A ceramic vase of blush orchids still suns upon the worktable in my study. I often gaze at this flowering beauty while pausing for the precise word to enter my word processor. I also remember the giver of this gift, my MAC tutor for eighteen years.

It was time for our hour and her expertise. But that afternoon she looked different: her eyes, rimmed with grief; her mouth, slack and drawn; her posture, a bit stooped; her speech, flat and rushed.

“Hi, Liz. I picked this up for you—at Trader’s Joe,” she said handing me the orchids, protected from November’s chill by a cellophane sleeve. Also got one for myself.” As she pulled off her jacket, she added, “Have I got a story for you. Let’s go to your study.”

And her story did unfold: her ninety-seven-year old mother’s ribs broken from a fall, her hospitalization and rehab, hospice, and her recent passing—all within several weeks. My friend had been there, the story still evoking fresh tears and angst. We hugged.

Because I was still reeling from the hospice sign-up, I more than welcomed my friend’s story. It wasn’t about me, so I told myself. In subsequent weeks, I’ve peeked around the edges of my mortality, gaped at its enormity: Just as the thirteen blossoms of my orchid plants will wither and die, so, too, will my body—in time.

Then I checked my watch for the next whatever and tended to it.