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  • One day soon I'll go with my daughter, feeling a bit empty handed, to visit an old friend. Her son and my daughter will play in the backyard, probably a game that looks like Army or shooting or hunting with guns made from PVC pipe. Pow, pow... My daughter will be a good sport—she's matured to enjoy playing with a little kid.

    I'll feel the ribbon of grief give a tug, missing Sarah. Although it's not scalding and panicky raw like the beginning, it wraps twice around my heart and threads itself through my gut. Sometimes it turns my legs to water, my mind loses its strength too, for a moment. But usually, it's just a reminder and a memory. Sad and sweet.

    At the kitchen table Sarah's mom and I will catch up. Girl talk, but not girly. She'll be her no-nonsense self, straight forward, honest, caring, amazing. I'll be inspired by her strength and competence. Her house will feel a bit empty and strange as her husband just moved out, the marriage just couldn't take it. We'll feel a bit empty and strange too, but that's what we've become used to.
  • The kids will join us after their playtime. We'll have pizza from scratch or some other delicious homemade thing--the kind of food that makes a budget stretch. Olivia will talk about finals and her new job.

    We won't drink wine because I won't take any. I've no idea how to choose wine and nobody drinks it anyway. I'll take a story instead, this time Tiffany’s Incubating eggs, an optimistic take on the rotten stuff kids have to go through. Our kids have been through some rotten stuff. And unlike wine, I know how to choose stories, so I keep a roll of slim turquoise ribbon in my purse to 'wrap' these little gifts.

    Our friendship is the kind that sometimes develops between moms whose kids are friends. Years of water polo games and fund raisers and committee meetings. Years of shuffling the girls back and forth for sleepovers or dinners. Years of chatting about school and teachers, teenagers, colleges, recipes, workouts, husbands.
  • Some things change for us. Some things stay the same. Same old taxes, different returns. Next year I'll do one tax return, just for my friend. This year her tax return was for her and her husband. Last year I did an additional return, the last return for Sarah. I had to look up the instructions at irs.gov: Prepare the tax return for the decedent as normal. Write the word “deceased” after the decedent’s name on the first page of the return, and note the date of death at the top of the form. My friend looked on and in large print across the top of the page I wrote: Deceased 12/31/2011. I didn't let my hand shake.

    On a previous visit to her home my friend showed me how she converted Sarah's room to a place for her son. This makes me think that Olivia and I should offer to repaint her bedroom one weekend—something to blow out the bad air of divorce. Knowing my friend, she's already bought the paint and started the prep—she's always been one step ahead of me.

    So that’s what I’ll do. I’ll give a little story and write a little story and have dinner with an old friend and hope that it’s enough. I’ll hope that I can be the friend I need to be and the mother that Olivia needs, too. Mostly, I’ll hope that it’s enough to keep Sarah alive to me – well and whole and happy and smiling in my memories.
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