I was listening to a talk show and the host, who is Jewish, was telling about his experience sitting shiva for his recently departed mother. It was the first time he’d ever sat shiva, and he didn’t know if he would like it or not, but it turned out to be a positive experience for him–just sitting and waiting, waiting for people to come and bring his family food, sitting and talking about his mother, whom everyone loved. He expressed his gratitude for the Jewish law that required him to do this, for the wisdom of his ancient religion.

My mother died on a Sunday morning, almost thirteen years ago. On Monday morning my alarm clock went off. I could hear a fierce wind storm going on outside, and I really didn’t want to get out of bed. “My mother just died,” I thought. “I shouldn’t have to go to work, right?” So I called my editor and left a message on her voice mail: “My mother died. I won’t be in today.” Then I went back to sleep.

On Tuesday morning, I got up and went to work. I was opening the mail, and my editor came and stood by my desk. “You know, Rebecca,” she said quietly, “I appreciate your dedication, but we’ll get the paper out without you. No one expects you to be here today.”

To tell you the truth, I was a little embarrassed. It hadn’t occurred to me before that moment, but of course no one expected me to be there that day. Or any day that week. I just didn’t know what else to do.

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