Bug in a Jar cover

Will you think I’m weird if I tell you I think Bug in a Jar — Alison Bramhall’s book about dying — is charming? I can’t help it. It is. 

Consider these synonyms for the word charming: Delightful, endearing, appealing, captivating.

Alison’s illustrations are delightful. Bright-colored and whimsical. The main characters Bug and Li’l Bug are endearing and appealing. The storyline is captivating.

Page 1 Bug in a Jar

Page 2 Bug in a Jar

Alison Bramhall and her father

Source: Alison Bramhall

Alison wrote and illustrated Bug in a Jar after her father died. He was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer at Thanksgiving a few years ago. He wasn’t supposed to live through Christmas, but rang in the new year and celebrated his 80th birthday.

“We were super lucky,” wrote Alison in the back of her book. “We had 105 days to love him. We threw a B-Strong party (B for Bramhall) to celebrate him. It gave him strength to know all his friends were behind him as he faced the unknown that was ahead. At the party we had cards on which we asked everyone to share their memories, funny stories and well wishes. Everyone who came brought food and we asked for humorous quotes to be written down on poster board. This made my Dad laugh. The party was a celebration of life and when you allow everyone to help, it makes everyone feel good.”

Page 3 Bug in a Jar

Although you might think so, Bug and Li’l Bug are not meant to represent Alison and her father. “Actually, Li’l Bug is more knowledgeable and wiser than I was during our journey,” she says.

The book is for children — of all ages. “I deliberately chose to make the book childlike,” Alison explains, “because it is our inner child, who is in horrible pain, who is reading it. When your life has been turned upside down you don’t need a message to be overly complex you need it to be simple. This is a difficult topic and I believe we all become kids again when we hear the news that someone we love is dying. You want to yell “no!’ or “this is not fair!” (and it isn’t). We are adults who suddenly don’t have the answers, we become kids again desperately looking for answers as to how this can be and what we can do.”

Bug in a Jar is a sad story, but more importantly, it’s filled with immense love and kindness. It’s easy to shut down when we witness someone we love dying before our eyes. Doctors may feel as if they’ve failed because they couldn’t provide a cure. Family and friends feel helpless because they don’t know what to say or do. Bug’s story reminds us that being present is what matters most.

Bug wisdomAlison provides some tools at the back of her book to help people navigate their own experiences.

“In “Bug Notes” I’m just getting real with people. You are now on this journey and the notes are a little heads up as to what you might experience.

“Bug Wisdom” is what I personally learned from our journey and I am hoping to remind people what is really important.

“Bug Ideas” are ways to stay engaged and not feel like you are helpless. Although I’ve pitched them for kids, they are for anyone who wants to get involved and lighten the mood.”

If you’d like to learn more about Alison and her book, including  how to buy a copy, visit her website Bug in a Jar.

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