This is an image of a father holding the hand of his 13-year-old son killed in a bombing near Kharkiv. He can’t leave her. There is no sentence that is sensible and appropriate to add, other than this: the war is not over. And it is necessary to repeat it, to repeat it to oneself: the war is not over. The war is not over. The war is not over. I repeated it silently to myself. Then I thought of a book, a novel about a man who loses a child of that age. And he can’t give himself peace.
I don’t have to look at it anymore. When I need to look at Willie, I’ll do it with my heart. How fair it is. Where he is still intact and undivided. If I could talk to him about it, I know he would approve; he would tell me that I am right to go and never come back. He was such a noble spirit.
He especially loved goodness. He was so good. My little man. He always knew how to behave. And he urged me to do it. I will do it now. Even if it is tough. All gifts are momentary. I will return this, even if I don’t want to. And I’ll thank God. Or the world.
Whoever gave it to me, I humbly thank him, and I pray that I have treated him well and that I can continue to treat him well in the future. Love, love, I know what you are.
(George Saunders, “Lincoln in the Bardo”).