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The sadness of losing eight-year-old Harry Horan to cancer, over a year ago, has inspired a beautiful book to help children manage grief and for parents who are struggling to find the words to explain death.
Where are you, Harry? was written and illustrated by artist and classroom support aide of 10 years, Sunny Ling when she felt the need to express in words, and later in paintings, where Harry had gone to his young friend, Jaxon.
Harry from Kambalda, Western Australia was diagnosed with Stage 4 Neuroblastoma in 2014 when he was just three-and-a-half.
With a tumour wrapped around his right adrenal gland leading to his kidney, Harry underwent more than a year of treatment and scans revealed Harry’s condition was stable.
But in April 2019, Harry relapsed with a new tumor in his neck. The young boy passed away peacefully on Friday October, 11 2019.
Sunny, who provided teaching support in Harry’s class, remembers the special boy, mainly from one occasion.
“I remember one morning I was having one of those days and I was walking through school along this path I’d walked 1,000 times. I remember this little boy addressed me with something simple like, ‘Good morning Miss Sunny’,” she explains..
“I remember thinking, we as adults can learn a lot from children; for him to stop and smile and say good morning to someone he didn’t really know – it was so special and I thought, his parents must be so proud.”
When Harry passed away, author Sunny Ling was inspired to write a book to explain where he had gone to his young friend, Jaxon.
In the lead up to Harry’s funeral, Sunny felt inspired to write a story about Harry, addressing the emptiness of losing a friend, but then exploring in wonder where Harry might have gone.
A narrative began to take shape, with whimsical explanations of Harry’s whereabouts such as ‘Did you fly across Australia to where the sand meets the sea’ and ‘How about the big blue skies, did you soar amongst the stars?’.
Sunny then added paintings following a ‘naïve, whimsical, expressive and childlike’ style.
The book explores the wonder of where Harry might have gone when he passed away.
Harry’s parents Bec and Lee Horan were deeply touched by Sunny’s story and how it can help children to manage grief while keeping their little boy’s memory alive.
“This book is the most incredible way of honouring our son. Thank you is just not enough,” says Bec.
“Harry was so funny and witty and pretty much had no fear. He always had a smile on his face, no matter where he was going. Always on the go, a typical boy and had a go at everything,” says Lee.
Adds Bec: “For any kids going through this situation, the book might be some sort of way of explaining a friend’s passing in kid form, which gives some sort of purpose to Harry’s death.”
Harry parents Bec and Lee describe their son as someone who “always had a smile on his face”.
Profits from book sales will be donated to the Kids Cancer Support Group to help families with children being treated at Perth Children’s Hospital.
“They (Kids Cancer Support Group) are such great support to families, including bringing craft, games and toys to keep kids busy while they’re stuck in bed. They also support parents with meals and hold meetings for parents to connect with others going through a similar situation,” Lee said.
As the book aptly ends, “Where did you go? That’s right… In my heart. I’ll imagine you in everything” Bec and Lee will keep Harry in their hearts, while encouraging other parents to make the most of the time they spend with their precious children.
“Just be present with your kids. They can be taken away in an instant. Do whatever you can, when you can,” Lee said.
Click here to order your copy of Where are you, Harry?