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Friday, December 6, 2002

Dear Kate,

At the bank this morning, Sue looked at a photocopy of your will, saw that it named me beneficiary and executor, and agreed to my choosing your investments. That done, I authorized her to sell your current holdings and replace them with one of the real estate investment trusts that I told you about a few weeks ago—a stock that stands a good chance of doubling over the next several years, so each of your nieces and nephews will get the twenty-thousand that you hoped to give them. Such a good start to the day that I should have known it was a false lead. The bad news came just a few minutes later, when I went through everything in the safety deposit box and couldn’t find the original of your will, which makes me wonder what Dan will do when I see him next Tuesday.

And it wasn’t any better when I checked the answering service and heard a cheery little message from Holly—"Just calling to say hi and hope you're doing well. I'm standing here looking out over Lake Michigan. Lain and I are heading back to Iowa City this afternoon and look forward to seeing you soon." Such an attentive friend—she never misses a chance to buck me up, even when she’s out of town. But I wonder if she realized that you and I were scheduled to be in Chicago this next weekend, and we too were supposed to be looking out over the lake—from the Navy Pier and the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. The minute I heard her message I thought of your haunting refrain: "Don't you realize how little time we have?"

I thought of that refrain again at Carol's this evening, given how little time she and Pierre had together. Though our offices were side by side all these years, I never realized until now how painful it must have been for her when he died just as suddenly as you, and she was left with three young children to raise and classes to teach as well. Compared to her, I considered myself fortunate to be free of such burdens, until she told me they were a blessing. Which made me think that perhaps I need something to do beside writing these letters, something purposeful to keep me busy and keep my mind off things. But then again, I don’t want to lose touch, as I have the last few days, unable to conger you up, hear your voice, smell your skin, feel you next to me. Which moved Carol to tell me that she "didn't change the sheets for several weeks after Pierre died, so I could still smell him beside me." Too bad that Martha changed the sheets on our bed the day after she arrived—too bad your sister is a housecleaning freak. I told that to Carol, and we had a good laugh over the sheets and the escapades of colleagues in the backward abysm of time when we were all so young it seemed as if we would live forever. Which made me think of your refrain again. And again.