This unique picture book for older readers is a gentle story of bereavement told through digital paintings and a simple narrative. Author and artist Lisa Boivin is a member of the Deninu Kue First Nation, and is currently studying Indigenous challenges in health care at the University of Toronto. Images are pivotal to her doctoral thesis and are also a key element in I Will See You Again, where they resemble flat paper cut-outs. Blankets of colourful flowers – characteristic of Dene artwork – represent and celebrate dreams, beauty, and the spirit world. Figures similar to anatomical artist models are decorated with circular joints and concentric shapes. Delicate textures emerge in the verdant depictions of cedar trees and lacy boughs.
The author’s first-person account begins with news of her brother’s death. After a tearful chat with her mom, Boivin travels to England to bring home her brother’s ashes. Upon arrival, she marvels over this “box that was once a man.” The visit exposes painful truths about how he died alone, but she examines his collection of postcards, photos, and ticket stubs, which reminds her of his adventures and brings comfort.
Sleeping in her brother’s bed, Boivin feels his powerful spirit spinning above her, restless. It’s portrayed as a wheel-shaped figure, encircling a clutch of flowers. After a wordless, visually inviting journey through a peaceful forest, she finds a cedar tree. Following Dene custom, she cuts down boughs, then wraps the box of ashes in cedar, declaring, “Cedar soothed you, and you began to rest.”
The siblings walk together, brother’s ashes stowed in the author’s backpack, and ride on a carousel. This shared experience soothes her grief and she hears her brother’s spirit laughing. Returning home with the ashes, she expresses relief: “You are exactly where you are meant to be. You have left us, but you are also here now.”
While this farewell journey is personal and specific, it holds universal wisdom for those coming to terms with loss. Attractive and compact, this memorable book guides mourners to a place of acceptance and serenity.