Examples of the Genre  | American Journalism Review
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From AJR,   April/May 2006

Examples of the Genre   

By Stephanie Shapiro
     


This is an excerpt from a story by Stephanie Simon that ran on page one of the Los Angeles Times on January 28, 2006, headlined "Grief, Gratitude and Baby Lee."

Lee's funeral was held two days before Christmas in the chapel at Broadway Mortuary. Wrapped in the angel blanket, the baby lay in a Moses basket, wearing a bib embroidered "Daddy's Boy." When Danielle bent to kiss him, she tucked a blue stuffed bunny at his feet.

"Dear friends," Pastor C.H. Hermon began, "we're gathered here in our grief to draw on the strength of the Lord."

Danielle looked over at Lee Sr. He was holding Leah, stroking her cheeks, and his face was soft with wonder. Their baby girl had come home from the hospital the night before the funeral. She was beautiful and absolutely content as she slept on her father's lap, her pink blanket a splash of warmth amid the black of mourning.

"God has a unique plan and purpose for every child that was conceived," Hermon was saying. "Our perfect God does not make mistakes. Let your comfort begin with that truth."

Lee put his arm around Danielle. Jonathan laid his head in her lap. Hermon read aloud from Psalm 23: "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life."

This is an excerpt from a story by Mark Patinkin that ran on page one of the Providence Journal on July 9, 2001, as part of the series "A Healing Spirit."

Before this happened, Rebecca had a deal going with God. She wouldn't ask for money and big houses, and would make sure to thank Him every day for what He had given her. In return, she asked only that He keep things on an even keel. Just don't give her more than she could handle. She felt now that He had let his end of the bargain down. It struck her as unfair. Nevertheless, she did not stop praying. Lately, it was about Andrew's hands. "God," she prayed, "if you have to take anything, take his feet." Then she got angry at having to weigh such things. This was not a conversation she should be having with Him. But please, take his feet if you have to. Then she asked Him to please not let Andrew die.

The chapel was directly below the family room. Scott began to go there often. He, too, thought God had let him down. "I prayed every night to keep my children all right," he thought, "and here we are, unsure about my son's future." Common sense told him it wasn't God's intention. But the thing was, why couldn't He stop it from happening?

One morning, the Batesons left together for the cafeteria, passing the chapel on the way. Scott said he would like to go in for a moment. Rebecca said she would wait. She was in no hurry. Eating often made her feel guilty, even ill. After a few minutes, she felt silly standing in the corridor, so she walked in. She sat apart from Scott and tried praying. She tried for about 10 minutes but wasn't able to find comfort there. She was still angry at God. She went back out to the hallway.

This is an excerpt from a story by the Denver Post's Kevin Simpson that ran in a special section on December 18, 2005, headlined "Letting Go."

Dylan Walborn, resting in the arms of his grandma, Vicki Saiz, stares blankly at guests in what appears to be a state of semi-consciousness.

At intervals, the grinding hum of a suction pump clears his airway. A ceiling fan turns above, and the air currents flap the chain switch rhythmically against its hollow metal housing.

Tock, tock, tock ..

Grandma Vicki smiles.

In hosting this sad celebration at her home with husband, Don, she revels in the opportunity to hold her grandson, to share him with others, to speak to him as if he is an active participant in the conversation and to snap a few more of the thousands of digital photos that chronicle Dylan's life. She has mastered the art of holding her camera at arm's length and snapping a perfectly framed picture of them together.

Vicki wishes her grandson could have run around and made a mess of her house. But Dylan has left his mark on her in subtle ways. He has made her more patient, more accommodating, more appreciative of life.

"I've been praying since he was born for a miracle," Vicki says. "I never got that miracle..but then, maybe I did. He's brought me a lot of joy."

This is an excerpt from a story by Tom Hallman Jr. that ran on page one of the Oregonian on October 2, 2000, as part of the series "The Boy Behind the Mask."

She remembered the Portland boy.

She searched through the paperwork and found several photos. She picked one up and held it between her fingers.

The boy lay in a hospital bed, staring at the camera with pleading eyes. He looked like one of the children featured in ads aimed at raising money to help poor kids overseas.

Marler scanned the reports. The kid was on a morphine drip, diagnosed as clinically depressed.

Marler was 38 and had been a doctor for 11 years. Outside of a textbook, she had never come across such a profound facial deformity. He was the saddest-looking child she'd ever seen.

And she had seen many. A score of photographs hang on her office wall, the faces of children who have set the course of Jennifer Marler's life.

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