Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Power of Detail

What is a life? What about its loss tortures survivors?

For some, it’s reminders. A pillow still carrying the scent of his aftershave. A box of lime popsicles, covered in ice crystals, a long forgotten favorite treat discovered behind the quinoa and green beans. A glimpse of a color thread just above the silhouetted horizon, last seen on the day of his passing.

There are places I remember all my life...
Some have gone and some remain

Photo courtesy of Al Griffin
These are the ties that bind us to sorrow and to memory and to loss and to the living. These are the details that, when told, touch us, unnerve us, and steel us against the losses we’ve yet to face.

Kate Atkinson uses concrete detail to convey a father’s unimaginable grief after losing his favorite daughter, the one in whom he had invested the most care and hope. In Case Histories, Atkinson writes:

And it was just a bedroom, an untidy bedroom that a girl was never going to enter again, never fling down her bag on the floor and kick off her shoes, never lie on the bed and read a book or listen to her stereo, never sleep the restless, innocent sleep of the living.

That father remembers his daughter’s actions in the place that belonged to her. He remembers her presence, acutely aware of her absence.

Reading Challenge:

Read Kate Atkinson’s Case Histories. It’s another fine tour of heartache and enigma, of parents and children, of casual slaughters, as Horatio might say, and triumphs, of people broken and healed.

Writing Challenge:


Share the love of your life without mentioning yourself at all. Reveal that love by describing what your beloved did and through that lens, let us know how deep your love.