or over our iTunes or Pandora in my later years, everything stopped and it was time to groove.

I went downstairs to my husband and mentioned it to him. “D’jou hear about Bowie? He died. Last night.”

“Yeah, Cornelius* mentioned it to me this morning. I sort of can’t believe it. I was just reading about him last week…” he said as he was awaiting the Keurig to urge the last drops of the Cinnamon Dolce into his cup.

“Cancer.” I said. “What a bummer. That was NOT COOL to wake up to.” And that he’d cranked out an album while that sick is just adding to his mystique and überhumanity.

It’s not that people aren’t allowed to die. But some deaths, after initially absorbed, seem fitting — Philip Seymour Hoffman / Heath Ledger and their respective accidental overdoses. Robin Williams’ suicide. All majorly upsetting ways to die. But somehow, when we take off the layers of our own sadness and misdirected mass-cultural appreciation for what these people represented, we understand them a little better and are still very sad about the loss, but it seems to gel.

But for me, right now, I have deduced that I am disappointed or put off in the manner in which Bowie died. I was fully expecting a motorcycle crash, or an airplane accident. Maybe even an accidental drug overdose but never CANCER. That he died in a most human way somehow for me belied his most seeming superhuman and celestial, preternatural existence.

Through all his iterations, incarnations, stage personae and antics, Bowie indeed taught and inspired us to live our art. To be fearless. To take chances and risks which make us feel more alive. I loved that when I felt weird and strange, he had songs about feeling weird and strange. And it didn’t feel inauthentic; it’s like when Thom Yorke of Radiohead sings raw and real in “Creep”: “What the hell am I doing here? I don’t belong here.”

So in the late 70s I was about ten years old. Gangly, nerdy and dressed in Health Tex likely. I remember being with my much cooler and slightly older (but five years then was half my lifetime) cousins. In their teenage attic bedrooms a lá Greg Brady, and just dancing in the most geeky way to Suffragette City and its ramp-up to “WHAM BAM THANK YOU MA’AM!” and not knowing what the hell any of it was about, but loving it so much nonetheless.

Another cousin, slightly younger than me, has had a lifelong love of David Bowie. She has been very faithful, never wavering in her adulation of him as the pinnacle of her rock star loves. I’m sad for her today.

My older brother liked Bowie enough, but wasn’t like in LOVE with him. He definitely appreciated him for his rebellion and strangeness, but he was more into the Doors and the Talking Heads, the Rolling Stones, and old Beatles tunes. I have no doubt this particular brother is heavily bummed about this death.

In 1981, “Under Pressure” came out and I remember being ABSOLUTELY STUNNED by the power of that anthem. It was released a few months after my move to Northern Virginia from Buffalo, and given my age (14), and the mounting pile of shit occurring in my family and personal life at that time, it hit on the head the exact way I was feeling. I remember pressing “record” on my Panasonic clock radio with built-in tape recorder when it was played on DC-101. Those wonderful 4″ speakers played the soundtrack of my life and got me through some heavy-duty angst and ennui.

But moving to NoVa at that time, despite its proximity to Georgetown, Washington D.C., and the much cooler Annapolis, Maryland, was the land of >gag me with a grody wooden spoon< Southern Rock. Bands such as Lynyrd Skynyrd and Alabama and Molly Hatchett and good lord who cares (no, that’s not the name of a SoRo band although it should be) reigned supreme here. No one I knew in my high school, other than the gay siblings of people I knew and their “alternative” drama and art friends (people I actually should have hung out more with) were into Bowie. Little did I know until much later how very cool those people were and are today. Tim, Michelle and others, you were and still are, the kewlest.

That same fall of ’81, my brother, who was off to college in upstate New York was kind enough to send me (or more likely leave behind) good music on mixed tapes (remember those? I just went out to dinner with a good friend and his new squeeze the other night and we had the best time talking about mixed tapes and college tunes — all to the sound track of some amazing Tom Petty playing in the background — which I had to request of our waiter Bobby to turn down NOT BECAUSE it was it too loud, but because it was too loud that we couldn’t talk about how amazing it was… there’s a difference) from bands like Depeche Mode, REM, Echo and the Bunnymen, New Order, Gene Loves Jezebel and all the rest. Once I started getting into those tunes and I could drive to a record store, Waxie Maxie’s somewhat near home, I was off to the races. In no short order, my brother sort of saved me.

And within a few brief years later, that all hideous Southern Rock was shown the door (or at least the door to the unlit parking lot outside the club) thanks to a little quartet from Dublin known as U2.

My memories of David Bowie, like your memories of David Bowie, are what will keep him forever alive in our hearts, in our headphones and through our speakers. David Bowie got most of the people of my generation through some really hard adolescent days; David knew us, he knew what we were thinking and feeling better than we did.

As a parent, I hear myself playing in my head that gorgeous line from Changes:

And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They’re quite aware of what they’re going through

(For some reason, I can’t attach a youtube video of him singing Changes — in 2008, and it’s so lovely. But here’s the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zbnJo88kuP8)

Hearing that line again and again reminds me to let my kids feel what they’re feeling and that I just need to back the hell off and be a soft place to fall when they get off track.

I don’t normally write about popular culture or celebrity deaths, maybe that’s why my blog is so unpopular, but like Bowie, I prefer to write about what touches me and take risks expressing myself and sharing my world in ways others might think precarious. We have only one life and none of us need to spend it swaddled in crushing self-doubt and insecurity.

Let’s Dance, Modern Love… I could go on and on, but I won’t go on and on. I’ll let you wax in your own memories.

RIP David. You are now truly Stardust.

Thank you.

*stage name

Some Great Things to Know About


So I recently came back from two weeks away, at two different destinations. The first week I was home (the one which just ended) was really a week I could’ve used to recover from my vacation. Before I left, I ambitiously and optimistically jam-packed it with all sorts of appointments and activities I was sure I’d be ready and pleased as punch to conquer.

Foremost amongst them was an appointment for an eye exam; another was a two-hour journey at the DMV for my son’s learner’s permit; another was a well-child check up for another son; another was college tours (which was really amazing, so I’m glad I did that); and then of course: laundry.

The first Monday of my second week away I decided to order three Roz Chast books. One that I’ve seen and flipped through at my brother’s place (What I Hate), another that simply can’t ever be a bad choice (Theories on Everything) and a third, her memoir (Can’t we talk about something more PLEASANT?), which just came out this summer.

Allow me to interrupt myself: I caught some attention, a’hem, yesterday from a sage family member about the post I wrote yesterday about Mom. It wasn’t a finger-wag, or a lecture, but more of a sweep of a faery wand. This individual hopes I’ve moved on from all the pain of my childhood, and this individual feels as though I haven’t entirely. I’ll also add that my perspective and the concept of “my story” was absolutely allowed and mentioned and even supported, but so was a “will ya get over it??” sentiment. I appreciated the concern, and I want to assure this person and all both of you that I’m really OK. Here’s one tiny example why: if it weren’t for Mom, I’d likely not know about The New Yorker magazine until I was 26, instead of when I was 2. And if it weren’t for that, then I’d likely not ever know about Roz Chast, who is a renown TNY cartoonist, until last Monday. Things with Mom were hard, and I never mean to belabor the point, but a lot about Mom was so incredibly right too. I mean this with no irony at all: if Mom were just quirky and eccentric without the addictions and mental illnesses, she’d just be plain weird, like all moms are to their kids, and we’d likely have a typical relationship that was bristly at times, but infused with trust and love nonetheless. But that wasn’t the journey with Mom. And she had her crazy (really) parents too, so, she played that hand. But all of this and Mom’s brief but meaningful lapses into sobriety and presence considered, it was unlikely I’d end up with much reliability, ever, for more than a year growing up. So when those lapses occured, I put all my chips in those baskets. This is no one’s fault. This is human nature. We are more like squirrels than we realize. When we are dealing with mostly caprice in our loved ones, we will absolutely stock up and dig in and invest in the more stable moments. Those moments of stability become our deeply desired norm rather than exceptions to the rule. So when the caprice returns, we have whiplash with real pain and anxiety which breeds a reluctance to move and grow naturally, so things become staggered and rough, ungraceful. And then those cycles become our norm. I absolutely believe that if Mom had more health emotionally she’d still be here and things would be very much like Roz Chast depicts in her memoir. Mom loved me the best way she could. Things weren’t ideal, but I don’t think any parent in the 60s and 70s really knew WTF they were doing. I watch “Mad Men” and I’m Sally.

I put on about six pounds during my vacations. I ran three times, walked a few times and did yoga thrice. I ate too much each day and slept in too. I read a lot. It was good, really. I spent some much-needed girl time with some amazing women and I feel as though my estrogen-time stores are good for another four months. But I’ll always take more, absolutely.

So the Roz Chast books are absolutely one of the “some” great things I want to share with you. I fell asleep last night with her memoir and I laughed out loud last night (and roused my husband) at one of her panels (the book is 92% cartoons):


So check out that book and prepare to laugh. A lot.

Speaking of TNY, Lena Dunham (a current actress and writer I am too old to really care or know much about, i.e., she’s half my age) wrote a piece about her time growing up in therapy. It’s hilarious and so validating as both an adult human and as a mother. If brilliance means worry, I think I’m grateful? I am obtusely including a link here:


Another great thing (I hate that Martha Stewart hijacked that “good thing” phrase) is an app I recently installed on my iPad. I encountered it on one of my final nights of my second week away when I decided I didn’t want to read anything and wanted to play a game of Scrabble. I had to update several apps so when I went to the AppStore to do that, up came the featured app of the week, “Hanx Writer” (don’t click on photo, I don’t care about learning how know how to link to an app):


Why do I like it? Because it got me typing (and writing, duh) –immediately– during a low time when I thought I’d just give it up altogether. All of a sudden, I ended up writing about what was going on in the room around me. I loved the sound of the keystrokes and the >ding!zxzxzxzzzzzip!< at the end of the paragraph when I'd strike return. I loved watching the letters stamp into the "paper" on their virtual hammers. It made me feel, as I used to, as a writer using a typewriter. For someone like me, who is ancient, and who grew up with a typewriter "banging" throughout the night on our maple dining room table, the sound bouncing off the mahogany walls and walnut floors as my father would write letters, and columns and fill out forms, Hanx Writer restored some of those memories to me, viscerally. I first learned how to type on a typewriter. My first phone could withstand an angry hang-up. I am becoming a Roz Chast character when I say this: I can't really get into the groove of a smooth surface; there is no give; there is no texture, there is no life to me in that. (ha! that was unintended: groove / smooth surface … never mind.)

Another greate thing (assuming you have a smartphone or a computer nearby): Pandora's comedian channels. Go now. Go to Pandora and open a new channel. Type in "John Mulaney" on your smooth glass screen with your fat thumbs and just enjoy. Or try Jim Gaffigan, Mike Birbiglia, or if there are no kids around, Robin Williams (God rest his soul). If you've been in a serious mood, let these guys simply remind you of what it feels like to laugh your ass off again. When a smile feels strange on your face, it's a sign you're in need of irreverence. Here, I did it for you: John Mulaney Delta Air Line

So I’m good, really. I get it: don’t be sad about Mom (which is not always easy, and it’s not always difficult either). Including that one interaction with the sagacious family member, most of the comments from that post have been very supportive and sympathetic. It’s life. I just happen to share what I’m feeling. It makes people own stuff and become reflective. That can scare people sometimes… I know. It’s OK though. You survive it.

Thank you.

Grief: Think of the Living


My mother told me numerous times when we would talk about death or when someone in the family “went to God” that her own mother used to say “think of the living” when trying to figure out how to manage the myriad complex emotions, drives, urges, repressions, and crap that goes on in a person upon hearing the news that no one ever wants to hear.

“The living are the ones who are in pain. The departed feel no pain, they are in Grace,” Mom would explain. Grief is exhausting.

Last week, I wrote about my parents-in-law, and the day I first met them and tried to encapsulate the nearly quarter of a century I have known them. I wrote that post on Sunday, it went “live” online Monday. My sister-in-law read that post to her father moments before he was trolley’d off to an MRI. An MRI that would be his last, as Fate has it, and a singular and final moment of cogent consciousness they would share before he departed this earth.

That afternoon, my house phone rang with the news that Daddy-O was in a radically new and grave condition. My husband rushed home almost four hours by car, from the camp-out he had just begun with our youngest son the day before. He arrived in time to join his siblings and mother for his father’s final hours. I was teaching a yoga class, a restorative one, when I received a text from my husband to call him for an update.

After the class, I went home to check on my sons and headed to the hospital, for the end was near and I wanted to be with my husband to help him through it. I also wanted to bid farewell to an amazing man, one who showed me time and again how he embodied gracious living, kindness, patience and true gentlemanliness. True to form, Daddy-O lived that way until he died.

How did he do this? He simply waited. He waited until his beloved was ready for him to leave. He waited until she was taken care of: her feet, back and neck propped and rested; her form nestled in and under blankets in that frigid hospital room. Her hand holding his in a defiant and loving way, never truly “ready” to say goodbye. His passing was glorious and awful at the same time. I wept and shivered with sadness, sapping myself from the reality of what just occurred while at the same time praising God for my father-in-law’s legacy and many kindnesses.

There were no wails or outbursts. He wouldn’t have withstood it anyway. It wasn’t that emotion was not allowed, because he was a very emotionally available man. It was that grief is … exhausting, and the long and weary road to his final days had taken a toll on its own. I know he would urge us to conserve, to breathe and to accept. That’s who he was.

Are We Ever Ready?

I can think of a million things I need to do before I let myself relax. Walk the dog, sort the mail, fill the trash, wipe the counter, feed the kids, read a book, write a lesson plan, call a friend, write an email, check in with my father, fold some laundry.

Yesterday, we went sailing with longtime friends. Before we drove off to meet them, the house was in disarray (somewhat more than usual due to the flurry of life and death in the last few weeks) but the dogs were fed. I did not do my usual, “one more plate!” into the dishwasher and pressed Start or wipe down the counter before leaving. That could wait.

These friends — we were with them the night before my husband and I were engaged (and they knew the whole time, the stinkers) and we’ve been together for many of life’s huge moments. We are godparents to each others’ kids and we were in each others’ weddings. She was my first call when Mom died. She was my first call after Daddy-O passed. Our husbands often wax rhapsodic about taking off in a Winnebago one of these years to tour the nation, so it was absolutely the norm that they celebrated my FIL’s life at the Mass and later at the reception. Being on the water, away from terra firma and all her gravity was so satisfying. My shoulder and back pain of late completely evaporated.

It was a busy day in the harbor. The weather was spectacular and once we broke from the shore points and land masses, the winds picked up.

Floating on the Chesapeake Bay with absolutely no expectations other than a slight nagging in the back of the head forefront of the mind about the kids and their safety, but overall: nothing weighing us down, was exactly what we needed.


“The parts of you that are not touching the ground, that’s when outer space, the sky begins, isn’t that right?” my youngest asked last week.


School of Life and Death

My children have looked back on this academic year that has passed and they sneer. The day before school began, they lost their grandmother Mimi (my mother) and the day before school ended, they lost their grandfather Pop-Pop (my FIL).

“What we learned this year, did not come from books,” my middle son said, stretching his arms overhead and looking at the floor.

“This year sucked,” said my oldest, with no shortage of disgust.

They had to grow up a bit faster this year. My oldest ended up telling my brother of our mother’s death. “That sucked big time,” he said and will likely say for the rest of his days. When he learned that his Pop-Pop was nearing his own journey, he said, “I’m not telling anyone anything this time.”

Between the “bookends of madness” a friend called it and continued, “were these pockets of life crap that you had to endure,” she said, alluding to the weirdness of friends who’ve fallen away, bullies at school, as well as some other stuff. “What a shitty year,” she said.

It has been shitty. But it’s also been great. I have to allow the truth of this: we had good moments peppered in this year too.

It hasn’t even been a full 365-day year for us yet but it has been layered with beautiful growth and moments filled with opportunities to enrich the lives of the living. Even though we severed ties with some people, we deepened and enriched our ties with others. That’s where death is completely amazing: it cuts through the garbage for you and you learn to put not only your own life first, but you learn to put first that which matters most. My husband and I each have fancy letters we can put after our names now as he earned certification in project management, which is a nice boon to his resume and I finished my yoga certification and started teaching. In fact, I just wrapped up my first 12-week session the night Daddy-O died, so that’s a bittersweet moment for me.

“Do you actually earn money by teaching yoga?” my mother-in-law asked sincerely a couple weeks ago. She and I laughed at the question, and I said “Yeah. I do. It’s not a ton, but it’s ‘mad money’ — I use it to pay for the kids’ haircuts, treat them to Starbucks or light car repairs or maybe buy a nice thing for myself…”

“Mad money, Tom… do you remember that?” she said, smiling as she leaned into my father-in-law. He smiled too.

“Oh yes! I remember it.” He said, leaning in to her, that small gesture speaking private, untold tales.

“We still stash it away, Daddy-O,” I said with a wink. Not that my husband has ever given me a real reason to stash away funds for the moment I decide in anger to split the scene.

So I think of the living. I am one of them, as are you. We struggle at times, don’t we? We don’t have to be grieving to struggle; but sometimes we don’t recognize we are grieving. It doesn’t take a death of a human in our lives to shake us to our cores and have us hole-up and cocoon for a bit.

I think of my mother-in-law and her children and grandchildren for whom this loss is so deep and profound.  Despite the fact that Daddy-O’s illness “prepared” us and we had the advent of time and health occurrences and complications to ease us into this most unpleasant of states, we were not really ever “OK” with it.

I have had two distinct — I feel like a cad for even mentioning this, for every life and every death is so completely unique and to be revered in its own space — experiences with losing a parent. My mother went suddenly with cardiac arrest and felt no pain (this is something I learned this year — I didn’t know the difference between cardiac arrest and a heart attack) but I knew intuitively that something was changing in her. My father-in-law passed quietly, peacefully, surrounded by loved ones in a hospital bed.

There is no “preference” for me. They both tore me apart. With my mother, I was able to tune-in to the intuitive messages I was receiving weeks before and I could spend some time with her on the phone and we could have some nice chats. With my father-in-law, I was given the gift of time and medical knowledge to help ease me into those final moments. I was able to actively grieve before him and accept (with great defiance) what was happening. Not everyone has that opportunity.

My mother showed me that death shows up no matter what. My father-in-law showed me that even though it happens no matter what, we can face it and let ourselves let it happen despite our many objections.

So if the point of life is to live it, that means feel all it — the ups and the downs, then live it we must. I won’t say “good” or “bad” anymore (or I’ll try to stop saying that) because what I’ve learned is that what I think might be good, could be seen as bad for someone else. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Humor Beckons


I decided yesterday on the way to the Bay to read Tina Fey’s memoir, Bossypants and I’m so glad I did. She is one of my favorite writers and performers. She is reminding me, even in her passages about her scar on her face, that not all memoir writing needs to be deep and intentionally profound. That when we just let life roll-out from us, when we sit with kindness and objectivity (as much as possible, some moments are easier than others) and when we actually learn from someone else’s perspective (that they are totally deluded or just have a kinder spin on things) that we can tell a more whole story.

Fey’s book is making me laugh out loud. She’s my age. Her recollections of style, music, popular culture and news are taking me back, moment by moment, to those crazy grisly days of prepubescence, full-on puberty, teenagerdom and I guess on to the rest (which I haven’t arrived at yet because I just started it).

I mentioned some of her humor to my husband this morning and he asked me, “Do you have any humor in your memoir stuff?” and I said with great relief, “Yes. I wrote extensively about rolling around unbuckled in the back seat of my grandparent’s car, a US Navy destroyer called the Oldsmobile Delta 88. My grandpa would take these sharp turns at 25 which would slam me into his black wooden canes or one of my brothers when we would kill time waiting for Mom during an appointment…  And how its upholstery made my thighs itch when I wore shorts.”

I also wrote about when I must’ve been in fourth or fifth grade when NY State law changed to allow “right on red” and how we as children were thrust head-first into a public awareness campaign as pedestrians and the defenseless because the law had ushered a new death threat from the driving populace… my grandfather a robust member therein. Ironically, it was his wife who told my mother to “think of the living” which is something he likely didn’t do much of while taking those hard turns in his land yacht…

It’s all of life, and the living, that we can keep in the forefronts of our minds when remembering our dead and how much they affected us when they were alive and truly living.

Thank you.


Grief: Writing Back. #Sympathy Cards, #Condolences, #Etiquette


I am about to take pen to paper, in a literal sense and finally respond to all the people who’ve expressed their sympathies to me when Mom died in September.

that's a lot of writing. i'm glad i read about who gets a note back or i'd be here for weeks.

two stacks. that’s a lot of writing. i’m glad i read about when to send a reply or i’d be here for weeks.


I have avoided this task because I’m basically not quite sure I understand it. I started a post back in November (which I didn’t share) about my appreciation for the symbolism of the sympathy cards, but my general dislike of having to return the sentiment in some form of acknowledgement. I can hear my grandmother saying, “Send those notes, Molly…” and I can also hear my mother say, “Why bother? People know you know they sent the note… who is this for? Them?”


It’s like this to me: “You sent me a note to tell me you’re sad for my loss and that you know I’m sad. Thank you. Now I will send you a note back to tell you I appreciate that you knew I was sad and that I’m grateful you were co-sad with me or aware of my sadness. Here’s me seeing you seeing me.” It’s Avatar to the Nth degree.

I’m sure I’m supposed to reply in a year. I haven’t even bothered to check in with Emily Post about it. But Grandma wins and I’m about to start the notes. I’ll check in with you when I’ve finished the task. I started this post on Friday, June 6, 2014. I expect I’ll wrap it up sometime around September 2016.

Not so fast…

Well, shit.

I wish I’d checked in with the internet first.

Real Simple magazine says send them, but if you’re too devastated, don’t because real sympathy means your loved ones understand: “True sympathy means respecting the grieving process, selflessly and without expectation.”

ask.MetaFilter.com (who knows what that is) says if you get a (just a) card (in absence of flowers, etc), then you don’t need to send a card because you wouldn’t send a card back for just a birthday card. Snarky MetaFilter.

FuneralWise.com says: “There is no official time frame, but within two-three weeks of the funeral or memorial service is appropriate.

You don’t need to send a formal thank you note to everyone who attended the funeral/visitation or sent you a sympathy card. Instead, a thank you note or acknowledgement should be sent to anyone who has done something extra, including:

    • Pallbearers or people who have sent or brought flowers, donations, food, support, etc.”

Then it goes on to say this, “So the funeral of your loved one was over a month ago (or several months, or even a year or more). You forgot to send thank you notes, or you just didn’t have the heart to do it at the time. Now you’re feeling better, and you’re wondering: Is it too late?”

While “… it’s never too late; you will need to acknowledge the delay in sending the note. For example, preface your thank you with something like this: ‘I’m sorry it took me so long, but I do want to thank you for your kindness…’ Or, ‘My apologies for the delay in sending this, but your gift of flowers for Joe’s funeral service was lovely, and I wanted to thank you…'”

So that helps. I’ll go with FuneralWise. I’ve sent sympathy cards to people and sometimes I received replies and sometimes I didn’t. I never kept score. People go out of their minds when someone dies; the last thing they need to worry about is offending someone who’s offered emotional support.

It also helps me remember at this point, now nine months later, how thoughtful people were when it all went down. When I was 15, our next door neighbor suffered a horrible loss of her live-in grandchild who was ejected from a car in an accident. Less than a year before, my younger cousin also died in a vehicle-related accident and the whole thing was BRUTAL. His parents were experiencing marital discord in the months preceding his death and so his accident ripped everyone apart.

For my neighbor, whom I barely knew, I made a huge tuna casserole as some form of outreach. I didn’t ask, I just showed up with the food and walked away. I remembered how raw we all were at my cousin’s funeral and then reception, so I knew that family was suffering. Eating, much less cooking is the last thing on your mind.

Back to 2013. We had a small, impromptu gathering at my house here in Virginia the day after Mom died. My in-laws, some sibs-in-law and close high school and college friends came by to see my brothers who’d also swooped in to cocoon, hunker down, help Dad deal, and start strategizing logistics for the Mass and funeral ceremonies.

It’s all coming back to me now, which is a good thing.

The day Mom died, Labor Day, was the day before school started here. The night she died, Dad spent the night with my younger brother, his pregnant wife and their two little kids. The next day, I got up (I’m not sure I slept), took my kids to school, put on a brave face and operated on autopilot. My husband took the day off from work; my older brother flew in from NYC and arrived on an 11am shuttle. We went to lunch at a Thai place near my home almost immediately after dropping off his luggage.

I remember it clearly now: my husband and I picked him up at the airport, and he dumped his bags in my SUV’s “wayback” (as I used to call it when I was a kid) and we drove home. I want to say we were all quiet in the car. But I also want to say, we all, the three of us talked about Mom, talked about how surreal and crazy it all was, and then I want to say we listened to the Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin.

When we pulled up to the house, we parked and my brother took his bags to our guest room, washed his face and then plopped himself on one of our leather chairs. He sighed, ran his hands through his hair a couple times and said, “Screw it. I’m hungry. You hungry? Let’s get some lunch. My treat.”

We got back in the car, drove a few miles away and each ordered lunch. More “what the hell” and “Mom’s dead…” “How’s Dad? This is so crazy…” stuff at the table. It probably was one of the coolest times I’ve ever had with my brother as we’ve become adults. It was very real and vulnerable and safe. All bets were off and we could say anything we wanted, no judgement. The only rule was no rules.

That heavily lacquered table in the strip mall Thai restaurant with the useless polyester napkins which don’t ever absorb, and its Zen-inspired Asian piano & wind chime music was the birthplace of, “We’re all a little crazy, Mol.”

We each had a Corona and a lime. Talked and talked for about two hours. Then we shared one more Corona and got back in the car. We drove back to our house and then friends started to show up, just … out of the blue. They knew what had happened, but we didn’t make any plans, they just knew we’d be home and likely zombie idiots who’d forgotten how to feed ourselves. They descended with love and reality as if to say, “We are coming to support you and we don’t really care what you say…” CaraLeigh, Donna, Jeff, John, Scott, Matt, Tom, Jill, Tom, Laurie … It was very life-fulfilling and it gave me hope. I cleaned the kitchen. Barely sat down. Couldn’t really sit still. Food from Kelly, Rebecca, Donna and Jill was so loving. We’ve gone back to eating cereal…

The weather today is very similar to the weather that day. And I’m outside, just like I was that day when Dad called to tell me Mom fell down and that the EMTs told him she likely had a cardiac arrest and that she was on transport to the hospital.

Crap. Now I’m remembering how I fell apart in my brother’s best friends’ arms when I saw him. I just … completely lost it. There’s something about this guy: I’ve known him since I was 15 and he knew Mom so well; on a lark they took a couple community college classes together; I’m so glad she had him to hang out with because things were so hard for me with her. Anyway, seeing him pretty much undid me. Memories are strong; I was late to picking up Thing 3 just now because I was swept back up in those heady posthumous days.

So those are the people who will get the notes. It’s good and it will be good for me to send them now. Immediately after Mom died, was school, then my birthday, grief and more grief. Then Thing 3’s birthday and Thanksgiving, then Christmas, then Thing 2’s birthday, then Charlie, then our frigid winter and yoga certification, and then yoga teaching and more grief. The pressure, quite frankly, to write any note has been hard for me. I simply couldn’t wrap my arms around the point of it. But now I see the point of it, and it’s good.

Thank you.