I’ll Say Goodbye

Written by Pam Zollman
Illustrated by Frances Ives

Beach days with Uncle Mike always bring something unexpected, like a shiny shell that turns out to be a hermit crab. But Uncle Mike has cancer. Not every surprise is a good one anymore. Soon Uncle Mike starts spending more and more time at the hospital, and the grown-ups start saying “we don’t know” over and over.  One day Mom says Uncle Mike is gone. Gone where? What place could be better than his house on the beach? How could he leave without saying goodbye? 

This gentle, evocatively illustrated story addresses illness and loss from a child’s perspective. Though grief, confusion, and anger can be overwhelming, we can find ways to move forward with the memory of our loved ones.

The waves chase us, me and Uncle Mike.
We run in and out of the water, laughing and squealing. Then we collapse on the sand and breathe the salty air. Seagulls swarm the sky, crying for tidbits, scolding us for forgetting the bread crumbs.

When my uncle has to go back to the hospital, Mom spends all day, every day with him. One morning Dad takes me to see Uncle Mike. He looks pale in the metal bed.
I climb up beside him, and he smiles. “How’s Herman?”
“He misses you. I do, too.” I hand him a whelk shell. “I found this for you. You can hear the ocean.”
Uncle Mike holds the shell to his ear. “I needed this.” Then he lies back down.
Mom says we have to leave so my uncle can rest.