Lessons from My Mother

James Wood, writing for The New Yorker:

In the hospital room, grief conspired with natural curiosity: so this is how a body near death functions; this is how most of us will go. . . . Six or seven seconds passed between deep breaths; each was likely to be the last, and the renewal of breath, when it came, seemed almost like a strange, teasing physiological game—no, not yet, not quite. In the days before she died, a sentence from “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” kept coming to my mind. Peter Ivanovich is looking at Ivan Ilyich’s corpse: “The expression on the face said that what was necessary had been accomplished, and accomplished rightly.” Those words sustained me. A long life, a fulfilling career as a schoolteacher, a merciful end (relatively speaking), three children and a devoted husband: what was necessary had been accomplished, and accomplished rightly.

This was the first non-Trump and/or politics piece I’ve read since August that I felt compelled to post here. Beautiful writing and an honorable story, I was moved to tears as I read it, sitting next to my daughter as she watched The Muppet Christmas Carol. It’s one of the great cruelties of art—that so often the people who inspire the most moving tributes aren’t around to witness them, and even more so, that their absence is what inspired the creation.