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Reading My Mother during Lockdown

The day before my mother died, she warned me that I would find my father’s love letters, and hers, in the old bureau in the sitting room.
‘They’re not very exciting,’ she said, with a smile that seemed almost regretful, as she leaned back against the pillows of the bed she’d shared with my father. She was as thin as a bird and her skin was almost transparent. ‘We didn’t write about passion.’
I suspected that, if the letters had contained anything very intimate, she might have already destroyed them. But perhaps I was doing her a disservice. I discovered, after she died, that I didn’t know my mother as well as I thought I did.
Later that evening, when she’d slipped into a morphine-induced sleep, from which, I’d been warned, she might never wake, I opened the bureau to look for the certificates and other documents I would shortly need. Overwhelmed by sadness, feeling guilty, a trespasser on a very private life, I opened the crocheted war-time clutch bag where she kept important things.  I…

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