The Dead’s Etiquette: Returning To Sender


Self-designed stamp for the return of mail to sender.
Self-designed stamp for the return of mail to sender.

Emily Post let me down. Abby offered a half smile. The Post Office just stared at me.

My question was always the same: “At what point can I stop stamping to return my deceased brother’s mail?

Just last week he received a stack of mail three inches high! Perhaps they’re thinking of him as Deadbeat rather than Dead.

He died four months ago at which time I rented a P.O. Box in my neighborhood and had his mail forwarded to it. I designed the “return deceased” stamp. And each step was more painful than the last. With each envelope I was reminded that at some point in my recent past my brother for 58 years disappeared. Poof! Extracted like a tooth, and like an extracted tooth a hole remained reminding me that something had occupied that hole, something I took for granted as permanent.

I still cry when I’m reminded that he’ll never return as though he was exploring the far reaches of dense jungle. And with each damned envelope which I mannerly stamp “Addressee Deceased,” I ache with longing which tumbles to tears then swells to a contemptible bitterness toward companies which mechanically spit out statements completely void of sympathy or understanding or humanity.

I think it’s time to treat their mail like my best friend brother was treated: simply disappear.

One thought on “The Dead’s Etiquette: Returning To Sender

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