When Marjorie’s husband had a health scare, it was her father who looked it over and asked her the hard questions. And when it was confirmed that his cancer was terminal, it was her father who came to support her.

Without much debate or conversation my dad extracted himself from his life in the Pacific Northwest and moved in with us in D.C.

For a while, I went back to work. My husband and my father spent that time walking around the block together, talking about music and life and cancer.

My husband had always been a realist. Just like my father. I think, in many ways, he saw the quiet strength that enabled my dad to endure after such a tragic loss. Maybe he knew that I would need that strength sooner than we both imagined. It was only weeks later that my father stood next to me and watched me hold my husband’s head in my hands as he died. I moaned with grief when I knew — finally — that he was gone. My father had probably done the same when he found my mother, though I don’t know. I had been too young. I never asked.

I had never really thought about how it must have been for my dad to lose my mom. The loss of my mother was always framed in my mind as my loss: no mom to help me pick out a wedding dress or weep when she met her grandchildren. But as the days after Shawn’s death wore on, I started to think more about my dad and his grief.

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