Dealing With It

Deal with it by coming off as really robotic. Dodge the well-meaning hugs of strangers (because that’s all there is in this part of Florida for you, strangers and family) and raise your eyebrows crisply and politely whenever anyone coos “Oh it must be SO HARD for YOU GIRLS because it’s YOUR MOM and it’s just SO DIFFICULT.” Say “Yes, thanks for your help” a lot. Say, “We’ll certainly keep you informed.”

Deal with it by spending a lot of time on Etsy. You will favorite every cute graphic-y clutch wallet: every single one.

Deal with it by subscribing to living room online yoga. Do it sometimes–don’t do it, sometimes. Use one of her yoga mats which miraculously made it up here from Miami. Try not to think about it as her yoga mat; try not to think about how she learned to stand on her head when she was fifty and how impressed you were.

Deal with it by worrying incessantly about what you’re eating. Douse her pancakes with butter and syrup every morning but make sure you feel guilty for each bite of fake sausage. Try to ignore your desire to count calories—you thought you were done with that in 2005, but no–and tell yourself that it’s FINE to have some Greek yogurt, it’s FINE. Buy bags and bags of Milano cookies for her; reproach yourself for the sugar you put in your afternoon tea.

Deal with it by putting a lot of emoticons in your texts and emails and gchats, all of which are getting fewer and farther between.

Deal with it by planning fantasy trips: to Costa Rica, to Vegas, to California, to Canada, to Wales. Worry about what you would pack for these trips. Are you sure you have the right kind of shoes? You should probably spend some more time online shopping.

Deal with it by never crying.

Deal with it by getting an annual pass to the local aquarium and post a picture of the roseate spoonbills to your Facebook. Watch the injured sea turtle and the high-stepping beach birds, just like at home on the island, and watch the river otters. Recall that you used to be in a band where you sang about otters. Your last gig was about a month ago, two nights before you had to leave early, and you will never have another one. You will never write another song. In the open-water exhibit, stare at cownose rays swooping through clouds of silver fish, and wish they had done something else with the floor of that particular tank rather than leave it just plain blank concrete.

Deal with it by going into her room—the only other room in this apartment—every thirty minutes to make sure she’s still breathing. Adjust the oxygen, offer her something to drink, regardless if she makes eye contact, regardless if she understands who you are or who she is or what is happening to all of you. Put some lip balm on her lips. Hold her hand. Kiss her forehead and wish her sweet dreams. Make sure the last thing she hears at night from you is “I love you.” (Does she hear it?) Lay down on the new, exponentially more comfortable foldout couch, and tell yourself to try to get to sleep, that she’s fine, that everything is going to be fine. Relatively speaking, everything is going to be fine. It’s going to be as fine as it can be. It’s going to be more or less fine.

Deal with it by getting up again, thirty minutes later.

Deal with it by falling asleep, briefly, late in the afternoon, before it’s time for her dinner. Let the cat who used to be the kitten you fostered with her four years ago come to sit on your chest.

Deal with it by reading whatever you can get your hands on. Burn through the Narnia and Little House series—they made it from Miami too—and ask your librarian sister to order you books you can’t get so readily in Wellington. Finish a book every night, every two nights. Forget what you’ve read as soon as you’ve read it.

Deal with it by crying.

Deal with it by calling hospice if you think something might be wrong—maybe the pills need to be adjusted?—and by furrowing your brow when every person you talk to seems to have a different opinion, or else no opinion at all. “Well, you know her best,” they say, shrugging. “It’s fine either way.” You are not a doctor. You are not a pharmacist. You and your sister have never done this before. The nurses will wait until the next time you call after hours (it will only be a couple of days) to tell you you’ve been doing it wrong. They will seem incredulous to learn that you have no idea how, exactly, to do this work, and will end the conversation by telling you to remember to call them if you need anything.

Deal with it by stopping listening to music altogether—you do not want a soundtrack to this particular part of your life. You do not want any negative associations with any songs, because who knows when you might need them again.


  1. Man, this makes me want to construct a giant puppypile of your friends around you.

  2. trying to think of an emoticon that would fit here…none works. no words either. love you.

  3. Much love to you Chiara. You are so strong. And it’s ok to let the tears come, sometimes it helps you be strong the rest of the time. xx

  4. Much love Chiara xx

  5. I only have cliches for you Chiara, but it’s all true – I’m thinking of you, I wish you strength, I wish you whatever it is you need at this time. Love and kisses for you. xxxxx

  6. Deal with it by writing the most heart-wrenching yet beautiful personal essays and publishing them on your blog so that your community may share your grief and remind you–even if you can’t hear it now–that we are here, we love you. We love your mom.

  7. Another thought: you don’t reeeeaaaally have to deal with it. You just have to get through it. Robotic is a-okay. Anything short of totally non-functional is a-okay, actually, and occasionally, totally non-functional is acceptable as well.
    One great and unusual thing about the life you’ve led and the friends you have: around the clock, every hour of the day, someone in the world is thinking of you with love. When you feel alone in Florida – which I am getting that you kind of do – try to remember and believe that, because it is true and good.

  8. David St George

    I think what you call Robotic could also be called Being Unbelievably Brave. Thinking of you often :)

  9. Ugh, the hug-dodging… I didn’t remember that part until you just said it.

    All of this sucks — SUCKS — but you are doing it. You can do it, and you are.

  10. I’m so glad you got the couch sorted to a more comfy one, you need to get the sleep that you allow yourself, to be as good as it can be. Do lots of deep belly breathing it helps repair and slow down the body which if you aren’t getting sleep might just help you at the moment and focus on your breathe. I know you’ve heard that before.
    But it really has helped me through the times when I couldn’t stop thinking about everything.
    I got the same stuff,- feeling I was supposed to “know” everything and really just wanting someone else take over but this is just a time thing and hospice are letting you keep some control (in a weird sort of way). I think you look back on things and it is actually a feeling of strength having all the imput that they are asking you for now.

    Like your friends are saying we are thinking about you probably when you are finally lying on your comfy couch reading so next time you read Rosie says HI !!
    Lots of love

  11. Something to cheer you up: there’s a little something from Powell’s that will be arriving at your sister’s soon with your name on it! Just a li’l something to look forward to.

    Just keep getting through the days and watching “Nashville”.

    I’ll be at work on Mon/Wed/Thurs if you need to Gchat!

  12. Thank you for writing. Even when we can’t do anything to help you we can listen.

    I got some situationally induced asthma last year and learned that, in many practices, they tell you that grief is located in the lungs. The advice to focus on your breathing, on just working with that, I think is good. It won’t fix anything but it will help you keep going.


  13. ‘Put some lip balm on her lips. Hold her hand. Kiss her forehead and wish her sweet dreams. Make sure the last thing she hears at night from you is “I love you.”’

    That’s exactly what I did. Love you. Glad you have a more comfortable bed. xxx

  14. I agree with your stance on music. Eight years after losing my dad to lung cancer, there are still at least half a dozen amazing songs that I can’t even hear the first few bars of without crying and losing the rest of my day to grief. There’s just something indelible about sleeping in the same house as a hospice bed – but you know that, now.

    I’m sorry you’re in the club.