Before the Thanksgiving holiday, we step away from the future of story and transmedia discussions to offer a classic print narrative. David Amsden’s “Never Mind the Pity” traces the elegant arc of the last year of a boy’s life and the musical collaborations that transformed his final days.

The story, from the October issue of New York magazine, resists many of the clichés of the “death-of-a-child” genre, with Killian’s physical trauma unfolding in understated ways. “Christmas dinner turns out to be a punishing affair,” Amsden writes. “Killian finds himself sitting at a table covered with beautiful food that he cannot touch.”

The musicians who record with Killian—including Dr. John and Levon Helm—add wattage to the narrative. But what drives the story is the race to preserve Killian’s voice and improbable mastery of the ukulele—allowing a key part of his self to remain in the world, even as his body falls away.

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