©2012 by Jack A. Urquhart (320 words)
I received Cheryl Strayed’s engaging, and often moving, Tiny Beautiful Things as a gift—one that (I’ll admit) I took my time in opening. That is because normally an entire book devoted to real-life advice column letters wouldn’t be at the top of my reading list. However, somewhere in the first few pages of this exquisitely intelligent—and yes, graceful—volume, Strayed (aka “Dear Sugar,” at the online publication, “The Rumpus”) managed to upend my prejudice.
Indeed, there is nothing tiny, but much that is hugely beautiful in Strayed’s writing. Her response letters feature some of the loveliest, heart-stopping prose I’ve read in ages.
Witness these passages from her reply to a grief-stricken father whose only child (a gay son) was killed by a drunk driver:
“The entire premise of your healing demands that you…come to understand and accept that your son will always be only the man he actually was: the twenty-two-year-old who made it as far as that red light. The one who loved you deeply. The one who long ago forgave you for asking why he didn’t like girls. The one who would want you to welcome his boyfriend’s new boyfriend into your life. The one who would want you to find joy and peace. The one who would want you to be the man he didn’t get to be.
To be anything else dishonors him…
Your son was your greatest gift in his life and he is your greatest gift in his death too. Receive it. Let your dead boy be your most profound revelation. Create something of him.
Make it beautiful.”
To prescribe acceptance and perseverance as a moral imperative to a fellow human being suffering a seemingly unbearable grief would be a tall order for even the most eloquently empathic communicator, the most extraordinarily gifted writer, the wisest of human beings. How fortunate for Strayed’s readers that she is all three.