Life can be dark and twisty at times. Sometimes, we’re more aware of that than others. For me, I think about the dark and twisty times most with regard to my daughter. I want to protect her from everything, but not everything is within my control.
Death, for example. Despite my fervent wishes, I cannot control death. And when someone in her life dies, I cannot control the sense of loss she feels, either. I wished she would not know loss until she was older and could understand it better. But that wish was just that, a wish.
Three times in the past year I have had to tell my daughter that someone she knew died. The first was an 18-year-old young man with lots of promise. A tragic accident cut short his life and forever changed two families in the process. I couldn’t even get off the hook with by saying he was old and he lived a full life. He was young and died much too soon. The inevitable question of “Will you die, too?” followed. How do you answer that? If you say no, you’re lying. If you say yes, you scare the hell out of your small child. It’s a lose-lose proposition.
The second death was her 101-year-old great-grandmother. That one was easier to explain although harder for her to deal with as it was family.
The third has been the hardest. Ironically, it is the person we honestly knew the least, but she saw the most. She called him “Balloon Guy,” and we visited him every Sunday from spring to fall at the farmers market two years running. He also worked her birthday party, doing face painting and balloon animals. He was a very sweet grandfatherly man. Nola misses him very much.
We talk a lot about death these days. Why we can’t visit people after they die, for example. It’s an important lesson for her to learn, but oh, how I wish she hadn’t needed to learn it so soon.
As a book person, I use stories to help. One book was about the death of a pet—but the idea that our cats might die was too much for Nola, so we shelved that one for now. Others talk about the topic in a much more abstract and comforting way.
For me, I seem to find comfort in stories that plunge me into the dark and twisty. Kristine Kathryn Rusch is a master of these. Her sort-of series about Silas, a kind of angel of death, is among these. One Silas story, “Courting Rites,” is available free on her website this week. The others are “Trains” and “Substitutions.”
Kris also deals writes incredible dark and twisty stories involving children and the horrors sometimes inflicted on them. Some extremely memorable ones are Coolhunting, “Craters,” “Snow Angels,” and “Family Affair” (writing as Kris Nelscott).
These are just a few. Fair warning, they will haunt you. But they give me an outlet for those fears. I can experience them and then close the page, so to speak. At least for the moment.
And in those moments between fear, I can revel in the joy of raising my child. Parenting is a delicate balancing act. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Allyson Longueira is publisher of WMG Publishing. She is an award-winning writer, editor and designer.