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Comparative Condolences
by Dan Klarmann

Anyone who watches cop or hospital shows knows the stock phrase, "I'm sorry for your loss." It is a pat phrase presented to grieving family members by strangers.

My mother died this afternoon, passing peacefully at 83. She seemed relatively fine early yesterday, out of sorts yesterday evening, and never fully woke up today. It wasn't a total shock; she's had near-death episodes due to her emphysema a couple of times in the last year. My brother, my wife and I were around her bed at the extended facility care as she breathed her last, just before 3:00 this afternoon.

We informally sat a sort of immediate Shiva as a procession of those who'd known my mother in the months she's been at McKnight Place came in to express genuine grief and sympathy. Staff and residents shared their shock and offered comfort in a variety of religious paradigms. It was very moving. One nurse told us that she always looked forward to treating each of my mother's minor skin injuries because she was so much fun to be with. Another mentioned my mother's apparent ability to see past her professional mask; to see into her soul.

These people didn't use the pat phrase, because they were clearly sharing in the loss.

After an hour or so, the Neptune Society Cadillac arrived to carry her away. The gurney had a nice quilted pillow and blanket in homey earth tones; very comforting. My mother would have enjoyed it, especially after all the plain sterile white gurney rides to box ambulances she's had in the last couple of years.

My point is that the driver used the stock phrase. And much to my jaded surprise, it was good to hear.