It took Anderson Cooper more than a year after his mother’s death to begin clearing out her apartment. It was an emotionally draining task, one that he put off — something his mother may have anticipated, because she left him a road map.
He began finding notes she had left him, tucked away in drawers and sealed containers. Written in her hand on heavy stationery, they acted as a kind of treasure hunt to their shared grief.
Mr. Cooper’s mother, the heiress and fashion designer Gloria Vanderbilt, was one of the most famous women in the world, courted by Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando, photographed by Richard Avedon, and a muse to Truman Capote, who is believed to have based the character of Holly Golightly in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” partly on her.
Just sorting through her personal papers would have been challenging for her son after her death at the age of 95 in 2019.
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