In The Blue Balloon: Journey Through Grief, Sally Mathews takes us down a path that all parents fear. She shares her reflections on losing her 19-year-old son, Marc, as he approached manhood. While this journey belongs to Sally and her family, she is not the only one who has travelled this path. This story is a painful yet remarkable testament to the deepest love and the darkest loss that one could ever experience. Children should never die before their parents. That is not the natural order of things.
There are many of books about the immeasurable and intense grief of losing a child. Most first person accounts are sensitive and often prescriptive. Sally’s story doesn’t tell us what to do or how to feel. Instead, she lets us in on her personal and very private journey that may teach us more than any clinical or religious application.
It has taken Sally 30 years to tell her story and it is told with grace and grit. Through her tears and pain, Sally models hope, purpose and what is possible in the face of such loss.
This is a significant book that is beautifully illustrated with elegant pen and ink drawings by Carole Jo Dennis, Marc’s sister and Sally’s daughter, and with watercolors by artist Janice McMurray.
The Blue Balloon is a warm, sensitive and hopeful story that will resonate with parents who have taken their own journey of loss and yet it is accessible to those who wish to understand. It should be read by anyone who has lost a child or knows someone who has.
—Anthony G. Butto, DSW, LCSW, QCSW
Director of The Courtyard Counseling Center, Selinsgrove, PA
The Blue Balloon is a stunningly beautiful evocation of Sally Mathews’ process in the aftermath of her son’s death.
—Catherine McLaughlin, M.ED., Licensed Psychologist
Surprise and grief walk together as Sally Matthews writes her way to life again after her son, Marc, dies in a tragic accident. Told in the heart-broken narrative of recovering memory, Sally’s spare language leaves space for our own wonderings about love and loss, and the mysterious realm of life beyond death. Signs of his presence kept coming, and even before I read a single word, the book design drew me in with its rich watercolor washes and whimsical line drawings. It’s a perfect choice for anyone in search of hope or faith when old certainties are gone.
—Marjory Zoet Bankson, author of Creative Aging
I don’t expect a book on grief to be beautiful, but Sally Mathews’ The Blue Balloon is. Every parent that has ever loved a child has encountered the fear of losing that child. The Blue Balloon is Sally Mathews’ story of what happened when that fear became real the day her son Marc was killed in a motorcycle accident. Sally writes her story with unflinching honesty. She refuses to look away from hard memories and broken dreams. She enters the reality of parental loss though without losing her powers of attention and her abiding sense of wonder. Even amidst the sheer darkness of her loss Sally’s approach to life is as bright and as luminous as the balloons that provide the book’s title. Her book is a guide to loss without offering a word of how-to. Sally reveals herself to be a guide with wisdom as she weaves with surety and poetry the tale of saying goodbye to her son. In her faithful telling of her journey through grief she offers the reader hope, not by positing answers, but by holding fast to love—the abiding love of a mother for her son, the resilient love of life and family that sustained her and the foundational love of the One who holds her each day. Somewhere in the midst of reading this engaging story I thought of a line from one of Mary Oliver’s poems: “There are so many stories more beautiful than answers.” Yes! And Sally Mathews’ The Blue Balloon is certainly one of them.