A Review of
All Will Be Well: Learning to Trust God’s Love
Lacy Finn Borgo
Reviewed by Craig D. Katzenmiller
Speaking with children about grief can feel like a scary thing for parents. Questions we understandably ask ourselves include, “How might this grief negatively affect my child?” While caution is warranted, studies continue to show that speaking openly with children about their grief can normalize their grief experience and help them integrate their grief into the larger story of their life.
I received my review copy of Lacy Finn Borgo’s All Will Be Well with anticipation for what I’d find inside. Beautifully and evocatively illustrated by Rebecca Evans, All Will Be Well tells the story of Julian, a young girl whose grandmother is terminally ill—I imagine receiving hospice care—in her home. Julian’s grandmother, affectionately called Mima, has shared with Julian the story of her namesake, Julian of Norwich. “If something as small as a hazelnut is loved by God, then we are loved by God too” is one life lesson that young Julian has received from Mima.
Julian seems to be taking the lessons from her namesake to heart; she can see a tree aflame in fall colors and ask whether God looks like the tree, and whether God sounds like the wind rushing through the tree. She has the heart of a young contemplative. She is also experiencing the anticipatory grief of losing her grandmother; “God, please make Mima better,” she prays. The book speaks the reality of this anticipation, showing Julian’s sadness and anger, and also her love for Mima as she collects hazelnuts from the ground for Mima as a gift.
When Julian’s mom takes her out of school early one day, telling Julian that Mima has died, readers experience the confusion that comes over young Julian. “Why didn’t you make Mima well?” Julian asks God as she walks her dog later that day. Then she finds a hazelnut on the ground and remembers a lesson she learned from Mima, “All will be well, all will be well, everything will be well.” And Julian experiences a shift in her grief.
Ultimately, this book is about the embodied knowing that comes from having a secure attachment to those we love and to God: “[Julian] remembered that God loved her and that God loved Mima.” God’s love and the love of those we love do not short circuit grief, but they do give us a foundation from which to face our grief together. After reading this book with my seven- and four-year-old children, my four-year-old looked at me and said, “It was sad when the grandma died.” I agreed and from there we had a conversation about some of the losses that came to mind for her: our cat, our chickens, and her great-grandmother. It was an incredibly tender and sacred conversation sparked by the book. All Will Be Well is a wonderful book for families as they walk through grief together or as they together anticipate the grief of loss.
Craig D. Katzenmiller is a hospital chaplain and ACPE certified educator candidate at the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville, Tennessee. He and his wife Sarah have three children, ages 2, 4, and 7.
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