The end came suddenly, without the lengthy buildup of an illness. While my mother was out of town, the old lady died peacefully, napping in the chair in her living room. The housekeeper found her the next day.

There was no way for my mother to make it home in time to see her friend off, so it fell to our family to go in her stead. It was the first funeral we had attended in years, perhaps the first since I’d gained a more mature understanding of death. The waxy figure barely resembled the woman I’d known.

We met—for the first time, at least that I could remember—her son and daughter, and their children. The son is an overweight man with a tussled comb-over who mumbles a few words before taking a seat. The daughter was much more vibrant, dark-haired and slim.

“We’re really sorry our mother couldn’t come,” I said. “They’d been spending a lot of time together.”

“Oh really?” the daughter said. “What did they do?”

“Just talked, mostly,” I said. “They visited a lot, sometimes did a little cooking together. I think she saw your mother as sort a maternal figure.” I see that as the greatest compliment someone can give; surrogate or not, those relationships are worth a lot.

It makes the daughter uncomfortable. “No, I just think they were friends. Very good friends,” she said, shortly before excusing herself. It’s clear she was uncomfortable with the idea of her mother seeing anyone but her as a daughter figure.

Maybe it was telling that the first time they’d visited in years was to attend the funeral.

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