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Memory and a Dying Friend

My friend is dying. I don't know why, other than the basic human inevitability of it. I am told she is in hospice care, which is our modern way of clarifying the euphemismal “not doing very well” or having a “grim prognosis”. What brought my friend to the hospice stage, I do not know. I can do without the specifics.

A mutual classmate reported the sad fact via e-mail. He provided a postal address and suggested “an appropriate card with your sentiment written out” — implying that packaged emotions from the stable of Hallmark or American Greetings would not suffice.

Our classmate was right. I have known my dying friend longer than you, my reader, have been alive (unless you recall rumble seats and ration cards). My friend and I were together when our first institutional mold, public education, embraced us and began to shape the outlines of our lives. She and I were together, too, in the informal and compact network of a middle-class neighborhood in a middle-class town in middle America, accepting the gifts that the Greatest Generation was handing us and never imagining any direction but up.