Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Mother's Journey of Love, Loss & Life Beyond - A REVIEW


What we learn from the death of a child

Jennifer Scalise and her family took a vacation in paradise -- an eco-tourism experience in Costa Rica.  After lunch one beautiful day, everyone hopped on their all-terrain vehicles.  Her 12 year old daughter Brooke was in the ATV in front of her and her companion George had her other daughter Paige with him, bringing up the rear. They could not see the guide in front, so they rushed to catch up. Trailing farther and farther behind him, they sped along the road.  They had no idea that the narrow road ran less than a few feet from the edge of a sheer cliff. Unaware, they drove on not realizing that Brooke had missed a turn, and gone careening off the 260-foot drop.  

A Mother’s Journey of Love, Loss & Life Beyond,Jennifer Scalise tells the harrowing story and her fight for survival after the tragic death of her daughter.  

The event triggered an aftermath of staggering events that challenged her strength and spirit, captured the hearts of complete strangers, and that make it nearly impossible for anyone to doubt that there is life after death. 

"You really have two choices when it comes to dealing with tragedy; you can let the grief consume you and ruin your life altogether, or you can choose to survive it and become a stronger, better person because of what you have been through. I choose the latter," says Scalise. 

In the days that followed the accident, hidden discoveries and a series of simultaneous events too parallel to be deemed coincidence reveal that Brooke’s life had a greater purpose and that her soul had been preparing for the journey home. As she begins to unravel her daughter’s messages, somewhere between conviction and proof, Jennifer finds an unshakable faith in eternal life and serenity in knowing that Brooke remains by her side with a love unabridged by death.

 Although she endured an incomprehensible pain she slowly and steadily overcame the challenges and after staring death in the face transformed her life. Drawing upon the personal experiences she and her family endured, she skillfully relates the many lessons that she learned from her daughter’s death.  She has established a nonprofit organization in Brooke's honor that focuses on increasing faith in junior high school-aged children by providing church camp scholarships.

She offers important and helpful guidance for those forced to face the reality of living after the unanticipated death of a loved one.

Here are just some of the valuable insights: 

Loss is inevitable, be prepared.

Although death is something each of us will encounter in our life, there is very little to help us plan for this emotionally or prepare us for what to expect. Instead you are left struggling for answers in the midst of your darkest days feeling alone like an outcast.  In reality you aren't alone - there are many others going through exactly the same thing, far more than you can comprehend. Death is all around us and should not be feared but instead must be understood.

Adversity is a means to grow.

Life's challenges teach us to open our eyes and see life in a new light. It is typically in the midst of our hardest times that we turn to God to find peace. It is unlikely that if everything were perfect, we would feel the need to seek God in our lives. It is through these difficult times that we grow spiritually furthering us on our path of our life journey. Life’s challenges are meant to cause you to reach within your soul to discover the real you. This is how we learn, grow, and find wisdom and strength for our continued journey and what lies ahead.

Death does not separate us from our loved ones.

Our loved ones truly never leave us. Be open to new experiences and let your faith guide you. Although they are no longer with us in the physical realm, they live on spiritually and their energy is often present. Society teaches us this is unnatural and eerie when in reality these reassurances are incredibly comforting and healing. It is possible to still communicate through intense love and awareness. Follow your intuition it will become more and more prominent and lead you to many answers.

Grieve your own way, do not feel the need to conform.

Peace comes from making your mind happy. By identifying the things that make you feel good and avoiding situations that cause you anxiety or pain, you can help yourself heal faster. Your healing must be specific to your needs. Be selfish; do not let others tell you what you need to do. Only you know what you need. Don't worry about being "socially acceptable" or fitting into “the norm.” Focus on making yourself feel good because that is what you deserve.

Treasure your memories. 

Although we may have suffered loss or tragedy it doesn't erase the good times. Allow your mind to sense the pleasure and feel the love and connection as you relive these moments in your mind. By recalling these good times often and "escaping there mentally" you can trigger a feeling of tremendous peace and happiness that you can go to in times of need.

Appreciate every moment, you never know when it is your last.

Time and people are your most valuable assets.

Make the most of the time with those you love. Eventually you come to realize it is far more important than anything else in life and something you cannot control no matter how hard you work or how much you are willing to pay for it. What is destined to be will be.

The world is a dangerous place, take precautions! 
Be cognizant of the dangers associated with traveling in foreign areas. Realize that bad things can happen to you.

As Americans we have a false sense of security that the safety regulations that protect us in the United States are the same elsewhere. We need to have more awareness to the dangers of international travel, especially to tourist areas in third world countries. There are many dangers associated with excursions and tours outside of the United States that we fail to properly warn and prepare travelers for.  Medical services are far from adequate in many places we travel and often our health insurance doesn't cover areas we visit.

Many parents whose children have died from accidents on ATV’s have expressed the same thought of, "If only I had known". Parents need to understand the dangers associated with ATV's being ridden by minors. No child under 16 should drive an ATV, they simply are too powerful and dangerous. Far more children have been killed on ATV's than most are aware. Educating on safety and creating awareness to the dangers will save the lives of many.

The 411 by Maria:
Wow..where do I start? 
First, let's start with this; since reading this book, I have thought of Jennifer, Brooke and the rest of the family every day.  While I believe some of it is because I am a mom and Jennifer has gone through the most horrific, heart wrenching days a mother could ever suffer through.
Losing one of my children is something I have thought about more than I can ever admit to. Maybe this is because I lost my mom when I was 12 and death is something I know will happen. But, I always knew in my heart that I would never survive if something, God forbid ever happened to them.

Reading Jennifer's story and seeing her strength; and I am sure there are days she feels as if she has none; but she is one of the strongest woman I have ever read about. 

What happened to Brooke is devastating and when I explain the book to my friends they all say the same thing. "That sounds so sad! I don't think I want to read it. It sounds like a real tear jerker."  That is until I tell them Jennifer's story, Brooke's story. The story that is still unfolding and will until they meet again! As someone who cries at the drop of a hat. I can tell you that yes, there is a moment I cried. I literally sobbed into my hands and wished I could change everything. Wished I could make the Scalise story different. My heart hurt for Jennifer who had to leave her family vacation minus one child! The thought literally makes my throat close up and seizes my heart. 

Why the book is a must read:

1) Jennifer writes as if she is writing to a dear friend. I felt like I was reading her scrapbook, journal, personal diary.  I became part of the family  as I read. I was there.  This book, is like nothing I have ever read before. Maybe it has been done before, but in my eyes, this is HOW a non-fiction book should be written. The reader is transported to the time and place with detailed descriptions, letters, Brooke's journal pages, pictures, even mobile tag readers that allow you to not only read and visualize in your minds eye but to literally see what Jennifer is talking about.  The hardest video and I think one that will stay with me forever is the moment Jennifer & George got down the mountain to where Brooke is. She longs to  hold her daughter. She is not allowed to go to her.  The depth of the grief is horrendous. It is real! It is not fiction. This happened to her and she is brave enough to share it with all of us because bad things happen and even while on a family vacation with your family, life can change. 

2) If you have ever lost someone. This book is an inspiration. We all go through bereavement differently and Jennifer's journey taught/reminded me a lot of what I already knew. That the people we love never leave us.  If you look for the signs, they are all around us. Brooke lets her family know she is with them constantly. She feels their love and shows them love through various ways. You will be amazed at how attached they still are. 

3) God is love, Love is God! And We are love. Love is on every page of this book. As someone who is not overly religious and more spiritual, my eyes were opened in so many ways to how unafraid we should be of death. I remember my daddy telling me at my grandmother's funeral in 1991 that we are crying for ourselves. We are not crying for her. We are crying because she is no longer with us but that is very selfish. She is in a better place. She is where she is supposed to be. She is home!"  I believe that not Brooke is still with the Scalise family and that they will all be together one day and it will be as if no time has passed.

4) Jennifer is trying to raise awareness of the dangers of ATVs for children. Something I have been concerned with for years. I get crazy when I see the kids on my street going up and down the street on their ATVs and when I see pictures of kids my kids age sitting on ATVs on my friend's Facebook pages. I have a fear! These are big vehicles and children do not know how to handle them if something was to go wrong. If you are interested in learning more, please visit Concerned Families for ATV Safety.

I could go on and on for the reasons you should read this but the main reason is you should read this. Brooke's death should not be in vain. You will feel inspired and a renewed sense of spirituality as you go through the process with Jennifer.

Also, I would like to thank Jennifer for her braveness and candidness in telling us about Brooke. I truly love Brooke and so will  you.

Update: 2 people have purchased the book since talking to me this week. They can't wait to get started. 

Read an except here

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy for the sole purpose of this review. No monetary compensation was offered.


  1. Jennifer Scalise11:16 PM

    Maria, thank you for understanding the many messages I shared from my journey and helping encourage others to read my story -despite their fears of facing the sadness. I want to reassure you and your readers I am in a wonderful place. Peace and love unlike anything I experienced before fills my soul. Once you know for certain your loved one is beside you even after death, your faith gives you tremendous strength. I feel proud for what Brooke and I are accomplishing together- the people we are helping, the lives we are touching. She isn't next to me physically but we are united spiritually and the love that bonds us is the most amazing feeling ever. I just wish I could help every person struggling with grief find this peace. With heartfelt appreciation, Jennifer Scalise

  2. I haven't even read the book (yet) and my heart is breaking for Jennifer and her family, but at the same time, I am inspired by her strength. Some families in my neighborhood ride their small children, I'm talking one or two years old here, down the road on ATVs and it terrifies me to think about something going wrong during one of those "fun" rides. God bless Brooke's family.


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