The Young Professional’s Guide To Death

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Everyone has an opinion on how you should live your life in your 20s—open a Roth IRA, don’t put more than 30% of your income toward rent, visit your doctor annually and make sure he provides in-network coverage.

I definitely don’t have any of those bases covered, but I need some help with another subject matter—death. Because I really don’t know how to nonchalantly drop into happy hour conversation with friends that I just found out my aunt has stage four pancreatic cancer.

It would be helpful if someone could give me guidance on swiftly packing a carry-on suitcase filled with practical clothing options for an inevitable funeral.

Explain to me embracing my dad in way that says, “I’m so happy to be in your arms, but when I left at Christmas, I didn’t think I would be back in a month to watch you say goodbye to your sister.”

Send me a suggestion for responding properly to the text message from the cute guy I met at the bar last weekend. No, I didn’t celebrate fucking Pizza Day because I spent my night crying on an airplane and weeping on a hospice couch.

Please counsel me on comforting my 6’4” brother with tears streaming down his face because the woman he just saw resembles a shell of his aunt whose laugh once reverberated through rooms.

I have a damn journalism degree but none of my professors covered the topic of how to write an obituary that’s long enough to do your loved one’s life justice, but short enough that the city paper won’t send you a $1,000 bill—they charge by the letter, if you’re unaware.

Walk me through the process of entering an empty, echoing home to sift through personal belongings so I can confirm my aunt’s Social Security number with the incompetent funeral home director.

I’m wondering if there is a proper etiquette when responding to my distant cousin who approaches me at the wake to emphatically say, “Sweetie, you just look so tired.” I’ll go ahead and assume it’s not appropriate to reply with the piercing thoughts on the tip of my tongue.

What’s the protocol for then resuming my daily life like I’m one of those TV shows that’s been abruptly interrupted by a breaking news alert? Do death, grief and mourning simply fade swiftly into grocery store trips, inane email threads and annual performance reviews?

My suggestion for the gurus who seem to specialize in the 20-something-year-old lifestyle—ditch your next article that’s probably titled “11 Signs That Traveling Has Changed You” and spend some time writing the Young Professional’s Guide to Death. TC mark

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