“Her Husband’s Hands” by Adam Troy-Castro, originally published in 2011, was honored with a Nebula nomination. The story was one of my picks as well as that of the membership at large. It’s a disturbing story, no doubt about it. At the time, I wrote (rephrased somewhat to make the writing sharper):
A war widow receives bad news from the front: her husband is dead. However, they’ve managed to save his hands, and only his hands… It’s dark, intensely written, and intimately and compassionately characterized
From the story:
Her husband’s hands came home on a Friday. Rebecca had received word of the attack, which had claimed the lives of seven other soldiers in his unit and reduced three others to similar, minimal fractions of themselves: One man missing above the waist, another missing below, a third neatly halved, like a bisected man on display in an anatomy lab.
The Veteran’s Administration had told her it could have been worse. The notification officer had reminded her of Tatum, the neighbor’s daughter so completely expunged by her own moment under fire that only a strip of skin and muscle remained: A section of her thigh, about the size and shape of a cigarette pack, returned to her parents in a box and now living in their upstairs room, where it made a living proofreading articles on the internet. That’s no life, the notification officer said. But Bob, he pointed out, was a pair of perfect hands, amputated from the body at the wrists but still capable of accomplishing many great things. And there was always the cloning lottery. The chances were a couple of million to one, but it was something to hope for, and stranger things had happened.
Around 2011, there was a strong trend of stories about processing PTSD. It’s still a theme now, but it was even more dominant then. At 6,000 words, it’s a lot of emotional impact in a small space.