[S]ometimes I can even see Timmy skating with Linda under the yellow floodlights. I’m young and happy. I’ll never die. I’m skimming across the surface of my own history, moving fast, riding the melt beneath the blades, doing loops and spins, and when I take a high leap into the dark and come down thirty years later, I realize it is as Tim trying to save Timmy’s life with a story.

In the closing story, “The Lives of the Dead,” O’Brien broadens the scope of his work by juxtaposing his first encounter with death as a soldier with his first-ever experience with death when, at age nine, his friend Linda succumbed to a brain tumor. In this particular passage, O’Brien explains how memory and storytelling are comforts for times of mourning and how they have equipped him to deal with the painful past. In this extended metaphor, he considers how his need to tell stories evolved through daydreams of Linda. He is optimistic that the power of memory in storytelling gives immortality to both the one who has died—in this case Linda, making her vibrant and able to skate with Timmy in a warmly lit dream—and the one who tells the story—in this case O’Brien, enabling O’Brien to cope with his traumatic past.