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“Your mother died today.”

That was the first thing he said. I laughed, for surely this was a joke. He remained perfectly still, my father, looking down at folded hands. It was not a joke. At that moment, my 8-year-old self became a hollow shell, emptied by shock, and the universe moved in to crush my fragile lining.

Alone in my cot,

I cried myself to sleep.

Brokenhearted, my dad took us three kids to a dude ranch—a vacation my mother had planned. We went on trail rides every day, and sang campfire songs every night, but when I was alone in my cot, I cried myself to sleep. On our final day, we went out for a picnic. We rode a windy path to the edge of a golden meadow and paused to capture the view.

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