The Jolliffe Kean family wrote this book. In the Jolliffe Kean family, there are four children: Jack (born in 2001), Callan (born in 2004), Julia (born in 2007), and Malcolm (born in 2009). Malcolm thinks that “people should know that death is not a bad thing; it’s just a part of life.”
There are also a few other important people. Joan is the grandmother. Wendy is the mother. Darrell is the father. Aunt Jackie is the maternal aunt, and Uncle Les is the maternal uncle. Together, the family decided to write down all the death words they could think of and share them with other families.
Darrell’s father died in 2008. His mother died in 2010. Wendy’s father died unexpectedly in 2011. Three grandparents died in just 4 years! In 2013, Darrell’s 20 year-old niece died after her heart suddenly stopped working (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy). With so many deaths in such a short time, the family felt like they were constantly talking about death. In an effort to heal their own grief, and, after many tears and many conversations, this colouring book came to be. The family thanks all the artists who contributed the gorgeous artwork inspired by this project and maintains close ties to all of the artists, who are also personal friends and relatives of the family.
… about the artists
A was illustrated by Julia Meryl Jolliffe-Kean. Julia is a Grade 6 student in Gatineau, Quebec. She is an avid underwater hockey player who loves highland dancing and is working on her Bronze Star on the path to lifeguarding. “Death is sad.”
B was illustrated by Anna Bullock. Anna is a graphic designer and illustrator who lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland. “Becoming comfortable with the concept of death and being able to accept it for what it is the healthiest thing you can do for yourself. I am of the belief that death, like life, can be beautiful, and it’s not something to be feared or avoided.”
C was illustrated by Céline Ouellette. Céline is a mother of two children and lives in Deep River, Ontario. She has a Master’s of Social Work.
“My ideas about death are informed by my experiences of seeing loved ones dying/die. Death can happen in such a range of circumstances, expected and unexpected. Honouring and exploring our feelings about death can teach us so much, help us release our fear and embrace life. Life and death are the threads that connect us all.”
D was also illustrated by Anna. See the letter B for details about her.
E was illustrated by Joan Jolliffe. Joan is the grandma and a retired educator who was born in Portage-La-Prairie, Manitoba. “Answering all the questions from my grandchildren and discussing words about death helped me cope with my own grief.”
F was illustrated by Freedom Keener. Freedom is a Grade 6 student in Gatineau, Quebec and is loving Highland dancing. “Never leave someone while your angry with them because you will never know when you will see them again.”
G was illustrated by Corinne McDonald. Corinne is a family physician who also works in hospice-based palliative care in Calgary, Alberta. She thinks that death is the only thing that we (will) all have in common, so we should talk about it more. “Acknowledging death can teach us a lot about how to live.”
H was illustrated by Emily Hunt. Emily is also known as the “Waffle Lady” from the St. John’s Farmers’ Market. She has three kids, one of which is S illustrator, Zoe Blair. “Death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it.” ~ Haruki Marukami
I was illustrated by Karie Allen. Karie is a mother and works in the Coast Guard, in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. She loves basketball because it makes her feel alive and closer to death every time she plays! Karie believes that her quote sums up her thoughts about death. “No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away.” ~ Terry Pratchett
J was illustrated by January Gravelle. January is a pediatric phlebotomist at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and a mother of four children living in Gatineau, Quebec. “Death isn’t scary. It’s like having a vacation from someone you love but that you’ll see again.”
K was illustrated by Melinda Cummings. Melinda, also known as mom to three amazing children, lives in Gatineau, Quebec and pursing an Environmental Studies degree at uOttawa. Epicurus teaches that death is not to be feared. According to Epicurus, we should all seek a life of knowledge and temperance, surrounded by friends and free from fear and pain. To Epicurus, there was one obstacle that plagued the hearts of people and it was this one thing that kept us from living a happy and fulfilled life — the fear of death.
L was illustrated by Amanda Slade. Amanda is an offshore sea captain from Thetis Island, British Columbia, now living in Nova Scotia – from coast to coast! She is also a mother of three children. “L is the first letter of both Lament, and the river Lethe. Lethe, in Greek mythology is one of the five rivers of the Underworld, and its waters induce oblivion/forgetting and souls of the dead must drink from it before they can be reincarnated. With this image I tried to convey someone lamenting (to mourn or grieve) a loved one who is about to drink from the river. In bagpiping lore, a lament is a particular type of music played to commemorate tragedy, thus the symbols on the top of the L.”
M was illustrated by Diana Rickard Coote. Diana Coote is an artist, designer, mother, lover, partner, daughter, friend, perpetual seeker of knowledge and eternally curious. Mourning, to her, is bittersweet. It is the often lengthy process of allowing the waves of grief to wash over us, of letting the tears fall in memory of the one(s) we’ve lost. It’s also a celebration of love and life and those who lived and laughed with us; a remembering of the wisdom they shared and the light we carry in ourselves that they gifted in their passing. “To allow ourselves the space to mourn means allowing those who’ve passed the space within us to live on. It is through mourning that our memories bloom and flower.”
N was illustrated by Nancy Hanson who lives her life with compassion. Nancy is an artist and retired hospital director originally from Belleville, Ontario. She now spends half the year in the sunny south. “I live my life with compassion, Acknowledging that everything is always changing. Death is my greatest teacher. It stops me in the midst of life, a dramatic change that forces me to remember I must meet it with love and not fear.”
O was illustrated by Kisa MacIssac, a Métis mother, artist, and educator from Treaty 1 Territory (Winnipeg, Manitoba). “Because death is inevitable, we need not be afraid – just do our best to follow our dreams and live this life in service to others (especially children) with love, courage and joy in our hearts.”
P was also illustrated by Anna. See the letter B for details about her.
Q was illustrated by Robin Guy. Robin is an actor and the artistic director of the Three Sisters Theatre Company in Ottawa, Ontario. She is a mother and an activist. “Death is a reunion with the same energy we all came from before birth; a transformation that allows us to mix with the universe before we return for the next round.”
R was also illustrated by Corinne. See the letter G for details about her.
S was illustrated by Zoe Blair. Zoe is a Grade 7 Brother Rice student who loves drawing, reading, playing basketball and video games. “To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.” ~ J.K Rowling
T was illustrated by Thea-Rose Catto. Thea-Rose is an avid skier and freestyle coach, a francophone and a Katimavik alumni from Jasper, Alberta. “Be the things you loved the most about the people who are gone.”
U was also illustrated by Anna. See the letter B for details about this artist.
V was illustrated by Valerie Plechenko. Valerie is an 11-year from Ottawa, Ontario. “It’s scary!!!”
W was illustrated by Lydia Bullock. Lydia is a daughter, sister, cook, avid outdoorswoman, and artist living in St. John’s, Newfoundland. “Just as when we come into the world, when we die we are afraid of the unknown. But the fear is something from within us that has nothing to do with reality. Dying is like being born: just a change.” – Isabel Allende
X was illustrated by Hannah Zanovello. Hannah is a mother, educator, and artist in Hull, Quebec. “Where there is death, there is growth. When a body ceases to live in our dimension, it is brought to another where it grows and informs those that it left behind. We are surrounded by those we have lost and are informed by their lasting impression on this world we are all part of.”
Y was illustrated by Marilyn French-St. George. Marilyn is a woodturner and sculptor currently living in Green Valley, Arizona. “Yearning is the space between regret of a lost future together and hope of a reinvented life where loss is the catalyst.”
Z was illustrated by Aunt Jackie. Jacqueline is a daughter, sister, aunt and teacher. I can see how death makes room for life and nourishes life, yet the changes can be so difficult to accept. Living overseas, I see how death is universal but our approaches to it are so cultural and individual- we forge our path through mourning.