We’ve learned a lot about ourselves over the last 18 months, including that we need to learn how to talk with each other about the ends of lives. Our own lives, the lives of our family and friends, of people we may know from a distance — if you emerge from the pandemic without hearing a horrifying story of a life ended too soon, you’ll be in the minority.
Perhaps the hardest conversation to have with kids is when somebody close to them dies. All too often anxiety and not knowing the right words results in a too-short, too-shallow conversation. The child knows somebody has died but has no real sense how to grieve that person or to learn how to transform the sadness of death into the joy of a happy memory. They don’t get to explore what happens after death, what we mean by resurrection, or how we keep alive the memories of our ancestors and saints. We deprive children of the opportunity to expand their faith in a moment when faith can be a tremendously crucial concept.
Todd Williams, a hospice chaplain in Houston, recognized the need for a resource that connects dying and remembrance thanks to a conversation with one of his patients who wanted her grandchildren to know how she wanted to be remembered. He shared that idea with Ciara Compton, a design student from his home congregation, to create a pitch for a book he called Remember Me When…. Their idea shared everyday activities that each of us has done at some point in our life, hopefully alongside a person, young or old, God deemed an ideal match for us at a unique moment in our lives.
Todd and Ciara’s proposal hooked us from the instant we saw it. Ciara’s images brought Todd’s insight to life, with young faces and colorful settings and an appreciation of God’s gifts of diversity.
A children’s book had been on Chalice Press’ wish list for several years, but we hadn’t yet seen the project that checked all the boxes until we saw Remember Me When…. The proposal arrived during the pandemic at a time when we knew a book on death, grief, and remembrance would already be helpful to cope with the deaths, from both COVID and the usual causes, which couldn’t be acknowledged through memorial services and funerals due to COVID-related restrictions on gatherings. The book is publishing now, in early August 2021, at a time we expected the COVID pandemic to be winding down as the vaccine spread widely across the population and we reached herd immunity. Instead, it is publishing as hospitals are yet again at capacity and mask mandates are being reinstated.
Remember Me When… is bittersweet, no doubt. It’s one of those books that may cause a catch in your throat as you read it to your favorite kiddo. And don’t worry if you’re not a fan of strawberries in the spring, as the book suggests; when you’re done reading, the final page invites you and your young readers to document how you want to be remembered. Pull out a marker or crayon and jot down those future memories — and update them as your youngster grows. I’d start by remembering my Grandmother Lyons helping me pick sun-warmed pears from the tree in her backyard, juice dripping off my chin, or my Grandmother Rogers helping collect a bajillion pecans from the towering tree in the family farm’s pasture.
Ciara’s work is beautiful in its simplicity but also in its richness. A student at the renowned Savannah College of Art and Design, Ciara brings color and depth to the book with such artistry, it’s truly breathtaking. I’m not just saying that: I had the gift of seeing the first printing as it rolled off the presses in June at a printer in Illinois, and it choked me up to see the vibrant colors pouring out of the heavy hundred-foot-long press. The printmaster pulled out sheet, and I scrambled to a well-lit conference room to send a snapshot to Ciara, Todd, and our staff. When you receive your copy, I hope you find Ciara’s illustrations make living characters out of the images tucked into the pages.
For several years we’ve produced books to help parents and caretakers shape the faith of the children entrusted to them by God: the Faithful Families series from Traci Smith, When Kids Ask Hard Questions edited by Bromleigh McCleneghan and Karen Ware Jackson (with a sequel heading to the printer soon), The ABCs of Diversity by Carolyn B. Helsel and Y. Joy Harris-Smith, and others. But Remember Me When… is the first Chalice Press book in many years specifically meant for children’s eyes and curiosity. It won’t be the last: our next children’s book, Wonder Awaits! by Caroline Hamilton-Arnold is slated for next February. We hope our children’s line with grow along with your children and with their faith in a world that has so many kind souls to guide us along the way.
President and Publisher