For months, our son Aidan had been waiting patiently for the Carry You With Me storybook to be complete. The way he participated in design decisions and shared his youthful pride in me, made all the sacrifice worthwhile. After launch Aidan spent two weeks begging me to take a copy to school for his teacher whom he had been briefing the whole way along.
I have to admit I was pretty nervous for him and how a grade 3 class might react. I was also nervous for his teacher. Would she feel pressure to share with the class or have to face conversations she wasn’t prepared for? With a little encouragement from Aidan and another push of fear to the side, I sent a copy of the book in with Aidan.
Aidan and our whole family, have always been very open about Marshall and his life. He is often part of our conversation and we all have our little mementos and memories that we hang on to in our own ways to feel him near us. Aidan, being a young storyteller himself, is always happy to share with his peers and friends that he has a special brother up in heaven. This often leads him into some difficult conversations. Most are handled so seamlessly by the honesty of a child. Sometimes they end up with him asking me “how he should respond? or what really happened?” in quiet conversations before bed. These moments always stop me in my tracks and make me realize that the impacts of losing a child continue with time. There is no rule book here and just when you think you might be in the clear from pain for a while, something new comes up to re-surface tricky conversations.
On the day I sent the book in, I was so touched to find out that his teacher not only read it to his class, but they had a discussion afterwards about life, death, and heaven. Afterwards, his classmates were able to ask him questions about his brother. A few of the neighborhood kids followed us home that day after school to ask more about the book, share the parts they loved, and ask me more questions about Marshall. They shared that it made them a little sad but that they loved finding the hearts on each page. I felt such a sense of peace and joy as I walked with them telling them special things about Marshall and trying to explain his medical condition. I could see Aidan and Lily were enjoying hearing the stories too. The bravery and courage of Aidan and his teacher turned out beautifully. It is a difficult subject but it is true, real and important. In the end, something that started off a little scary (likely for all of us) ended up being a truly heart-warming experience.