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As someone who has lost her mom, the book What To Do When I’m Gone serves as a reminder of the advice my mother would want to give me on how to go through life without her.
As little kids, it was not uncommon for us to start crying when our mom disappeared before our eyes, even for a second. From the stories I’ve been told, I did too. For both me and my mom, saying goodbye was tough in the early years.
The association and dependency on her became so strong that I couldn’t fathom losing her. The prospect that she might die never crossed my mind.
Until it happened one day.
Anyone who has suffered a similar loss knows the series of emotions one goes through as they grieve the loss and process the sinking feeling. One moment you’re happy, the next moment something triggers and all the memories come rushing back, like a kaleidoscope in our minds.You recall all the things left unsaid.
What To Do When I’m Gone is a manual for all the unspoken words and wisdom our mothers would want to give us about how to go through life once they’re gone. Written by a mother Suzy Hopkins and illustrated by her daughter Hallie Bateman, this book is dedicated to our moms and all of us who love them.
Mixed with heartfelt illustrations, cooking recipes and advice, it takes you on an unforgettable journey and leaves you teary-eyed once you finish it.
“She laughed. Then she said yes.”
What I find particularly fascinating about this book is how it came to be incepted. The illustrator, Hallie Bateman couldn’t sleep one night thinking about the ‘recurrent and agonizing’ prospect of losing her mom. She began to imagine how her days would go by without her mom. She cried and then had an idea.
The next morning, she asked her mother, author Suzy Hopkins to write a book of day-by-day instructions she could follow after her mom died. Her mother laughed, then she said yes.
This book is filled with beautiful illustrations and makes going through a loss or the prospect of going through it a little easy, thanks to the pinch of humor in it which handles heavy subjects like grief and death gracefully.
What starts with a hypothetical scenario of the immediate day of the author’s passing, goes through an entire journey of her daughter’s life – from adulthood to old age, with the author guiding her daughter through every stage of it.
As the author talks about the Day 12 of her passing, she discusses something all of us who have lost a loved one think about – how could it have been prevented? To which she replies wonderfully, her words mixed with humour. She says , “If you asked a bunch of dead people if they were happy, I’m guessing most would want to rewrite their endings too.However, it happened, dead is dead.”
As the author provides a day-to-day guide and makes it easy for the readers to process their mom’s death or makes people with moms accept that death is inevitable, it also throws some truth bombs that take you on a roller coaster of emotions.
At one moment you’re laughing at her explaining the stuff her daughter may find while cleaning the house on Day 26 of her passing, in the next moment you may get teary-eyed as you reach Day 231, and read her talking about not being present on her daughter’s birthday.
And as you begin to process the truth bombs, you stumble upon random cooking recipes shared by the author for her daughter. It is an unwritten fact that a mother’s cooking recipe is better than any other we come across.
What makes the book particularly relatable to me is its vivid description of the things I may face as I pass through one phase of life and step into the other.
Coming from someone who HAS witnessed these confusing phases of life, the author prepares her daughter about what is about to come, something I wish I could have asked my mom.
Nevertheless, now I understand.
What To Do When I’m Gone is a compact version of the many unwritten and unspoken aspects of the relationship many of us share/d with our mothers.
The common thread we share, the kind of relationship we have with our mothers is universal, at least some aspects of it. Most of us do confide in our mother’s safe space when things go south, and mothers do provide a nurturing shell to help us go through something.
The commonalities of a mother-daughter relationship is wonderfully witnessed through the author’s advice and instructions given in this book.
For instance -When she tells her daughter that she may see or do something and think, “Mom would have loved this.”
In some ways, the book prepares readers for the inevitable and for those who did suffer the loss of their mom, it makes going through the loss a little easier.
As the author finishes her chain of advice and as the book comes to an end, she says to her daughter, “I was happy to write it with you, but you don’t need it. You already have what it takes to carry on without me. You already have it within you to face what’s ahead.”
And don’t we?
If you would like to pick up a copy of What To Do When I’m Gone: A Mother’s Wisdom to Her Daughter by Suzy Hopkins and Hallie Bateman, use our affiliate links at Amazon India, and at Amazon US.
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Image source: a still from YouTube and book cover Amazon
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