God is Near
April 22, 2024

I pick up the first book I read after my son died nearly four years ago. Once again, I feel I must hold it in my hands, touch the pages, read it out loud, remember my littles ones next to me, hear myself say the words. The book is one of our favorite books: Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury’s beautiful 'We're Going on a Bear Hunt.' I sit in the afternoon sun, saying the words out loud, stroking the pictures, my memories and me.

At the time I didn’t understand why I felt compelled, drawn to reading this book this way, but I gave in to my need. Over and over, for many days it was just about all I could do that wasn't falling apart: read this book out loud.

Now I understand. God was telling me something very important about the journey I was on. Now I’m sharing what I’ve learned with you, on your journey.

“You will be okay. I promise you. This is a scary, difficult journey, with long, wavy grass, deep, cold rivers, thick oozy mud, dark forest, swirling snowstorms, narrow gloomy caves. You will meet many obstacles on this journey. You can’t go over these hard parts. You can’t go under them. You have to go through them. But you have people around you who love you and are on this journey too.”

God was telling me that he knew I needed to hear this, even though of course I didn’t understand it yet. Through the children's book he was telling me, openly, frankly, and gently that there would be hard parts on this journey. They are very dark and scary, sticky and gloomy. But God was guiding me in a way he knew I would understand. Don’t avoid. Don’t take another path. Trust. Go into this wide-eyed. I’m with you. 


I knew that there was an answer as to why God wanted me to read the book, initially, but I didn’t know what it was. Somehow I believed I would have an answer one day. Years later, picking the book up seemingly randomly one sunny afternoon, and opening myself to God’s answer, there it was.

The late-coming answer is a gift that reminds me that God is kind, loving, gentle, and knows what is right, and when, for me. Are there ways he is helping me now that I don’t yet understand? Undoubtedly. This helps to strengthen my faith because my trust afforded me patience that one day I would have an answer. I could only know that I was going to go through these hard parts of the journey when I found myself on the other side and could realize I did have a choice at the time. For example, I could have removed myself from the world, not faced the devastation I saw on the faces of my surviving family. Witnessing their grief often felt impossible, and more unbearable than anything I was going through, myself. It would have been easier to go under or over those parts. But I didn’t, by the grace of God, and now the fact that these people are still in my life, that we are closer than ever is a gift that can only come with this type of intimacy, this kind of truly “being there” for each other. It’s a side of long-lasting love that I could not know then, but now I know that there are people in my life, like my son, who will never leave me, even if they die before me, too. That would have been too frightening for me to put into words then.

And we don’t know what we don’t know, but God does.

The Major Spiritual Themes of 'Buttons and the Butterfly'
January 23, 2024

I will be discussing these themes in much more detail, and answering questions about the book in my RCBO presentations in March 2024 (for information contact me at

1. Death which all living beings experience is a transformation of external appearances only.

In all transformations that living beings experience over the course of our lives, external appearances change. Yet we know that something remains unchanged. For example, growing is also a transformation. Baby pictures of someone look very different from pictures of the person when they are adults, and adults in their 20s look different than adults in their 80s. But we all know that they are the same person. What is it that is the same? We understand that they are the same person despite the physical changes, however. We may attribute this to their personality, but that seems inadequate. It's something deeper than that. We feel that 'personality' does not capture the essence that somehow connects the baby with the adult. Could it perhaps be the soul? I make the case for the inside-part staying constant in 'Buttons and the Butterfly.' 

2. We don't choose the time of our death, even though it may seem that way. 

Surely if we believe that God knows the number of our days, He knows not only the time when we are born, but also the time we die. Many deaths feel purposeful. Suicide is one example. But even when death feels inevitable, especially if the person is conscious, it can feel like the person chooses to die at that moment. We hear of many stories where a person waits until a loved one is in the hospital with them, or when they left to grab something to eat, or when someone tells them, "It's ok to let go." If we believe in God's plan for each of us, we must allow for His ability to intervene in a person's action, if these actions are in accordance with His wishes. Period. 

3. God comforts us in our suffering. The beauty of nature is one way in which he does this. 

As CS Lewis said, God is our only comfort (Mere Christianity).  

In the book of Job, Job wishes to know why he has been allowed to suffer.

" Will you never look away from me, or let me alone even for an instant? If I have sinned, what have I done to you, you who see everything we do? Why have you made me your target? Have I become a burden to you? Why do you not pardon my offenses and forgive my sins? For I will soon lie down in the dust; you will search for me, but I will be no more." Job 7: 19-21 NIV

He never receives a direct answer. But God talks to him about the mountain goat, and the doe, the miracle of birth of the fawn, wild donkeys in the desert finding green pasture, how wild animals willingly serve their humans, ostriches speed in running and laying eggs in the sand to keep them warm, the strength and courage of horses and the beauty of their flowing manes, the soaring of eagles and their nests high in cliffs and 'rocky crags', the power and beauty of mysterious Behemoths and Leviathans." (Job 39-41 NIV). God comforts us. 

But nature is beautiful in that it produces the feeling of awe only to the extent that we understand that the experience comes from God. "The beauty [of a tree] is not in matter at all, but is something purely spiritual, arising mysteriously out of the relations between me and the tree: or perhaps [...] out of some indwelling spirit behind the matter of the tree ..." The letters of CS Lewis to  Arthur Greeves (29 May 18, 1918) para 3-4 pp. 216-217.

I will discuss all of these topics further in the webinar.


My Son is Not Lost
November 20, 2023


Since my son died I’ve talked with many other parents who have lost children.  At some elemental level, we all seem to know that our children aren’t lost. But where are they? The deeply personal answer that we discern to this question may help us move forward.


Wildfires rained down ash at the graveside service in August 2020. It felt like the end of the world on so many levels. Almost everything I thought was solid was shattered. I felt there was nothing left of me. As a flock of white doves was released at the end of the simple ceremony, I imagined my son among them. But then we saw that one of the doves stayed behind. “He doesn’t want to leave,” someone sobbed. But this wasn’t a restless soul hanging back, I felt. This soul reassured us that he was okay, at peace, with God. In the chaos of that gray gloomy day, I saw a flicker of light.

My son was born perfectly healthy but three weeks early.  As a young child, he would often say that in heaven he had picked our family to come to. I had stored up these words in my heart and felt strangely comforted remembering them. Perhaps the reason why we had to return his body to the earth, so early as well, was part of the mystery of his life, I wondered. What would it mean for our lives if he had indeed chosen our family to join, and who was to say that this wasn’t true? Struggling to make sense of this, I planted wildflower seeds. I needed reassurance that the world was still turning, and that growth was still possible. Within days little specks of green began lifting the dirt. When I raised my head, I saw butterflies darting about and caterpillars steadily processing toward their calling under the leaves of the milkweed bush.


Long a way to process my emotions, I wrote at night when it was quiet, and everyone was sleeping. Many times, I’d still be writing when the dark began to lift and the birds to awaken and be reminded: “Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when dawn is still and dark.” (Rabindranath Tagore). Faith again. As I became aware that God was gently guiding me forward through this tragedy, finding words for what was in my heart was not easy. Sometimes images captured those feelings. So, my writing evolved into a picture book illustrated with my photographs. As I examined my photos one day on a large monitor, I noticed an aphid hanging beneath a large caterpillar I’d spotted. Of course, it popped into my mind that the aphid’s name had to be Alex, and he and the caterpillar, Casey, had to have a puppy friend! The puppy had to be a labradoodle, my son’s favorite dog, and I would name her after my cherished childhood pet: Buttons. Sophia, representing Divine Wisdom, would be the wise owl who counseled the puppy. With words and images, I began to be able to express what had felt inexpressible in the tender story of a dog who loves a caterpillar that transforms into a butterfly and flies away to heaven. Making this little book transported me into the spiritual world, the only place I feel consolation. And so, the book Buttons and the Butterfly was born.


Initially just intended for me, family and friends found solace in the book, too. Encouraged by readers who said, “You have to get this book out in the world”, I published it and an accompanying activity book. I hold occasional workshops centered on the book, where I see firsthand the impact on others, and sometimes readers share the book’s impact with me. The grandmother grieving her grandson tenderly laid her hands on each page as if to soak up the content. The young boy whose beloved grandmother had died needs the book under his pillow to sleep. The girl exclaimed, “There’s Grandpa!” when she saw the butterfly on the book cover.  I see that my son’s sweet, kind, and gentle soul lives on. I cry tears of gratitude for the comfort this brings me.


Now I understand that “we are spiritual beings having a human experience” (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin), not the other way around. For me, it seems that the truth tangled up in the mystery of my son’s out-of-order death is to be found not by asking God “Why?” but rather “What now?” The caterpillar to butterfly story of the miracles of life and life transformed is on display in my own backyard. The retelling of this familiar allegory has been a gift: I now know where my son is, and I am beginning to find my way too.

Why did you write a picture book about grief?


July 11, 2023


When we heard that our beloved son, Chris, had died, it really wouldn’t be accurate to say that our world was shattered. It was so much more than that. A tsunami of change in most areas of our lives comes closer to describing it. One writer (Jan Richardson, who lost her husband in a sudden accident) once said on a Kate Bowler podcast she was interviewed on “something has happened that doesn’t let me live only in this world.” Her words, that I have adopted for my website, comes closest though - the shift in my world has been on many planes. Life without Chris in it anymore feels impossible. The only way I knew I was going to be able to survive, myself, was somehow to still feel connected to him.


Buttons and the Butterfly, a children’s book (but for all ages) is the first product of this new connection to him. The e-version of Buttons and the Butterfly is now available on Kindle, and the proofs for the print book are on their way. I expect it will be available on Amazon very soon.  It has been a labor of great sorrow, great joy, and most of all, great love. I felt so close to Chris and God in the writing of it. In Buttons and the Butterfly, I’ve tried to distill the beliefs that have sustained me to their purest that I possibly could. Then several members of my family helped with the edits, so that now every word and picture feel perfect to all of us. Now our trials are made a little easier as we share the words in the book with each other. Chris and God helped write this so that we have their voices in our minds to lift us up and carry us to a place in our minds where the rest of our lives without him doesn’t seem so impossible.


Why a children’s book? Some of the greatest truths expressed in literature is from the books we choose to share with our children. One of my most treasured memories with my boys when they were little was reading with them. They loved books and we would cuddle up on the couch and read at least every night, often during the day, too. They both became voracious readers perhaps as a result of the fun we had together reading, especially, picture books. So often the beautiful words and pictures transported me, the adult, to a different place and time where it felt that the beauty of the child’s mind, what’s good and right in this world, was what I was reminded of, and needed reminding of. We still have a huge collection of children’s books I will never be able to part with. Sometimes the only way I could feel comforted after Chris’ passing was to read these books to myself.


Buttons and the Butterfly contains the truths I now realize that I believe about essential questions I have had to come to terms with: why he died (including the mystery of it – we will not know in this lifetime), where he is now (is he cold, is he hungry?), how I can still feel close to him and be reminded of God’s great gifts to me in my life, despite this terrible tragedy. Indeed, the concept of awe (or wow moments as Buttons calls them) seems to instantly draw me into a union with God and all of my loved ones who are in heaven, somehow tying together this world and the next, at the same time. The answers are now clearer to me after nearly three terribly difficult years than they were at first. And these truths, as they seem to me, not only sustain me; they lift me up and carry me. Although I come from a Christian faith tradition, the truths as I have tried to express them in this book, are truths that feel more universal. God is God is God.


I am also writing an adult book, entitled What If, but crafting the children’s book was very helpful in shaping the questions I felt I had to answer for myself. Those of us whose loved one died suddenly, unexpectedly, tragically, are often plagued by these types of questions. In the writing of the What If book I’ve come to terms with the fact that there are so many questions I will never have the answers to, at least not in this world. But there are questions I can ask myself that just in the asking begin to change my grief a little. For example, what if it’s true that God needed Chris in heaven, and that’s why he died when he did? What if it’s true that God knows that this loss feels impossible to live with, and sends me signs not only to remind me that I am God’s beloved (as we all are) but that, if I pay attention, help me to feel connected not only to God but to Chris? What if Chris is in heaven, what does this mean about my own eternity? And many others… 

So now you know why this newly retired professor of cognitive neuroscience who has never dreamed of writing a children’s book has just done so, and you know a little more about the book itself. I sincerely hope that Chris’ part in helping me to write this little book helps you, the reader, a little on the difficult grief journey that you are on. I’ve imagined you, the adult reading this book to the child in your life, as much as I’ve imagined the child participating in the reading. I ache with you, I truly do. Chris was the kindest, most generous person most of us have ever known; for his soul to continue to help people is one of most honest ways I can think of to honor his life.