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My time with the Tuesday night grief group was nearing its end. I’d watched the women who were there before me graduate themselves out of the group. Some remarried, some moved away, most simply learned to balance the realities of this new life. On one of my last nights, the usuals gathered, plus the newcomers just testing the place, deciding if the group would work for them .There were the usual flimsy tissue boxes, and we told the usual stories in familiar rhythms. When there was a lull, we sat in companionable silence for nearly a minute before Richard, whom we gossiped about at dinner, who had a beautiful wife–Linda saw them at the grocery store–and whose young son had died many years before, told us this story.

“My grandmother used to say–”

We clutched our rough tissues and looked at him with our swollen eyes.

“She used to say that if you took all the sorrows of all the people in the world and hung them from a tree like fruit and then you let people choose which one they wanted, we would still pick our own.”

I thought back to the phone call with Psychic Suzanna months before and to the first time I met her in the hotel bar. What if she had told me then what was to come? Not just meeting Miles, not just his death, but afterward. That Miles would be the catalyst for this blossoming life, that my time with him would lay the foundation for some braver, more fearless me. That through knowing him and loving him I would become someone with the wherewithal to seize my dreams. I searched across the circle and saw that the other women had turned inward, as I had turned inward, and I imagined us meeting in that orchard of sorrow. Perhaps my mother would be there. Would she still choose this life with its sadness and memories and hope?

I looked up to see the other women nodding and I found myself nodding too. Of course, we seemed to say, all of us. Of course we would pick our own.

pp. 218-222. Excerpted from: "Unremarried Widow" by Artis Henderson. Posted by permission from the author. Published by Simon & Schuster, copyright 2014.

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