Most people ask if someone gets to heaven. Arlene Bronstein’s new children’s book asks how. Foraying into children’s literature for the first time, Bronstein took on the weighty subject of an afterlife in How Did Nonnie Get to Heaven? when her identical triplet granddaughters, five years old at the time, began talking about their recently deceased great-grandmother. “Nonnie came out of a place of surprise for me,” said Bronstein, a video historian and author of several other books, including My Word Is My Bond about the Chicago Board of Trade that was made into a PBS documentary in 2010. “My granddaughters were sure that their ‘Nonnie’ had gone to heaven, but they wanted to know how she got there. I asked them what they thought, and they started coming up with all of these ways she could have traveled to heaven.” Such possibilities, from the voices of her grandchildren, form the foundation of Bronstein’s book. “It’s an imagination piece, not a religious book.”
The daughter-in-law of a resident of Sedgebrook, a retirement community in Lincolnshire, IL, Bronstein recently presented her book to other residents there. It was so well received, she plans to share it with more such communities. “This book is all about memories, and opening it up to seniors was a wonderful opportunity for them to talk about their childhoods. Some shared things they’ve never shared,” said Bronstein, who has made a rewarding career of interviewing people about their lives and putting their stories to video. “At first, people’s reaction to showing their life story is often ‘who would want to watch this?’,” said Bronstein. “But there is so much to learn and gain from interacting with someone who is older, wiser, and seeing what they have to share. It’s a privilege for me to be invited into people’s homes, to view life from another perspective.” Bronstein remarked that it was also a privilege to have been invited to Sedgebrook. “Great things are happening there; there is such a sense of community and activity,” she said. “Seniors are often resigned to a lack of new experiences in life, but people at Sedgebrook seem to really grasp that each day is a gift; each day is a lucky day just because it exists.”
Bronstein’s positivity shines through in How Did Nonnie Get to Heaven? Far from taking a dour or dogmatic view of death (a topic the author is grateful is no longer taboo among children and families), the book celebrates memories of loved ones and the hope and trust that there is a secure place after life on earth where they are happy. Illustrated by School of the Art Institute of Chicago MFA Diana Torres, Nonnie conveys through exquisite imagery and the pure expression of children that death and loss are natural parts of life’s journey and that those we’ve lost will always live on in our hearts. Indeed, after a long day of proposing fantastical ways (beanstalks, trampolines, rocket ships!) for Nonnie to have gotten to heaven, intertwined with favorite recollections of things unique to her, the triplets in Nonnie take to their beds with the promise that their grandmother will be there to give them hugs in their dreams.
Arlene Bronstein’s How Did Nonnie Get to Heaven? can be found in Chicago North Shore bookstores and at amazon. com and barnesandnoble.com.
Sedgebrook is a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) offering a diverse lifestyle, maintenance-free living and outstanding amenities. Five-star rated Radford Green Health Care and Rehabilitation is located on the 92-acre Sedgebrook campus in Lincolnshire, Illinois. Sedgebrook is owned by Senior Care Development LLC and managed by Life Care Services LLC. For additional information visit www.welcometosedgebrook.com or call 847-901-3319.