Tree Talks About Death

an Imagine-Your-Own-Pictures, Interactive Book
for children ages 6 - 11 or playful adults of any age

by Connie Barlow

revised 18 November 2009 (original April 2009)

View or download STORY           Listen to AUTHOR READ the story           Listen to SONG

     This book takes a square look at the fact of death: that it is a natural part of all levels of the universe and, moreover, that it has played a crucially constructive role in creating the world that we know and love. The SCIENCE lessons and the COMFORT lessons are intended to become more and more meaningful to the child through the years, as his or her ability to grasp complex subjects and vocabulary grows. There are five chapters: 1 "TREE Talks About Death" ♦ 2 "ROCK Talks About Death" ♦ 3 "SPIDER Talks About Death" ♦ 4 "VOICE IN THE SKY Talks About Death" ♦ 5 "STAR Talks About Death"

     The book is intended to be read (preferably at bedtime) over the course of five days (one chapter per night). It is highly interactive, with the child being given choice points all along the way that influence elements of the story, though not the storyline. Notably, before chapter 1 is even begun, the child first determines whether the main character will be a girl or a boy, as well as the name of the child's dog, whose recent death the child is grieving. Because subsequent readings can include markedly different choices, this book is likely to become a child's favorite. (The book includes a suggested SONG; see below.)

     Although the book is created for parent-and-child reading contexts, this can be an advantage. Many parents are eager for help from religious educators in discussing death with their child. Freely distribute copies of this story to parents early in the season, telling them that near the end of the term 1 or 2 classes will be devoted to group discussion by the children (perhaps with an altar-and-candle-lighting ritual in which those children who wish light a candle and speak the name of a person or pet whose death they have already experienced).

     The premise of no pictures is to encourage the child to lie back in bed, close their eyes, and visualize the scenes — scenes that he or she, in part, will determine. Both the richness of the detail and the choice points encourage children to exercise and delight in their imaginative capacities, especially their ability to visualize, and to retain information from one chapter to the next — all the while stimulating vocabulary and helping the child think and feel their way through comforting understandings, based in mainstream science, of why death — however sad — is not a mistake in this Universe.

     All explanations given by the characters in the book (Tree, Rock, Spider, Voice in the Sky, and Star) for the constructive roles that death serves in the Universe are universally (if only implicitly) accepted in liberal religious contexts, as they are all grounded in mainstream science. Yet the story makes clear that one's subjective responses to those new understandings are very much open to individual temperament and life experience. Although the perennial issue of whether something of one's spirit or essence does or does not continue after death is never raised, the presentation of the science itself does not negate the possibility. Rather, the parent or caregiver will want to turn to other resources or conversation for conveying (or not) family beliefs in that regard. The character "Voice in the Sky" is intentionally ambiguous and can be interpreted by parent and child either as the Sun or as God.

     Beginning October 2009, the author is making this book freely available via this website in downloadable and printable form, in order to solicit comments and suggestions from those who wish to use this book for their own children's or family needs. Please email her at the address below with suggestions for improvement and/or stories of how the imaginative listeners reacted to the content and interactive style.

Biographical Note: The author attributes her own excellent capacity to visualize words and create imaginary scenes to the practice of her father, who extemporaneously created a bedtime story every night for her and her sister — never using a picture book — and who often asked his daughters to participate in choosing characters and other elements as the story emerged. Connie's father died a few days before her 14th birthday, and she still remembers the multiple-episode story that had been ongoing up to the day of his sudden and unexpected death. Death has since become a crucial aspect of her spiritual path.

View or download STORY (31 pages)           Listen to AUTHOR READ the story           Listen to SONG

This story is now translated into FRENCH, thanks to Dominique Krayenbul, title: "Quete pour un Chien"

Click here to access SUPPLEMENTARY RESOURCES for children, teens, and adults on an evolutionary understanding of DEATH.

You may download, print, and use any and all of these resources, without seeking permission, for all purposes other than publication. (Contact us if you wish to include them in a book or magazine.) And please hotlink our site to yours.

  CLICK to access the programs that Connie Barlow leads
when she is guest teaching in schools and churches.


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