New book helps to collect memories and confront death

·3 min read

A new book developed in Strathmore will help people confront death and dying while providing them a place to collect and share memories of their loved ones.

The book, titled Tell Me Your Story, Please, is the result of a collaborative effort between Grade 9 students at Crowther Memorial Junior High School (CMJHS) and Wheatland and Area Hospice Society (WAHS) to help create a more compassionate and caring community.

The book commemorates the fifth anniversary of WAHS. Its release also coincides with Bell Let’s Talk, a day in which the company donates to mental health initiatives each time #BellLetsTalk is mentioned on social media.

Tell Me Your Story, Please is a participatory work, featuring lines for families to record memories, facts and stories about their loved ones. The book also contains a page to insert a family photograph and an envelope for additional notes or a surprise gift. The hope is the book can help capture and create precious memories for families and loved ones, and act as a resource for palliative, sick or dying family members.

“It will be a soft intro for people to ask these really hard questions that you’re not taught or trained how to deal with,” said Teri McKinnon, WAHS director of community relations. “It’s one baby step in them getting to walk through this path of grief.”

The book features artwork by the students at CMJHS for a visual book report of Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. Each student was tasked with creating an image representing the most powerful or important part of the story, which together with reading the book, helped students consider death and grief, explained Glenda Sorensen, the teacher who led the exercise.

“We’ve had a lot of student deaths in the last five years, and the grief that kids hold onto can be significant,” said Sorensen. “The story isn’t completely about grief, but also looking at our lives, and it transcends ages.”

After being shared on social media, the images caught the eye of Joni McNeely, WAHS president. She asked Sorensen if they could be used for the book, and they agreed.

“I was so impressed with not only the level of engagement by the students, but also their understanding of those life stages,” said McNeely.

The decision worked well for both parties, added Sorensen. “They found some images they could use to support their book, and it was a very cool way to involve the community, especially students, in their book.”

Chelsea Tellier, an artist from Standard, helped select 12 shortlisted images from the class to be included in the book, of which 10 were included.

The book is being displayed at the Strathmore Municipal Library in the “compassion corner,” a space developed through a partnership between the library and WAHS to centralize resources on death and dying.

Copies of Tell Me Your Story, Please have been gifted to WAHS bedside respite volunteers so they can begin walking families through the book, said McKinnon. It is also available for purchase at the library and at Value Drug Mart in downtown Strathmore.

Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times