Book idea flows from Springdale girl's death
In the days following the unexpected death of her 8-year-old daughter, Rebecca Wade sat in the girl's bedroom and sorted through boxes of her drawings.
Olivia, a third-grader, had been a gifted artist. Her mom examined the artwork one by one. Two drawings jumped out: one of Olivia's chocolate Lab, Penny, and another of Olivia with her then-2-year-old sister, Ainsley.
Wade, 39, of Springdale cried, numb over a loss that never seemed real. I wrote about Olivia when she died in March 2012. She had traveled with her mom to visit family in Florida, where she was involved in a boating accident. She was a month shy of her ninth birthday.
Olivia's tragedy — and the story of the silver box she left for her best friend Alexis before she went on her trip — resonated with parents and readers, who sent me dozens of emails. “What a joyous little person she must have been,” one person wrote upon reading about the contents of the box: a pen with a cupcake topper, a stuffed puppy, a lucky penny, an angel necklace and a picture of herself.
“So you don't forget me,” Olivia had told Alexis.
Wade yearned to find a positive outlet, something to channel her grief and help her cope with the unbearable. As she talked to her therapist, they came up with an idea: A book geared for children who had lost a sibling or a friend.
She'd use all the drawings she'd found tucked away in Olivia's bedroom. She soon envisioned a workbook that children would fill out with memories of the person they loved. The result is the newly published “My story about you and me.”
The book encourages children to remember someone by writing about activities they did together — including the last time they saw each other — and some of the person's favorite things. One section asks them to describe what they do when they're mad because their sibling or friend is no longer around.
The book is illustrated with Olivia's drawings, including a self-portrait Wade saw for the first time after Olivia's death. She received it from the girl's art teacher, who had placed it in a black frame. In the drawing, Olivia is wearing a braid, a style she loved and wore in her casket. The drawing was incredibly detailed, down to the creases in her nose.
“It was a no-brainer to have Olivia be the artist,” Wade said. “This would keep her memory alive, having her be my illustrator.”
Wade hasn't mustered enough courage to help Ainsley, now 3½, go through the book herself, knowing full well it will be emotionally charged. It breaks her heart that Ainsley, who called her sister “La La,” will likely forget about Olivia.
“When Ainsley is 50 years old, I want her to have this and say, ‘This is about my sister, who I only got to know for two years,' ” Wade said.
It's been 18 months since Olivia died, but to Rebecca and her husband, Erick, it still seems like yesterday.
“There's not an hour that goes by when I don't think about her,” Wade told me. “Sometimes only seconds go by, and I think about her.”
Wade is certain Olivia would be proud of the book, even though she might have challenged some of her mom's creative decisions.
She said Olivia would be thrilled to know the book has the potential to help children coping with death. Most importantly, she wants to keep Olivia's spirit alive.
“I don't want anyone to forget her,” she said.
Luis Fábregas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7998 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates sign Corey Hart to 1-year deal
- Police gather in Ligonier for Perryopolis officer’s funeral
- Steelers must be creative in providing snaps for linebackers
- Penguins’ Maatta tests positive for mumps; Bortuzzo, Greiss negative
- Rossi: Brawl for ADs between Pitt and WVU
- Analysis: Misunderstood Chryst served Pitt well
- Western Pa. utility workers OK contract with FirstEnergy
- Review: No improper contact between Pa. Supreme Court justices, lawyers
- Uniontown man charged with raping 2 girls
- Second African penguin chick hatches at National Aviary
- The Exchange offers reward for information that leads to the arrest of person who shot Ross clerk