I got an email this morning from a very good, dear, out of state customer, letting me know that a good friend of hers, someone she regularly has me pick out books for, is terminally ill. She asked me to pick out some books for her one last time with a special mind to end of life.
We often think of children’s books as a means for helping a child handle and grow from loss, but now I asked myself which books would mean most to an adult facing “the poppy that abideth all of us by the harbour of oblivion.”
I sought books that warmly, richly, and truly convey an enduring dynamic loss captured and cultivated in the integration of continued life and engaged memory. I picked out two novels and one picture books which embody this principle. The novels are Otherwise Known as Possum by Catherine Laso, and The Secret Horses of Briar Hill by Megan Shepherd. The picture book is Ida Always by Caron Levis, illustrated by Charles Santoso.
Otherwise Known as Possum is a remarkable affirmation of life enriched by loss, written by an author literally on her deathbed. It is truly a triumph of the human spirit and redolent with warmth and humor and truth.
I can’t think of any book that captures the power imagination has over life, especially as it’s narrative is forced to an ending, than The Secret Horses of Briar Hill. Nor a book that so strongly affirms the power of shared and affirmed imagination, which is a powerfully important aspect of friendship.
Picking a picture book was a toughie, as I really love Samsara Dog too, but to me Ida Always so perfectly affirms the power of living memory that no book could be more touching or supportive for anyone facing the end of life either personally or though loss.
Those were my picks. What would yours be?
What a powerful, beautiful assignment. I too love Ida, Always.
I also love A Last Goodbye by Elin Kelsey, illustrated by Soyeon Kim; My Father’s Arms Are a Boat, by Stein Erik Lunde, illustrated by Øyvind Torseter, translated by Kari Dickson; and Ocean Meets Sky, by the Fan brothers.
If the dying person has children or grandchildren or godchildren they’re close to, I’d suggest Elisha Cooper’s Big Cat, Little Cat. So simple, so lovely.
I wish a peaceful passage to this person, and I say thank you to their friend for being such a good friend.
Wonderful suggestions Marjorie! I had thought of Ocean Meets Sky too and had hunted around the store in vain to find the 1 copy our inventory said was here to read it with fresh eyes. Ah well.
A sad duty for you, but beautifully done.
Death, Duck and the Tulip. Maria Popova says it better than I. https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/05/04/duck-death-and-the-tulip-wolf-erlbruch/