During a sleepless night in her early twenties, writer and illustrator Hallie Bateman had a sobering realization: one day her mother would pass away. What would those first days without her be like? Bateman wondered. What about the 10th day, or the 1,000 day?
Her sadness turned to inspiration, and Bateman asked her mother to collaborate with her on a book. The result is “What to Do When I’m Gone: A Mother’s Wisdom to her Daughter,” a heartfelt illustrated manual to navigating the grieving process.
Written from the perspective of the deceased, and told through punchy language and moving illustrations, “What to Do When I’m Gone” feels less like a self-help book and more like your deceased loved one taking your hand as you move from one stage of grief to the next.
The result is a thoughtful, engaging work that serves as a guidebook, a comfort, and a reminder of a mother’s love. It’s funny, too.
There are tips for navigating the early days of the grieving process ranging from the brassy responses you’d like to give when faced with well-meaning platitudes about death, to action steps designed to get you through a challenging day. “Go Rollerblading,” is one. “If you’re the kind of Rollerblader I was, all you’re thinking is, “I’m gonna fall I’m gonna fall!” (This text accompanies a drawing of a wildly flailing skater.) “This is good. You won’t have time to dwell on real or imagined memories, sorrow, or angst.”
And while the book has its humorous points, the authors certainly don’t take death lightly. On day 4,000, readers are advised to “think of me unexpectedly,” while the accompanying illustration shows a woman listening to a car radio as a familiar tune comes on. “Memories will come to you in waves, unbidden,” the text continues. “You’re left with a treasure of memories that can be triggered by sights, sounds, smells — a record of how my life enriched yours.”
“What To Do When I’m Gone” is a fine read this Memorial Day, or any day you need to feel close to deceased loved one.