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By the first week of July, a nurse called and said, Things are progressing. This seemed like misleading terminology, but I understood what she meant. Later, I flipped through the manual the hospice team had given us.

Inside, it described how a body prepared for death, carefully and methodically shutting down. Perhaps it was just the way the copy was written, but the whole process seemed improbably kind and gentle. Like a family moving out of a home it loved but no longer needed. Reducing bedrooms to cardboard boxes, packing up photo albums and dishes and books to put into storage.

At ninety, death was ordinary and expected and it was not tragic. I knew these facts to be true and yet they seemed in direct opposition to everything I felt.

It seemed the cruelest kind of dramatic irony that his wife had vanished, and he did not know to mourn her. And yet, it was also a gift—how lucky he was, to not have to feel the weight of that grief!

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