One realization does dawn upon the death of the second parent, namely that you’ve now moved into the green room to the River Styx. You’re next. Another thing about parental mortality: No matter how much you’ve prepared for the moment, when it comes, it comes at you hot, hard and unrehearsed.


The summer after Pup died, I got a midnight call with the news that my friend Rust Hills, the editor and writer, had died. Rust was a great admirer of Montaigne. I thumbed through my copy of the “Essays” and found this: “The ceaseless labor of your life is to build the house of death.” It’s probably too downbeat a sentiment by American smiley-face standards to make it onto a refrigerator magnet, but . . . pas mal. You want to be able, when the end comes, to look the Reaper right in the eye and say, “Oh, puh-leeze.” I’m sure that’s how Mum did it. She’d have added, “And what, pray, is that preposterous costume supposed to indicate?”

--Christopher Buckley, Growing up Buckley

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