Erin Cleary

CHILDREN'S BOOK WRITER
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  • Erin Cleary

The Things We Bury

Updated: Jun 19

A few weeks ago, on a steamy, spring afternoon, my husband and I sat in the car in the Home Depot parking lot. Our trunk was full of mulch, vegetable plants, seeds, and flowers from the garden department. As we waited for the air conditioning to kick in, breathing in the not-yet refreshing mixture of hot and cold air, he remarked how interesting it was, this need for people to grow things, how, when driving along any suburban street at that time of year, you would invariably find people tending to their yards. Thinking of the effort people make to care for life, to make a more beautiful surrounding for themselves and others, filled me with hope.

I thought of this again days later as I was weeding around the seedlings I had planted and the new sprouts that were emerging from the seeds I had buried in the garden. My mind was preoccupied with my family’s upcoming trip north to bury my father’s ashes. Almost seven months had passed since he died. I continued to grieve his loss, and I found myself in the midst of a living paradox. Here I was, tending to what I had buried in hopes that new life would emerge from it. And yet, we would soon bury my father, and that would be the end. Nothing would grow there. He would be gone.

But would he really?


I haven’t been keeping up with my blog posting because these last few months have been difficult emotionally. Anything I wanted to blog about seemed shallow compared to the heartache I was experiencing from losing my dad. And I wasn’t ready to write about that. I have been writing, though. I’m working on a few picture books and have returned to a middle grade novel I had set aside many years ago. In this story, the main character has also lost her father. The story was calling to me, and I had to answer. Working in the details of my own grief have helped me develop my main character’s emotional arc.

My dad, Bill, long an inspiration.

Tending to these details has helped me realized burying my father is not the end I’d thought it would be. My father is buried in the pages of my novel. He has already inspired a few picture book stories. The grammar lessons and love for words we shared live in my writing. As I continue to bury him in the details of my stories, I know they will flourish like the seedlings in my garden. My father is buried in my memories, and he has life there. He is buried in my DNA. Many people at his memorial celebration remarked that I look just like him. And it’s true. I often see him looking back at me from the other side of the mirror.


We bury things as a symbol of an ending. We also, like those who live in the houses along our suburban streets, bury things with the hope that life will spring forth from them. We buried my father in the ground last week, and I will choose to think the latter of this. I will remember the places he is buried that give me hope and inspiration and all the places he continues to live.

Bill Cleary, Jan. 7, 1941–Nov. 11, 2021



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