A Letter to Mickey
Jay Keller (’66) lost his wife and YC sweetheart, Carol (’66 Cumberledge), to breast cancer in 1999. Now, seven years later, he has published a children’s book based on his experience with grief. The book, called A Letter to Mickey, helps children “to understand death, and life after,” said Keller.
The book title comes from a conversation Keller had with a little girl at his wife’s funeral. The girl, “Mickey”, asked if she could touch Carol, and when she had been given permission, she was surprised to find how cold the body was. Jay gave her a scientific explanation for this, that Carol no longer had blood pumping through her body to keep her warm, but he was unsatisfied with this answer. So, he wrote a letter to Mickey explaining what happens when a person dies. “Our spirit lives on; we leave our bodies behind,” said Keller.
Keller felt that the letter could be a blessing to other children that were hurting and confused about the death of a loved one. Eventually, he added colorful illustrations to the letter and sought a publisher. Keller explains this heavy concept in ways that young readers can understand. For example, he likens the separation of flesh and spirit to a turtle leaving its shell behind, or a house that no one lives in.
A unique feature of the book is that it is customizable. Several pages have blanks for the child’s name to be added. Also, there are blank pages for journaling memories about the deceased. The book also includes discussion questions and scripture references, “to facilitate dialogue with kids and to help them deal with their grief”. The questions could also be adapted for use in a Bible class for younger people.
After his wife’s death, Keller was blessed a second time in matrimony. He and his wife, Colleen, live in Cedar Falls, IA. Her youngest child is a freshman at York College.