Gleanings from a Book: “When My Baba Died” by Marjorie Kunch

How do you help a child to process what occurs when a beloved family member or friend passes away? What do you say? How can you explain what the child will see, feel, and experience? If you have ever been in this position, you most likely asked yourself these questions and then did the best that you could to answer them and help the child. If you have not yet had this happen, you are blessed. Either way, allow me to introduce you to a resource that will help you help them if/when someone precious to you and/or your child(ren) passes away.

Mortician (and mother) Marjorie Kunch has written a wonderfully helpful book to familiarize Orthodox Christian children ages 4 to 8 with what happens after the loss of an Orthodox Christian loved one. When My Baba Died features color photos and the story of a little girl from the moment she learns about her baba’s death all the way through her baba’s funeral service, graveside service, and memorial service. The story is told from the little girl’s perspective, and everything is explained as she observes and begins to understand it.

Every page is illustrated with photos of the little girl and/or what she is experiencing. The photos were taken with such attention to detail that the reader feels as though the story is taking place before their eyes. The first time I read this book, I thought, “Wow, it’s really nice to have such thorough pictures of this story, but how difficult it must have been for the photographer to take them without being in the way of the family during this significant and difficult event in their lives!” When I later learned that the photos were all staged, I was happy that no family had a photographer snapping photos during their loved one’s funeral, and at the same time I was amazed at how realistically the photos communicate the story! (A side note: at no point in the book do you see the “departed loved one.” All the photos cleverly hide the fact that the photo essay was staged and that the casket was in fact empty!)

There is so much terminology for a child to learn when their loved one departs. Throughout the story, important related words such as “grief,” “funeral,” “casket,” “grave,” and “koliva” are presented gently but clearly. Each new vocabulary word is appropriately introduced in context, and many are referred to again later in the story, to help cement their meaning in young readers’ minds. There is a glossary at the end of the book as well, with simple definitions for many of the new terms used in the book.

Tucked into When My Baba Died here and there are snatches of scripture or portions of the services and prayers that relate to that part of the story. These can be read aloud along with the story or can just act as a gentle reminder to the adult reader of what is happening at that point in the process. It is up to the reader to decide how to include them.
Readers in our community who have been following our blog regularly may well remember Carol Federoff’s suggestion in our blog “On the Cross of Christ and Leading Children Through Holy Week” with regard to discussing death with children. She wrote, “Use picture books that deal with death… Don’t wait until someone significant in their life passes… pick these books now… so that this subject can be a gentle introduction rather than dealing with it after such a crisis in their life.” When My Baba Died is an excellent book for just such a purpose. It can be read as a story and is a helpful discussion-starter even without the context of having just lost a loved one. It will, however, be even more invaluable to a family with young children when one of their beloved members has just departed this life. This book provides a child-friendly way for young Orthodox Christians to process what they will experience when someone they love passes away.

Read more about the book (how it came to be, etc.), find out where to purchase your own copy, and discover what else this brand new publisher, Pascha Press, is up to at their website at http://www.paschapress.com/home.html.

Here are a few favorite quotes from the book:

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“This book is not about eternal life, but rather how we send-off our beloved ones into eternal life. The funeral service—and all of its components—in the Eastern Orthodox Church, is mainly about two matters: prayer, and love; two matters which never die.” ~ Fr. Miloš M. Vesin, foreword, When My Baba Died, p. 10

***

“You may hear the priest say your loved one ‘fell asleep’ in the Lord. It is entirely different than falling asleep at bedtime. That is just when my body rests and I awaken to a new day. To die is to have your soul rest and then awaken to the never ending Paschal day.” When My Baba Died, p. 15
***

“The funeral is a ceremony where we say goodbye to our loved one. Father and the funeral director will help take good care of Baba’s soul and body. They will help take good care of my family.” When My Baba Died, p. 18

***

“I am sad Baba died but I do believe that I will see her again one day. Jesus said so. He promised everyone eternal life if they believe in Him. Baba believed in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and so do I.” When My Baba Died, p. 21

***

“Everyone in church walked by Baba’s casket for one last kiss. I felt a little scared to lean in and kiss her while she lay inside of the casket, but Mama helped me… I silently asked God and the Theotokos to help me be brave. The blessed Mary once had to kiss her Son goodbye at His funeral, too. I knew I would not see Baba again in this life except in pictures and memories so it was important I gave her that final gift. I am so glad I did…” When My Baba Died, p. 29

***

“I thought I would be afraid, but it turns out I liked visiting Baba’s place in the cemetery. It’s not spooky at all. Visiting someone’s grave is a way to show love. Every time we go to the cemetery, I look around and give thanks for all of God’s creation: birds, flowers, trees, and Baba.” When My Baba Died, p. 37

***

“When my Baba died, I learned about all the different ways people can help. Although I am little, even I am a helper, because I pray for Baba. Are you a helper, too?” When My Baba Died, p. 42

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One thought on “Gleanings from a Book: “When My Baba Died” by Marjorie Kunch

  1. Pingback: A Handful of Helpful Books for Children | Orthodox Christian Parenting

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