Is this it for grandma?

You still shall live, such virtue hath my pen,

Where breath most breathes, even in the mouths of men. – W. Shakespeare

13-28-37-41-51 / 18

Hello Diner. I hope this Fortune finds you with this question still unanswered. But the time of transition from life to death is just arbitrary–a string of numbers that can never represent the life its digits terminate. So I’m wondering whether this is indeed the question you want to ask. Because you’re at the point of asking when the end will come, I’m guessing that the person you’re asking about today bears little resemblance to the vibrant individual you knew. I’m sorry. But whether her body still lives, the spark that was your grandmother ended. All that her loved ones could do for her has been done.

What’s left is for the survivors: mourn, heal, live. I think your question lies here: How do I survive? How do I deal with that loss?

You may have heard the advice to let yourself mourn. And while well meaning, this advice is at best confusing, and at worst prolonging your unhappiness.

The intent of that advice is to do a long, self-indulgent purge of emotion to reach an eventual catharsis–that sigh at the end of tense dramatic movies. There are two problems with that approach:

1) Your life dealing with this tragedy isn’t a neatly contained movie with a two hour runtime and definitive end. There isn’t a set amount of “total sadness” that you can just get rid of. It comes and goes for a long, indeterminate time.

2) Scientist found that putting yourself through this constant flow of sadness (aptly named “catharsis theory”) just doesn’t work. Ruminating–meaning, constantly thinking about the tragedy–just keeps you in a state of mourning [1].

When tragedy hits, you have no choice but to react emotionally–you’re human after all. This will come naturally, so don’t worry about “letting” yourself do it.

Instead, say your goodbyes in whatever way you need to: say “goodbye” outloud, visit, tie loose ends, zero emotional balances, make offerings, pray, apologize, or give thanks. If circumstances don’t allow you to do something, do as much as you can. This process–like life and death–is not perfect, nor does it have to be. It may not seem like much, or it may seem silly and useless, but give yourself the benefit of going through this ritual.

For all of recorded history, humans as civilizations conducted rituals as metaphors to life’s transformations. But more than metaphors, the rituals are crucial components in the transformations themselves by making that process concrete. Rituals are things that you can see, hear, smell, touch, taste, and most importantly remember, which anchor those changes in your mind.

Next, with this life’s transformation, actually change. What was it about your grandmother that brought out the best in you? Remember and act on that. If your grandmother had skills you appreciated, adopt, practice, and master them. Your community–and by inclusion, the world itself–will benefit from another master carpenter, chef, tailor, or unicyclist.

“But I can never be as good as her, Cookie,” you’d say.

To that I have two thoughts: 1) It’s your skill now; just do the best you can with it. You’re definitely not competing with her–you’re carrying a legacy of knowledge. 2) Your grandmother took the same path from novice to master. With practice, you might even be better.

Remember who your grandmother was and how she affected you. Be that to someone else. The way she made you smile and the magic she created are the things you miss most. If you make someone else smile, wield her kind of magic, and then teach someone those things, she can live forever. Remember that, Diner.


[1] Bushman, B. J. (2002). Does venting anger feed or extinguish the flame? Catharsis, rumination, distraction, anger, and aggressive responding. Personality and social psychology bulletin, 28(6), 724-731.


Why not?

Because there was a coin that spun in cosmic air and landed with the head of an unknown monarch facing up instead of down. Because cause leads to effect and effect to cause. Some of these effects were as small as tiny flecks of dust colliding together. And some were as large as entire solar systems falling into gravitational step with each other.

Because it is neither too hot nor too cold. Too hard nor too soft. Because cells split and multiply and mutate and keep splitting and multiplying and mutating. Because a fish can become a lizard, become a bird, become a wasp, become a cat, become an ape. Because copies are imperfect, and imperfection is creative and creativity is opportunistic and mistakes are forgotten.

Because people need other people. Because those people made sounds that were shared and understood. Because this kept them alive. Because children watched and copied. And copies are imperfect and imperfection is creative and mistakes are rarely mistakes. Because stories are more useful than facts. Because memories are important and words create memories. Because drawings left on walls and spidery lines left on old paper open doors to other times. Because you can understand this sentence. And create a completely new one of your own - that has never been said before - and possibly never will again.

Because blue light scatters more than red light. But also because we know the word blue and by naming things we make them.

Because humans grew up together. Because we are a mirror that lifts a hand when you lift a hand, that furrows a brow when you furrow a brow, that yawns when you yawn.

Because “my land is my land”. And “your land should be my land”. Because “my god is my god”. And “your god is inferior”. Because money. Because lust. Because power. Because hubris.

Because the odds of two people finding each other and being compatible are a single number with long string of zeros after it. Because these odds are defied every day. Because dopamine, because adrenalin, because serotonin, because oxytocin. Because lust. Because friendship. Because a team of two people are better than one.

Because everything dies. Sometimes it is big and meaningful and the world stands by in awe. And sometimes it is meaningless and forgotten and too soon. Or not soon enough.

Because we are alive and aware and capable of experiencing great happiness and equally great heartache. Because we can read and teach and know and ask and laugh and dance. Because we are alone and because we are not alone. Because we are here on the flip of coin. And because tomorrow we may not be.

Because knowledge is power and learning is enjoyable:

Probabilistic origin of the universe -

Big Bang Theory -

Goldilocks Planets -

Evolution -

Origin of language -

Principles of light -

Mirror neurons -

Brain chemistry -

Mme. Liddell once again graces The Advice Fortune Cookie with her secrets of the universe. Divining visions since 1865, there is little she hasn’t seen. You can read her previous Fortune here.



How do you deal with the fear of losing a loved one?

A difficult time lies ahead, but this too shall pass.

Greetings fortune seeker,

The thing that makes life so precious is that it ends. It is difficult to say goodbye. We often don’t get the luxury of doing it how we want to, or we are selfish and want to postpone that goodbye forever, but we can’t. If you are fortunate enough to know you are losing a loved one, take the time to appreciate them and go through the emotions you need to with them. If it came as a terrible surprise still take the time to spend with your memories. While it is difficult to face that you will never make any new memories with that person, it can be comforting to know you will always have the memories you made with them. If it helps, solidify these memories by writing them down.

Everyone deals with losing a loved one differently. Some people make their peace with religious or cultural ceremonies. Others will find it helpful to spend time doing an activity that meant a lot to them and their loved ones. You can talk to others who are going through the same loss, or you can spend time alone with your thoughts about your loved one.

Most importantly, it is okay to grieve. It is okay to laugh. It is okay to feel whatever it is you need to feel. It is okay to feel one way one minute and completely the opposite the next. Sadly there is no short cut around dealing with death. You go through it. Be comforted in the knowledge that every human that has lived or will lived has shared this experience with you.

Until next time.

A. Liddell


Madame Liddell graciously prepared this Fortune for you while the Advice Fortune Cookie is entertaining guests. She has been interpreting visions since 1865. At an early age, she wrote about fantastic journeys in two books of nonsense children’s tales. To this day, there is debate as to whether she had actually been on these journeys or not.