Some heroes have wings: Local mother writes book series to help children deal with grief
RESERVE — Lifelong Reserve resident Christine Gray fought valiantly against breast cancer for more than 11 years. Her journey on Earth ended in March 2019, but her light is far from extinguished; she lives on in the hearts of her grandchildren as a superhero guardian angel in the new children’s book series “Granny Thee Unstoppable.”
Brandi R. Reynaud lost both of her parents in a three-month span fraught with devastation. Her small children Brayden, Bryce and Layla cried their hearts out every night, not understanding why Granny was no longer by their side at bedtime.
They were too little to understand what Reynaud meant when she said Granny had gone to Heaven and they would see her again someday. Night after night, the crying became almost unbearable, and Reynaud knew she had to do something to heal her children’s heartbreak.
“My children were at the time 2, 4 and 5 years old. One night it was really bad, and they were screaming to the top of their lungs. My 5-year-old was demanding to know where Heaven is and told me I needed to go get her. I didn’t know how to explain it to them,” Reynaud said. “One night we were all crying, and I jumped out of bed and started telling stories about Granny as a superhero angel. They really enjoyed the stories, and the crying stopped. It helped them because it put it into a kid’s perspective. When I told the Granny Unstoppable stories, they had hope. We are going to pray through this, and this is how we’re going to see Granny again.”
In her book series, Reynaud turns grief into gratitude by showing her children Granny is watching over them from above. Her shining light can be seen in life’s miracles as the children navigate difficult situations.
Instead of a superhero cape, Granny has wings. Whenever the children pray in the books, God sends her an alert in Heaven.
The first part of the series shows Bryce alone and lost in the woods when Granny swoops in to save the day. The second book shows Granny helping Brayden with his self-esteem after he gets bullied in school.
When Reynaud saw her 3-year-old daughter try to approach a FedEx driver for candy, she wrote the third part of the series as a stranger danger awareness book. Granny protects Layla from a dangerous situation while teaching her not to follow adults she doesn’t know.
The book series also focuses on the very raw topic of caring for a family member with cancer. A scene in the book details the real-life experience of how Reynaud’s three children took care of their Granny during the night. Bryce would sing to her while Brayden held her vomit bucket in place. Little Layla would then hand her lemon drops to help soothe her stomach.
Reynaud hopes the book series can help others who have lost a loved one.
“It was mainly to help with their grieving. I never really thought about publishing until Brayden asked why we can’t help other children with the books,” Reynaud said. “There are a lot of children who lose grandparents, and they are really close with them. I knew it would be hard. I didn’t know my dad was going to pass away, but I knew my mom was going to pass away eventually. I didn’t expect to see that much pain from my children.”
Reynaud said lessons in the book could bring hope to people of all ages.
“It could definitely help grandparents in letting them know that they’re important, and they are a big part of our lives. My mother was not just my mama; she was my children’s mama, too,” Reynaud said.
While Gray’s grandchildren knew her as “Granny,” the community knew her as a brilliant cook who went out of her way to feed neighbors in need. That sometimes extended to feeding the homeless under the bridge in New Orleans. She owned a catering company in St. John the Baptist Parish and worked at the airport as a cook for more than 20 years.
“She was the nicest person you could ever meet. She battled breast cancer for over 11 years, and she did everything she could to stay with us,” Reynaud said. “She was a beautiful fighter. She was a sweet person. She was a giver.”
The first part of the “Granny Thee Unstoppable” series published this month. The books can be purchased from Amazon and from brandi-books.com.
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