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To mark the 1-year anniversary of his mother's death, my nephew has invited the entire family to a memorial dinner at her favorite restaurant. I prefer to remember my sister's death day privately. Am I being disrespectful?-M.R., NEV.
Two years ago, I needed to interview a patient as part of a teaching video. My friend, Liam, was dying of lung cancer. I asked if he wanted to be part of the film. He agreed and managed to reveal his jovial spirit while sharing his experiences of dying at home on his farm.
After his death, I periodically visited his widow, Nancy. Over the months, I saw her slowly learn to live without her beloved partner. She talked about how she could never be the same person she was, her identity now shaken.
"I don't want to go anywhere," she said. "Not that I ever went out much. I'm content to stay here, on the farm."
Shortly before the second anniversary of Liam's death, I visited Nancy. She was doing well. She'd planted the yearly garden, she'd visited her sister, and she was feeding six stray cats in the barn.
"I know that Sunday is Liam's death day," I said. "I'll be away then, but I wanted to see you and talk about him."
"Yes, that's a nice thing. Thank you."
She sat quietly, looking down at her hands folded in her lap. "You know, my son wants me to go to his daughter's birthday party on Sunday."
"I don't want to go," she said softly. Then she looked up at me, searching for permission to decline the invitation.
"I think this Sunday is different from any other day of the year. And I think that if you just want to be here, alone, with Liam, it's okay."
She smiled almost brightly and said, "That's just what I'm going to do."
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