Saturday, May 28, 2016

How Tom Rachman "Mourned His Sister Through the Books She Left Behind"

Tom Rachman
A Washington Post article titled "How I Mourned My Sister Through the Books She Left Behind" caught my eye this morning - and it started me on some serious thinking about what we leave behind us upon our deaths.  What physical objects, especially books, will our survivors associate with us for the rest of their own lives...and so on?  

When Tom Rachman's sister Emily died, he found that her "library remained like a silent repository of her, and I had to dismantle it."  And that is exactly what he would end up doing by distilling her 800-volume library into the 250 books that he believes meant the most to her during her life.  
I found books on psychology written by our parents. Books she’d started but never finished. Books with sticky notes in them — she was passionate about sticky notes. I discovered packets everywhere, in neon pink, yellow, green. Each time I found a note in a margin, it made me scour the text for why.
Many of her books I associate with her childhood bedroom in Vancouver, where she read one astonishingly thick book after another, such as the red hardcover of “War and Peace,” which bears our father’s handwriting inside: “To darling Emily, With fondest love on your 12th birthday, from Mum & Dad. x x x x”
There are books I forgot I had given, such as “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” in which I (at age 15) printed in pencil: “Dear Emily, happy 18th birthday, I got you this book because it is very funny, and overall ace.” 

Discoveries like these were just the beginning of what Emily's books reminded Tom of from their shared lives - memories that bound her forever closer to him than would have ever been possible without the presence of the books - and notes - she left behind.

We should all be so lucky as to have a Tom or an Emily in our own lives.  

Perhaps writers are not the only ones who gain a measure of immortality from their books.  Maybe, just maybe, those of us who read them gain the same - if we are very, very lucky people.

(To read the entire  Washington Post article, please click on the red link at the beginning of this post.)


  1. Great article, thanks for sharing this.

    1. One of the simplest, most heartfelt articles I've run across in a while, Rob.