Drawing in the Time of Cut Flowers

On Grief, Loss, and Renewal in the Wake of the Pandemic

My first instinct when my grandma died was to purchase and draw flowers for her. A traditional gesture of sympathy, the flowers seemed fitting—but the circumstances were unprecedented.

It was April 2020. My grandma was exposed to COVID in the memory unit of her nursing home and died within the week. Like so many families, we would not be able to gather to mourn her or to say goodbye in person.

I continued to buy flowers in the weeks that followed to enliven that cavernous spring. Time, or what I had understood …

Our Favorite Essays of 2023 | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Our Favorite Essays of 2023

In the Boxing Ring. At a Parking Lot. Through Prison Glass. These Stories Captured the Sights, Sounds, and Heart of the Year

South Africans got it right when they made “kuning,” the isiZulu word that roughly translates to “it’s a lot,” one of the defining words of 2023.

It was a lot this …

Why Is It so Hard to Mourn the Vast Number of COVID Dead? | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Why Is It so Hard to Mourn the Vast Number of COVID Dead?

An Empathy Scientist Reveals How Our Brains Get in the Way of Comprehending Calamity on This Scale

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the first U.S. death from COVID-19 on February 29. Within a month, more than 1,000 Americans were dying on a single day. …

The Epic Bar Fight That Sums Up the Problem with Memorial Day

A Depression-Era Story of Mourning, Motherhood, and Grandiosity

On Memorial Day, 1930, Mrs. Mathilda Burling of New York stood before the headstone of her son, Private George B. Burling, Jr. at grave 17, row 29, at the St. …

Mourning Prince, Ziggy Stardust … and Oedipus

Social Media Brings an Ancient Greek Twist to a Previously Private American Ritual

After Prince died my Facebook news feed filled with mourning. My friends shared the time he sang “Starfish and Coffee” with the Muppets, told stories of going to concerts at …