This Little Light of Mine
When I was five years old, my best friend Mimi drowned in our neighborhood pool. We had just begun first grade together. One day she was there, sitting next to me on the school bus, and the next she was not. It was a lot to process at such a young age, and while I don’t exactly remember her (sadly), I do remember what her presence felt like.
Feels like, actually.
All my long life her much-too-brief existence on this planet and in my world has lingered like a little light that I have always carried inside me. Her light as part of mine. I have never forgotten her.
It seems, especially these days, people love to assume that children only need sweet innocent stories of fairies and grand adventures to accompany them as they grow up. While it’s true those stories are important, it is equally true that kids need stories that hold up a mirror or open a window for them to see themselves or others as they face incredible obstacles, even tragedies.
Lolo’s Light by Liz Garton Scanlon is one such story.
Millie, a 12-year-old comedian who loves to make herself and everyone else laugh, experiences an unthinkable loss when the child she babysits for, Lolo, passes away in the night. Even though Lolo died of SIDS, Millie can’t stop wondering if there was something, anything, she should have done differently. Feelings of guilt and grief collide as Millie wrestles with how to process her often overwhelming emotions. She just can’t seem to let go and accept this tragedy as part of her own story.
Perhaps, percentage-wise, relatively few children face such tragic experiences. Perhaps. As I write this in a culture when there have been more mass shootings than days of the year, that feels debatable. Even if the world’s tragedies happen to “someone else,” they often hit very close to home. Too close to ignore.
I believe children need a place where they can explore the complexities of their emotions when dealing with loss or even fear of loss. A book like Lolo’s Light can provide a safe place where readers can face enormous obstacles and vicariously experience how they might find their own way in similar circumstances. A book like that can feel like a compassionate friend, like someone who walks with you.
Some books touch you like that, and never let go. They help you see inside yourself, by showing you your own heart and what you’re made of. Like Mimi’s light, Lolo’s Light will shine in my heart from now on as friend who saw me through.
Like a light that never goes out.