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So earlier today we visited my parents. Mom has a closet filled with old photos, and I absolutely love digging through them. Graduations. Births. Parties. Etc. This time, buried among familiar faces, was the above image.

“Mom,” I said, “who is that?”

“Let me put my glasses on,” she responded.

Glasses were located. Mom stared a bit. “That’s Clairle,” she said.


“She was my mother’s friend for many years,” Mom said. “She came over from Germany and lived in Pittsburgh. I remember when I was, maybe, 10 we went with her to see Guys and Dolls.”

I asked what happened to Clairle, and Mom looked toward my kids before lowering her voice. “She died,” she said, “of breast cancer.”

Clairle, Mom said, never married or had children. There’s apparently no legacy. No family recalling great times with Mother; with Aunt Clairle; with Grandma Clairle. She is lost, as if she never existed or mattered or walked the planet. As soon as the photo was put away, we moved on to watermelon slices and chocolate cookies.

Clairle came.

Clairle left.