“Each day, we wake up slightly altered, and the person we were yesterday is dead”, said the American writer John Updike. “So why...be afraid of death if death comes all the time?” He wondered.
Even President Charles de Gaulle tried to play down the death by saying: “What we think of death matters only for what death makes us think of life”.
But despite these nice words, death continues to terrorize us. Not only ours death, but also that of our loved ones. We fear the prospect of losing the people we love. And if an adult is unable to manage the idea of death, how can a child face such a loss?
In this sense, the book “Cry, heart, but never break”, is a real gem that will help children understand death. It is by Danish writer Glenn Ringtved, specialized in children's stories, and contains some magnificent drawings by Charlotte Pardi.
Who knows this writer knows that he is characterized by its convoluted stories, but this story is very special because it comes from his experience. In fact, it is the writer's attempt to explain his children the inevitable and imminent death of their grandmother because of an inoperable cancer. The writer recalls that once, the older woman told the children that the heart cries, but never breaks, this was the way she chose to ensure that after the deep sorrow for the loss, life would go on.
An unexpected visit
The story begins in a small and cozy house, where four children lived with their grandmother. One day they receive an unexpected visit, is Death who knocks on their door. But not wanting to scare the children, she left his scythe out. And this unexpected gesture by a character we usually consider macabre, suddenly reveals an unexpected tenderness.
When Death enters, she sits at the kitchen table. Everyone knows who she is, and they are also aware that they can do nothing. Only the smallest of the children, Leah, dares to look directly into her eyes.
No doubt, what makes this book particularly poignant are images, showing a discouraged Death, as if completing the task will cost her effort and pain. So, gradually, the writer tries to make us change the image of the loss. In this way also tries to ensure that children consider this “guest” in a more natural way.
“In the silence, children could feel the breath of their grandmother, the same sighs of the person who was next to them at the table. They knew that Death had come for her, and there was not much time”.
To stop the inevitable, the kids come up with a plan. Since they think that Death only work at night, they decide to constantly fill his cup of coffee until dawn, at which point, they think, she would have to leave without the grandmother. At this point the writer makes another miracle and reveals the human and even normal side of the Death and somehow suggests that, in some way, it is also a hymn to life. His goal, once again, is to play down those moments and give the children the idea that it is a natural process.
But death finally cover the cup with the bony hand to indicate that the time has come. Then Leah takes her hand and beg to not take away his beloved grandmother.
“Why Grandma must die?” He asks.
Then is when the most comprehensive face of Death is revealed, when decides to answer Leah telling him a story, hoping he understand why her mission is natural and necessary.
Tells him of two brothers who were called Pain and Sorrow, they lived in the valley of darkness and their days went by “slowly and heavily” because they had not the courage to look beyond the shadows on hilltops.
However, beyond those shadows, says Death, lived two sisters who were called Joy and Pleasure. Both were living happily, but had also the feeling that something was missing and were not able to fully enjoy their happiness.
Suddenly, Leah imagined the end of story: the two boys met the two girls and fell in love. Thus were formed two perfectly balanced pairs: Pain and Joy, Sorrow and Pleasure.
Death explains that she does the same with life. How would life be if there were no death? Who would enjoy the sun if it never rained? Who anxiously would expect the light of day if it were not for the night?
When death finally gets up from the table, the youngest son tries to stop her, but his older brother discourages him.
A few minutes later, the children hear upstairs a noise of an open window and a voice that whispers: “Fly soul, fly, fly away”.
They climb the stairs and discover that grandmother died. In the illustrations it is perceived as a time of great sadness, but also of great tranquility. A slight breeze coming through the windows moves the curtains.
Then Death said: “Cry, heart, but never break. Let your tears of grief and sadness help begin new life”. Then disappears.
Now, whenever the children open a window, they think of the grandmother. And when the breeze caresses their faces they can almost feel her touch. Because death does not deprive us of our beloved ones, but immortalizes them in our memory.
Taken from: Brain Pickings
Cry, heart, but never breakJennifer Delgado