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Kinsey Lives

Sue Grafton died this week.  For her fans, the news hit like a sucker punch. Grafton didn’t reveal her year-long cancer diagnosis.

I didn’t like this sucker punch. But maybe Grafton intended it this way—delivering the unexpected twist at the end of the story. That reversal the reader never sees coming.

Sue_Grafton_-_X_CoverDays before she passed away, Grafton wrote a note to readers about a mysterious trunk. It had arrived out of the blue and contained her grandparents’ personal belongings—treasured items. Heirlooms. All in perfect condition.

There was no explanation for where this trunk had been for almost 100 years, or how these delicate items had survived intact all that time. You can read Grafton’s post for yourself, (link here).  It’s marvelous, in part because this woman with terminal cancer who was ten days from her death could craft such a well-told story.

Sue Grafton, I am going to miss you.

If news of her passing hit me like a sucker punch, news of this mysterious trunk came more like a needling nudge. It stayed with me for days. And I couldn’t figure out why.

Grafton’s grandparents, turns out, were missionaries—in China. During the early-early 1900s. Dying from various diseases, yet never giving up their passion. Inside that mysterious trunk were five christening gowns, clearly cherished by parents who clearly believed. Sacrificial Christians. True Believers who took seriously commands like, Go, serve, make disciples.

e for evidenceI can hardly imagine what powerful emotions washed over Grafton as she opened this trunk. Hand-stitched quilts. Delicate artwork. Those christening gowns. Poignant reminders of ancestors who traveled across the globe because they believed in a higher authority and gave their lives to it.

At the end of her wonderful mysteries, Grafton closed each book with a summary report, written by her protagonist, Kinsey Millhone. The reports were for whatever authority had hired Kinsey to investigate the book’s crime. Every report ended, “Respectfully submitted, Kinsey Millhone.”

This morning, with that needling sensation about Grafton’s death and that trunk still bothering me, I went to Sue Grafton’s official website.

That’s when I realized what was haunting me.

On her website, Grafton wrote a note to her fans, ribboned with her inimitable voice, her keen perspective. Everything I’ll miss about her writing. But there, at the bottom of the page, were the words.

Words whispered by that trunk.

Words I hope we all can live by.

And die by.

Respectfully submitted,


Photo: The Guardian





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