Why Did Grandpa Die?
A Book About Death

"Death is very difficult to understand and cope with. Even adults have a hard time accepting this unavoidable fact of life. WHY DID GRANDPA DIE? helps open avenues of communication about death between parent and child. Children need to discuss their feelings and frears with adults in order to deal with death in a healthy and constructive way. This sensitive story shows children the comfort of sharing feelings, and how the lasting links of memory can help to wash away the sadness of death."

-Michael Landon

A children’s book, with a sturdy binding published by Golden books in the A Golden Learn About Living Book series.

On September 29, 1986 my grandfather, “Pa,” passed away after a difficult battle with lung cancer that had quickly spread. I was four years old at the time. To help me understand why my Pa, whom I had been very close with, was no longer there, my mom gave me the book, “Why Did Grandpa Die? A Book about Death.” By Barbara Shook Hazen and Illustrated by Pat Schories.

I came across this book while I was packing today. I had forgotten all about it. I opened it, and on the blue endsheet is my mother or possibly grandmother’s writing.

This book belongs to:
in memory of her “Pa”
(who died September 29, 1986)
Jennelle loved him very much.

The book was according to the title page, Prepared with the cooperation of Bernice Berk, Ph.d., of The Bank Street College of Education.

The book begins with a Note To Parents. This is a guide to parents, with some do’s and don’ts on how to speak to children about the death of a close relative.

“WHY DID GRANDPA DIE? Helps parents open discussion with their children at a very difficult time. Reading this book to a child is a way to help the child share his or her feelings, and discover that the comfort people can bring to each other is very helpful—and very necessary.”

--The Editors

The book is a story of Molly, a young girl who was very close to her grandfather. It tells of their relationship, the ways she was like him, the things they enjoyed to do together, even dislikes they shared. The book tells of a wildflower garden Molly and Grandpa plant together, and while planting it they find a butterfly who has died. Grandpa explains to Molly, “He won’t move or fly ever again,” and they bury the butterfly and put a nice stone to mark the place. Molly asks questions many children ask about death, “How can he breathe underground,” and other naïve questions. The grandfather patiently explains as best as he can and concludes with “But it is nice to remember how he was when he was alive.”

The story then moves on, with Grandpa unable to fulfill a promise to take Molly sailing as a birthday treat because he is ill. Molly becomes angry at the broken promise. The following day Grandpa packs his bags and goes to a hospital, saying “Don’t worry, they’re going to fix me up just fine. We’ll go sailing when I get back.” Instead of getting better, he grew more and more ill. Molly’s mother became angry a lot and her father depressed. Molly spent a lot of time in her room alone.

Then Molly’s father comes home one day, hugs Molly and says simply, “Grandpa is gone.” Molly, being a small child wants to know where he went. When told he was dead, she argued that he couldn’t be because “He said they’d fix him up just fine.” After some more explainging and her father beginning to cry, she wriggled away, retreating to her bed. The author describes, “She felt empty and awful and frightened. But she didn’t feel like crying.” (This small paragraph was the one that hit me deepest.)

The book then shows more conversation with each parent, the child’s anger and fear obvious. It tells of Molly’s experiences at the funeral.

The book does not end there, because grieving does not end there. This book shows you do not simply forget. The books stresses that IT’S OKAY TO CRY! “Tears help you let out your sad feelings and then you can begin to feel better.”

Molly slowly begins to understand death, that her grandfather isn’t coming back. Yet, he will be remembered forever.

This book is a good one to help parents and children understand death. It helped me and my family.

Publishing info:
Why Did Grandpa Die?A Book About Death
Published by: A Golden Book in New York, New York.
Western Publishing Company, Inc. Racine, Wisconsin 53404
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 84-82340
ISBN: 0-307-12484-3 OR 0.307.62484.6