The large events have their place, but even the large events of a family's passage are assembled from little things. The rush to the emergency room and the way the air feels there and the brave little chin thrust up beneath the mask, the small choked cry and the sound—especially this sound—of the thread being pulled through the wound, and the way the little hand holds tight to your finger. The littWithout realizing it, we can neglect the little things.
Though I have never divorced and my vow is for life, I have experienced a broken relationship or two. Grief does not attach itself so much to the empty space left by the other person, a loss often too abstract to grasp, but to the little things. The vertical space in the closet where familiar clothes once hung. The smell on the pillow or, on the street, a stranger's accent that conjures up a silenced voice.
When our parents and loved ones die, little things come back. Returning home after a death, you find a quilt that wrapped around you long ago, and you remember how the hands felt as they tucked you in. You find yourself startled by the way the dishes are arranged in your parent's kitchen cabinet; you are surprised because you know the arrangement, and you did not know it was so familiar until you looked at it within the context of loss.
The impression most remembered from my grandmother's death is not of the large fact of her body in the casket, but of coming into her cold kitchen a few days afterward and seeing the jar of mincemeat cookies, which she often made for me and my brother. In the jar, then, they were…