“In these empty gray hours…”

…I felt the first shreds of separation from my mother. The difference between us was manifest. I was alive; she was dead. At the same time, all boundaries between us seemed to disappear. The presence of death opened a kind of wormhole in which my experience was indistinguishable from hers, and this moment was merged with the moment, forty-three years before, when my mother learned of her own mother’s death. That death was sudden and unexpected, an ocean away. I knew this morning, with a force that almost knocked me backward, how alone my mother must have felt when she got the news. She had no mother to show her child to. No mother to make me — or herself as mother — real. I understood that, all those years when I longed for her to let me go, she had been hanging on in order to protect me from feeling this alone.

— from “Rules,” by Maria Meindl, included in At the End of Life: True Stories About How We Die, edited by Lee Gutkind

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