Sometimes forgetfulness has really good reasons.

We were standing together in a room–a spouse, a couple adult children. “Eddie” was in a hospital bed.

We’d all met about forty-five minutes earlier, down the hall in a waiting area. All of us but Eddie. At the time the rest of us met, Eddie was in the bed, a team of people gathered around his bed, doing everything they could to help his heart start beating reliably on its own. Eventually, all they could do became “Nothing more we can do.”

The family went to the room for the last few moments of erratic heartbeat.

They cried, they talked. We left them alone. I eventually talked with them, told them the next steps in the process, and stepped out to do my part.

When I went back in, they were laughing, telling stories. They’d been aware of struggles in this heart for a few years. They knew things weren’t stable. They weren’t exactly surprised.

We talked. And for some paperwork, I asked Eddie’s wife for her phone number.

She remembered the area code, and then couldn’t get the next numbers. Her daughter helped.

I asked for the address. She started, and then we both turned to her daughter.

She didn’t dissolve into tears. She wasn’t angry or overwhelmed. She simply couldn’t remember the numbers and place that she went to all the time. And it was no surprise. Her life had just been upended by the death of the man in the hospital bed next to her.


I’m telling you this story because some of you are struggling to remember simple things and you are pretty upset with yourself. I’m telling you this story because some of you are pretty upset with other people people who are struggling to remember simple ideas. Loving one another and forgiving ourselves means remembering that what happens on the surface is often a result of deep turbulence underneath.


“Of course it’s hard to think” is one of the assurances I offer in This Is Hard: What I Say When Loved Ones Die.