More than two decades after 11-year-old Christle Reed’s father died, she still vividly remembers the day of his funeral; what she was wearing; falling asleep on the way to the gravesite; how the cemetery smelled; and understanding that her life had forever changed, she shared.
“We overlook kids sometimes. I think a lot of adults — including myself now that I have children — think that kids don’t get things. But even as a fifth-grader, I saw everything. I felt everything,” said Reed, the author of “Hugs from the Sky,” which was released on Amazon in January.
“When my dad passed, I immediately started to feel emotions for my mom — knowing that now she has to raise two kids by herself,” she continued. “That’s heavy for a child to feel.”
As a way to finally heal from her father’s death, Reed wrote “Hugs from the Sky” — a children’s book that openly addresses the journey of love, loss and acceptance.
“So now that I’m grown and 33 years old and have a family of my own, I realized that it wasn’t me who was still grieving the loss of my dad — it was the 11-year-old me,” Reed said. “In order to heal her, I felt like I had to do something for her.”
“I wanted to make sure that I created something — and I know this sounds weird — but that solidified my dad’s death was necessary. There had to be something birthed out of it.”
Writing is a passion for Reed, she shared, so creating a children’s book felt very natural when she started the project in 2019. Even as a child, Reed recalled not wanting to speak to her grandmother about her father’s death, but she could pour her heart into a written letter.
“We shouldn’t have any expectations on how kids heal,” she noted. “Everything doesn’t work for everyone, so we should give kids the space to discover what their healing process is.”
Click here to purchase “Hugs from the Sky.”
Reed, who works as the director of recruitment and communications for Citizens of the World charter school, hopes that her book can be a step in that healing process, she said.
“I want this book to give them a start, and hopefully it will help them navigate through how to deal with those feelings.”
In the wake of COVID
“Hugs from the Sky” celebrates love, just as much as it discusses loss, Reed said, explaining that her favorite memories with her father are depicted within the words and illustrations.
“The words in that book are what I say to myself; I see my dad everywhere,” she said. “… I was driving down the street and turned the radio on — and I usually don’t drive with the radio on — and it was one of the songs my dad used to play on the piano. I was like, ‘Thank you, Daddy.’”
Although Reed’s own children did not get to meet their grandfather, she often tells them stories and shows them photographs of her father. Reed’s youngest child is four, yet she always takes time to answer his questions and explain where her father is, she added.
“We visit [my dad’s] gravesite often,” Reed said. “I really want my kids to understand the concept of death — not to scare them — but when it happens, I don’t want it to be a surprise for them either. I want them to already have created those coping skills.”
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, death has become more prevalent in people’s lives and must be discussed, Reed said.
“A lot of people want to walk around the subject of death with children, but I think [addressing it] is necessary,” she said. “Due to this virus, change has happened so suddenly, and people haven’t had the time to process. I think this was the perfect time to release the book because it allows for that opportunity to feel.”
COVID-19 isn’t the only threat plaguing communities. A continued threat of violence remains a deadly concern, especially for those in underserved areas, Reed stated.
“I say this with caution, but, I’ve always grown up in the inner city of Kansas City, Missouri. It’s no surprise that we have a high crime rate here,” she said. “Nobody stops to think about the babies who are left after their dad was shot and killed in the streets. … We mourn the person who passed, and then we move on. What happens to the kid who misses their big brother?
“Knowing that is still an issue in our community, I wanted to make sure I have something that could support those kids.”
All the proceeds from “Hugs from the Sky” are going to Love Creed — a non-profit Reed founded in 2020 that supplies resources to underserved people and families in Kansas City.
“Instead of asking for donations for my non-profit, I wanted to create something to raise money for it,” Reed explained. “All the proceeds are going toward purchasing a trailer, so we can start our mobile clothing closet.”
Working at various educational institutions throughout her career, Reed noted that many schools offer clothing closets for children in need. But, the clothing included is often worn.
“Many of the kids who needed to utilize these clothing closest didn’t want to, and it would be obvious to their peers if they did. I didn’t like that,” Reed shared. “I’ve seen it several times where kids dim their own personal light because they don’t want to bring attention to themselves. These kids are brilliant, powerful speakers, powerful leaders — but they just don’t look the part, so they sometimes shy away.”
Giving is more than the act of donating, Reed explained. For her, it is about being intentional and providing the best she can.
“I love to give, but I am not going to give something that I wouldn’t give to my own children,” she said. “Because not only do I want to give you a resource, I want to give you that confidence. I want you to feel good the same way I feel good when I tear a tag off a new pair of shoes.”
Love Creed has already connected with Vans and Nike to receive monthly donations of lightly used and brand new clothing and shoes for the community, Reed noted.
The purchasing of a trailer will allow Reed and her team to mobilize Love Creed’s clothing closet, bringing it to the neighborhoods with those who are most in need, she said. Reed plans to have the trailer set up and ready to go by June 2021.
Click here to learn more about Love Creed.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.