With the colors of a rainbow and the mission of uplifting others despite her personal loss, Jodi Kalson did the bravest thing possible: She chose to make a difference.
The attorney and Atlanta native and her husband Richard lost their twin infant daughter Harley at 8 1/2 months old to a rare disease. Their surviving twin daughter Micah was the blessing and inspiration for what Kalson did next. She provided an understanding for children about what happens when you die.
“The Girl Who Lives in the Sky” is a beautiful book giving an answer to the difficult question their 5-year-old daughter, Micah, asked, “Where does someone go when he or she passes away?” Kalson addresses this topic with sensitivity and meaning in her beautifully illustrated book.
In 2013, twins Micah and Harley were born at 27 weeks at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “We learned during pregnancy something was wrong with Harley. They didn’t think she would survive the night, and at 4 days old, they informed us she had a congenital birth defect seen in less than 1 percent of all births. Harley survived 8 1/2 months and never left the hospital,” Kalson recalled.
“After Harley passed away, one thing that helped me was the realization that she was no longer sick. My hope was that Harley was now getting to do all those fun things in the sky that other children do on earth. I tried to create that picture of what I imagined heaven to look like for Micah. My vision for the book was to share that picture with other kids, presenting what happens when someone passes away in a way that is bright and positive, rather than dark and scary, which is what most people associate with death.”
Thinking of Harley with a departed relative also helped ease the pain, Kalson said.
“I lost my Dad a few years ago and I remember he always loved German chocolate cake,” Kalson continued. “Every year on his birthday I picture Harley and him eating a huge piece of German chocolate cake together. In the book there is a character that is an image of my Dad. It helps me to imagine that he and Harley are together and he’s taking care of her. Now on Harley’s birthday, Micah and sibling Riley release balloons to the sky and think of Harley.
Kalson remembered the initial loss. “My husband Richard was so supportive throughout our entire time in the hospital. We were so young having to make these unbelievable decisions. We really had to pull ourselves together to be there for our daughters. We had to be strong for them,” she said.
“After Harley passed away, people from all over were so thoughtful, and it helped me to be able to do something positive to help other babies and families. We donated special swings for the babies who had lots of tubes and I’ve organized fundraisers to support children’s hospitals.
“Harley also had a revolutionary surgery and only one other baby in the world had it. The doctors learned so much from performing it and this gave Harley’s life meaning. Harley’s life had a very big purpose and her memory continues to be a blessing. While her life was short, she has helped so many other children facing medical challenges.”
About “The Girl Who Lives in the Sky,” Kalson said, “I hope parents and grandparents will use this book when discussing loss with a young child. I think it’s important to discuss death in an honest and realistic way, but also to make it not so scary for children. I think it should be made clear that death is a sad thing, though this book portrays it in a beautiful way. Kids still need to understand why the characters on one page are crying.”
“The Girl Who Lives in the Sky” isn’t just for families who have lost a child or sibling. Kalson hopes it will be used as a tool to discuss losing a loved one, be it a grandparent, family member or friend. She is dedicated to ensuring that her message is widespread and has generously donated books to hospitals and communities throughout the country that have been affected by tragedy and loss. That includes Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which will receive books and 10 percent of book sales.
“The Girl Who Lives in the Sky” is available at www.jodikalson.com or www.amazon.com.