by Marcy Blesy
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” So says Ecclesiastes 3:1, an often quoted verse. In theory it’s easy to understand. There is a right time/reason for everything, but when you’re a child and your dad dies it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
It’s been twenty-seven years since my dad died at the age of 37 and sixteen years since my mom died at the age of 47. I’m 40 now, sandwiched between the ages of my parents’ deaths. I am still terrified at times that I’m going to die, too, and leave my children before they’ve had an opportunity to glean my wisdom or scoff at my advice, but lately I’ve come to the realization that maybe I have a bigger purpose in life that was set into motion on that cold October day when I received the news that my dad had been in an accident and would die. Yes, my life has come full circle, and now it’s my turn to give back to other kids going through a loss, sharing my message of hope.
I am a teacher and a writer. I knew that somehow grief or loss would sneak into my writing, as most of what I write comes from personal experience. Even more so, though, my writing comes from personal emotion. But it wasn’t until I attended my uncle’s birthday a few years ago that the spark for my first picture book ignited. My dad’s older brother said to my sister, “You are so much like your dad.” The comment is completely innocent. I understand. I have two children, and one acts more like me at times and the other like his father. Yet, at the time I was having a two-year-old tantrum in my mind wondering what made my sister like my dad and not me. Why wasn’t I like my dad? Of course, I am grateful to my uncle as I have now written a book that, I hope, will give support to children seeking answers to this very question.
In Am I Like My Daddy?, published by Bronze Man Books, seven-year-old Grace begins a journey of discovery as she realizes she has incomplete memories of her dad who died when she was only five. Grace learns many things about her dad, including his favorite books, his favorite snack, and his penchant for trouble. She also learns that not everyone can or will talk about her dad, which is a hard lesson about grief. She learns that she has been loved by her dad from the moment she was born, and even now, he lives on through her life. There is an educational component at the back of the book with suggestions for kids as to things they can do to build memories such as writing letters, making a scrapbook, or creating a memory list.
I am a volunteer grief facilitator at Lory’s Place, a grief healing and education center in St. Joseph, Michigan. It wasn’t until going through training that I felt like, for the first time in my life, I was in a room full of people who “got it.” Only adults who have lost a parent as a child can really understand. And now I understand. I didn’t choose for my parents to die when I was young. I wish I could undo it, but I can’t. What I can do is use what life has dealt me to help others beginning this journey. Am I Like My Daddy? opens dialogue between children and adults, as many people think that the passage of time heals all wounds and answers all questions. Quite the contrary. As a child grows, he or she has more questions as maturity and reprocessing of grief occurs. Also, kids need to know that it is normal to not remember everything and that there are ways to get answers to the questions they have. New memories and more complete pictures of loved ones can still be built.
Am I Like My Daddy? is unique in the grief market. Most books are written for the time right after a loved one dies, and those books are important. This book is important, too, though, as grief is not nicely contained within the confines of a visitation and funeral. Grief changes, ebbs and flows, throughout a lifetime. So many people have shared their life stories with me. I am honored that they feel like they can share their experiences. I hope the book gives comfort and tools to grieving children.
My life is good. I am happy. Despite the losses, I know that I was loved. My memories are foggy. I still ask questions, even at age 40. We may never understand why things happen as they do. But when we can find clarity through tragedy and use that clarity to help others, the sting is replaced by contentment, and sometimes even joy. I’m not saying that clarity comes easily or quickly, but sometimes it makes an appearance. When it does, I cling to it, relishing in the peace that fills my heart. I wish that for you, too.
About the Author: Marcy Blesy is a teacher and author. After growing up in central Illinois, she and her husband moved to southwest Michigan with their two sons and now enjoy the beauty of Lake Michigan. Marcy has been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Mothers. Her first picture book, Am I Like My Daddy?, was released in December 2012 by Bronze Man Books. She has just completed a middle grade novel and is working on a companion book to Am I Like My Daddy? called Am I Like My Mommy? You may contact Marcy through her website, Children’s Books: Lots to Say, Lots to Learn and Twitter @marcyblesy