Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Book Nook: Big-Hearted Charlie Runs the Mile

After receiving the life-altering and devastating news that her son had been killed whilst fighting Islamic State militants in Iraq on May 3, 2016, Krista Keating-Joseph was motivated to revisit publishing a book about her son’s perseverance and determination on his school’s track team which she began over a decade earlier, Big-Hearted Charlie Runs the Mile[Legacies & Memories Publishing, April 2017], in his memory. Unbeknownst to even some of her closest friends, Krista had started writing this children’s book several years before he passed. A writer looking to make her son smile, Krista enlisted the help of an artist she knew quite well to produce the illustrations — Charlie’s own grandmother, Phyllis Holmes. Without a desire to publish at the time, the work had remained tucked away as a fond memory for over a decade until Charlie’s death, and would become a crucial part of her healing process. I had a chance to interview her to learn more.

Why did you originally write the book and not publish it?
I originally wrote the book many years ago when I was coaching the Arizona Track club. My son Charlie was little for his age and all the other boys matured before him. He was running well but kept getting beat. Instead of quitting, he worked harder and overcame his size to win.  

I first sent out Big-Hearted Charlie Runs the Mile to publishers but was turned down, so I decided to put it in Charlie’s box of things and hadn’t opening it until he died. I saw the book and immediately told my mom — the book's illustrator — that we needed to finish it. We added a couple of new pages regarding him taking on the biggest challenge because of course he has the biggest heart and…..he becomes a Navy SEAL and saves many lives.

We wanted to ensure the book did not have a sad ending so parents don’t have to talk about it unless they wanted to.

How did the book become part of your grieving process?
It helped to keep my mind and heart busy to work on the book It also included our family members since my mother was the illustrator and my other children were all into it as well! Through my experience, I also found it that my strong faith in God played a key role in coping with Charlie’s passing. We feel Charlie was with us during the process and is in heaven.

What do you hope readers gain from the book?
I hope children will remember my son. He was a hard worker and had a great attitude. He was positive and motivated to be the best. Life is not easy and it takes hard work, and I feel as though children in the 5 to 8 age range haven’t heard this in a long time through other children’s books. 

What advice do you have for parents grieving the loss of an adult child?
I would try to make the grieving count. Do something hopeful with the child in mind. Retell his or her story. Make your life count through making his count and being remembered. Hope is a wonderful thing. I am hopeful that others with learn from my process and also from my story about my son Charlie and how he overcame throughout his entire life. 

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