About the Illustrator

Mary Cindrich is an illustrator working out of Metro-Detroit with a love for all things cute. Mary enjoys illustrating stories that enrich the lives of those who read them. When she is not working, Mary enjoys sewing, playing board games with her husband, experimental baking and tending to her tiny zoo of critters.

What inspired you to illustrate this book?

My grandfather passed away October of 2014. Being so close to my grandparents, I remained at my Grandma’s side during her grieving– which in turn helped my own. This was my first real experience with the death of a loved one, aside from lost pets or extended family. My grandfather was a great supporter of my artistic efforts. Even in his diminishing mental state, he somehow always managed to remember I was getting married, and that I could paint. Using my skills to help others seemed to fit. Grief is a process, and it’s a different journey for everyone. When Melissa came to me with this project I could only think of my grandma’s journey, and how this book could bring her comfort and reflection of how far she’s come. Loss is a fact of life, but it’s stories like these that help us to cope.

Why do the hearts change color?

The heart color change is to signify the way our hearts and mental state changes during the grieving process. While this process is a bit straightforward, it explains that the process is gradual; it’s a series of transitions. In the beginning we feel cold, and lost– but things light up again eventually, and we end up back home, even if it’s not exactly how we left it. The process, in time, comes full circle. We adapt and create a new normal.

Why don’t they have faces?

The children are faceless for the reader to be able to better self identify with the character.

How did you feel as the illustrations came to life?

The whole process was very exciting for me. Each spread was so clear in my head as I read the story over and over — from the lighting changes, to the movement of the characters through the environments– I was so happy to see this story come to life. The environments are involved and elements like the sky color, stepping stones, flowing water: they all help to explain the stage of grief the characters are going through.

What else do you want to say about the art, the story, or your life (professionally or personally)?

This story will do a lot of good for a lot of people. While there are institutions that prepare people for the death of a loved one in a generic way–which is lovely if you have access to them– this book helps the reader explain their own grief to themselves, since it’s a different experience for everyone. Stories like these don’t come around very often, and I’m so happy to have had the opportunity to have been involved. The process in bringing this book together was a journey in itself, but each step made it better and better.