A eulogy written by a nurse for her friend who was also a nurse has been transformed into a children’s book which seeks to help families spark difficult conversations about illness and dying.
Laura King, a children’s asthma clinical nurse specialist in London, said she wanted her book to become an “honest, relatable resource” for children, and to act as both “a tool and a comfort” for families.
“If it helps one family, that’s [Faye’s] job done and my job done”
The book is inspired by the life and death of Faye Low, Ms King’s friend and “older sister” figure, who was also a nurse in a children’s hospice.
Ms Low, a mother to two daughters, died of cancer in the summer of 2021.
Ms King described Ms Low as a “force of nature” and “a real supporter of family”.
She was also “a real believer in being really honest with children” and would speak openly with her own children about the fact that she was dying.
Ms King had been tasked with writing her friend’s eulogy, and it was on her third attempt that she decided to write it as a rhyming children’s story.
She told Nursing Times she just had “this feeling” that this was the way the eulogy should be said.
It was at the funeral that the Bosom Pals Southend breast cancer charity – in which Ms Low had been heavily involved – approached Ms King, asking if it could use the story.
Ms King said she was happy to share it, adding: “If it helps one family, that’s [Faye’s] job done and my job done.”
The charity then went on to support her to publish the story into an official children’s book and helped continue Ms Low’s legacy.
The book – The Lady and The Thing – shares the story of Ms Low’s cancer and is aimed at children with a parent or close individual with an illness.
The story includes subtle details such as hair loss, changes in appearance and accurate medications in the aim of being transparent with children.
“The idea is to just quite gently introduce the idea of separation and loss”
Illustrations used in the bathroom, for example, show a cabinet becoming “less ‘girly’ and more ‘cancery”, which was a nod to the “loss of self”, as Ms Low had previously put it.
It is made clear in the book that ‘The Lady’ does die, but also explores how she is “still connected to people” through the metaphor of love being a string that “ties us all together” and “keep us close”.
The words used in the book are “almost identical” to Ms King’s eulogy at the funeral, because, she said, she felt “quite strongly it had to be the same”.
Since being published last year, the book has been shared with several different charities and hospices, including Maggie’s Place, Macmillan Cancer Support and Purple House Cancer Support Centre in Ireland.
The overarching aim of the book was to be “a tool and a comfort” for individuals to use to help open up difficult conversations about dying and illness with children, said Ms King.
“The idea is to just quite gently introduce the idea of separation and loss,” she told Nursing Times.
She added: “Something that my friend was really, really passionate about was being honest with children, but in an appropriate way.
“She was a real passionate advocate for that and a real supporter of women and families.
“So, I think it’s [about] getting it into the hands of people who need it and being a support.”
Ms King said it felt “bittersweet” promoting the book, adding: “I don’t want people to have to use it, [but] unfortunately they [might] need to.”