All Will Be Well, Lacy Linn Borgo, Illustrated by Rebecca Evans. Downers Grove: IVP Kids, 2022.
Summary: Julian’s Mima is very sick and Julian is worried, sad, and angry and wondering if God hears or cares.
Julian’s Mima was sick and Julian was worried.
“God, please make Mima better,” she whispered.All Will Be Well.
Anyone who has experienced the serious illness and imminent death of a beloved grandparent will resonate with this story. For many children, their first encounter with death is the loss of a beloved grandparent.
Julian longs so much to hear God’s assurance. Is God in the fiery autumn leaves, the whirling winds of autumn? What Julian does know is that the hazelnuts falling on her head are her Mima’s favorite. They are everywhere and she brings them home from school to share with Mima.
They talk about her day and Julian unloads not only her hazelnuts but her fear, her sadness, and the feeling she has that she’s going to explode. Mima just holds her hand and tells her she loves her. Then, at Julian’s request, she tells her the story of the saint, Julian of Norwich, after whom Julia is named. She reminds Julian of a message from God to Julian:
“If something as small as a hazelnut is loved by God, then we are loved by God too.”
The next day, she gives Julian a hazelnut to carry with the reminder “And God loves you.” And this helps her through her school day.
They talk the next evening about Julian’s concern about Mima dying. Mima asks a searching question: “Does God still love us when we die?” She assures her in the words of Julian of Norwich that because of God’s love for them both “All will be well, all will be well, everything will be well.”
The next day Mima dies and the remainder of the story follows Julian as she struggles to come to terms with this loss until she remembers the hazelnuts and the words Mima shared from Julian of Norwich.
The story brought back memories of my own last conversation with my grandmother, dying of cancer. She was in pain and it hurt to see her that way. She spoke of looking forward to being with Jesus, who she had taught me to love. And her words have stayed with me all of my life and become my own.
This book is like that, written with the sensitivity that allows a child to express the strong mix of feelings they have when a loved one is ill. The relationship with Mima is a model, where she listens and loves and then asks a gentle but important question, reminds her of truth, and shares a token to help bring that to mind.
The colors of autumn, which suffuse this work, both reflect someone in the late autumn of life, but also the splendor of God’s presence in color and wind and hazelnuts!
A note from the author offers suggestions for further practices that may help a child as they read the book together. The publisher’s website also offers a reflection activity that may be shared.
This is a wonderfully sensitive and rich work to help a child (and an adult) through some of the hardest realities of life, when we are most tempted to question God’s love. It makes space for all the feelings and doubts and fears one may experience. Using the life of Julian of Norwich, it invites us to trust that in life or death, “all will be well.”
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher.