The Rhythms of Widowhood
Proof of Life after Death / Conversation with Jane
Betty Auchard

Proof of Life after Death

My mother died thirteen years ago and my husband, only three. But a hail of mail still arrives addressed to each of them, which causes me to think of them often. Some of the letters are just ads. Others are reminders from organizations to which they once belonged that read, "To receive our annual report, please pay your dues. We miss you.”

Denny would laugh if he knew that the memorial park where he's buried still sends him advertisements for their "layaway plan." He even used to chuckle at "serious" junk mail such as literature from Planned Parenthood urging him to be cautious before making a baby.

"Too late for that," said Den. "They should have sent this warning four kids ago.”

And letters still arrive for my mother from Lane Bryant, the clothing supplier for large women. Although she lost weight, she could never get off the "big ladies" mailing

"Don't they know that I'm thin now and can shop anywhere that I please?" she railed. It would make her even madder if she knew that she's still on their preferred customer list when she has no need for clothing of any size.

Since neither mother nor husband can respond to mail that used to annoy them, I toss it in the plastic bin called the "dead letter office." From there the paper will be dumped into a truck and sent to a factory to be torn to shreds, soaked in bleach, and made into mash for a recycled paper that will take colored ink and new words of hype in large type. I might see those letters again, now bearing news of a cruise for Mom or tidings of great joy for Denny - but only if he donates to the stray animals at the pound.

I imagine my mother saying to my husband, "Why in the hell do they keep sending this stuff? We're gone for good.”

I've notified companies and organizations, saying, "These people are deceased. Please remove them from your mailing list." And they reply, "Oh, I'm sorry. We'll do that." But the junk mail keeps coming, and now I'm getting used to it. Mom and Denny may be gone, but they'll never leave this house for good. The mailman won't allow it.

Conversation with Jane

Betty:You know what, Jane?


Betty:If we did everything we are urged to do each and every day to maintain our female health and well-being, we might never make it out of the house!

Jane:Such as … ?

Betty:Well, such as: brush teeth for two minutes or more; floss diligently; cleanse your face with cream, not soap; apply sunscreen; take hormone replacement therapy; do strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular exercises; do one hundred Kegel exercises; use eye moisturizer drops; take vitamins; drink eight glasses of water; eat plenty of fiber and vegetables; eat a low-fat diet; practice visualization techniques to realize your fullest potential; practice relaxation, meditation, or yoga; and get seven to eight hours of sleep each night after brushing your teeth again and taking your nighttime medications.

Jane:And we'd still die.

Betty Auchard is the author of “Dancing in My Nightgown: the rhythms of widowhood”
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