"Joy and sadness can co-exist" is a motto that Molly Rubesh wants to share with her readers.
As the author of Is Heaven Farther Than the North Pole?, Molly has learned from personal experience that joy and sadness do not cancel each other out; indeed, her message is that both emotions live beautifully in harmony in our lives.
Watch Molly's Interview on The Best Ever You Show.
As interesting as her work in corporate America was, it wasn't until her family experienced the tragedy of loss twice that she found her true calling. With the desire to nurture her stepsons through the passing of their mother and the loss of her father, Molly wanted to be a significant source of compassion. She soon had the chance.
It dawned on Molly that she wanted to write a book to help children cope with grief. When her youngest stepson was trying to understand his mother's untimely death, he asked Molly one night, "Is heaven farther than the North Pole?" Molly knew that would be the title of her book.
With the whole family's involvement, Molly ultimately created a book that would help children cope with grief at a level they could understand. Appropriate for any child processing grief of a parent, sibling, grandparent, or other loved one, it's a story about resilience and finding Heaven all around us. "It's alright to miss loved ones while still seeing the beauty of a sunset – they still live on in our hearts and are with us in everything we do," says Molly.
What was the inspiration for the story?
"Is Heaven Farther Than the North Pole?" was inspired by the death of my stepsons' mother, followed by my father's death. After my father died in the spring of 2022, I resigned from my corporate sales job. Throughout the summer, I spent time on walks and in nature and felt profoundly connected to my father's spirit. I was sure that Heaven was all around me, and he was by my side, which was the foundation of this children's book.
What is the key theme or message in the book?
The message in the book is to share with readers that we can find joy even in the wake of sadness. The grief we feel for a loved one who has died is real and can be difficult. However, the story shows that us that we may find joy by doing things that remind us of our loved one.
In the book, the two children go on a quest to find Heaven and they ultimately realize that Heaven is all around us and their mommy has never left their side.
What do you hope your readers take away from this book?
Grief makes people uncomfortable. There is widespread hesitation to talk about or address grief with a grieving person, especially if that person is a child. This book gives parents and children the opening to discuss their loss. The book comes with additional activities such as a seek and find and journaling pages. The blank pages in the back of the book are intended for children to write or draw memories.
What is the significance of the title?
One night when I was putting my five-year-old stepson to bed, not long after the death of his biological mother, he asked me, "Is Heaven farther than the North Pole?" A question from such a young, innocent child stunned me. How do I respond to something like that? We had a discussion that ultimately ended with me hesitating and saying, "I'm not sure." It wasn't until a few years later when my father died, that I knew I had a better answer to that question. We now continue to find things that remind us of their mom or my dad. This has been therapeutic and we believe we have an answer to the question he asked me years ago.
Tell us about the process for coming up with the cover.
When the sun is behind the clouds on a bright day, you can see the rays of light coming out the sides of the clouds. For nearly all my life, I would stare at that scene and think, "that is Heaven." I wanted to capture that image on the cover and show the two children looking out over the hillside in wonder; "Is Heaven farther than the North Pole?" The illustrations were provided by my niece, Elly, who is a college student in Nebraska.
What are you reading now?
The Book of Joy - Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Abrams
This is a book with a resounding message about joy. On page 5, the book quotes the Archbishop saying, "joy is much bigger than happiness. While happiness is often seen as being dependent on external circumstances, joy is not." The author follows up by writing, "This state of mind and heart is much closer to both the Dalai Lama's and the Archbishop’s understanding of what animates our lives and what ultimately leads to a life of satisfaction and meaning.
This resonates with me and the message in my book. When we are grieving, we are sad. Grief may last a lifetime, but we can find joy in our life here on Earth. Joy is a state of mind and like the characters in the story, they found joy in recreating memories they shared with their mom.
"Be the change you wish to see in the world." – Mahatma Gandhi
We must model for our kids and those around us how to overcome some of life's most significant obstacles. Mental health should be a priority for a grieving person and anyone navigating life. I have been dedicated to my mental health and feel compelled to tear down stigmas about seeking help. Working on your mental health when you're not in crisis will prepare you for the day when tragedy strikes.
If you could cure a disease, what would it be?
Many diseases rob people of their lives and loved ones. I would never be able to choose just one to cure. However, I have personally felt the impact and devastating effects of dementia. This disease steals one's identity, personality, and independence. It hurts the patient and causes a ripple effect for those who love them. The ultimate heartbreak is to see someone lose the memory of their life and the people they shared it with.
More About Molly Rubesh
A native of Lawrence, KS, Molly grew up in the Midwest, living in several states due to her father's occupation in higher education. She attended Bowling Green State University in Ohio, majoring in marketing.
Mental health is something that Molly takes very seriously. She recognizes that people need to find the support they need as they navigate life after loss and that books are an available and reliable resource.
Is Heaven Farther Than the North Pole? is the beginning of what she hopes will be a series of books that address such challenging topics as divorce and addiction, as well as the loss of a pet or friend.
Molly and her husband Grant live in Indiana with their blended family of four children, including Conner, Claire, Rylan, and Reid. Visit MollyRubesh.com for more information.