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When Bluebirds Fly: Losing a Child, Living With Hope



*International Book Award

*USA Best Book Award

*National Indie Excellence Award

*ForeWord Magazines Book of the Year Award

*Midwest Book Award

     When Bluebirds Fly is a true, self-reflective account of a family's struggles to find happiness and hope after a horrific tragedy, the drowning death of a child. Written in the form of creative non-fiction, this unique inspirational memoir tells the story through intriguing  viewpoints of a father, mother, sibling, as well as testimonials from the babysitter and first-responders. Spiritual, heavenly signs inspire the reader as the story unfolds to the surprising conclusion.


As an emergency physician who deals with unfortunate death all too often, I highly recommend When Bluebirds Fly for anyone seeking hope amid unspeakable pain. This book gives a bold and authentic view to feelings and experiences that are often unspeakable, or worse yet, never spoken-- this book will change you. 

--Randy Pilgrim, MD, FACEP, FAAFP, CEO Schumacher Group--

I could not put this book down. It is amazing, written with such truth and compassion. It touched my heart and soul because the story was written in a real and honest way. Thank you, JoAnn for writing this!

--Anne Schneider, LPN--

As a licensed social worker for over 38 years, I'm always looking for resources to help my clients. Deveny does an amazing job describing the complex journey that comes with a tragic loss. As a grieving grandma, I felt that Deveny's description of her journey has been very healing for me. This book is simply beautiful, real, and truly inspirational. It is a MUST-READ!

--Jan Tillotson, LSW, CLC, Certified Health Coach--


Chapter 4: DICK 

      As the movie of life is being filmed, events don’t always happen as intended by the actors. The direction of the story line can be unintentionally modified by a forgotten word, inflections in the voice or a changed facial expression by a character. But the director can rearrange the plot at will. And once the plot is performed for an audience, it can’t be altered. 

     There were a few scenes that deviated from the original script on the sunny day that cast a shadow on our lives forever. That weekend, we were invited to a friend’s cabin “up north,” as Minnesotans call the densely wooded area of the northern state. Your Grandma Jen would have watched both Danny and you at her house had we decided to go. Because your mother had worked three days that week and was gone overnight for two of those, she had no interest in leaving you and Danny for the weekend. At my reluctance, we declined the offer and planned a weekend at home. So the story line changed. In the first draft, an old college roommate of your mother’s was scheduled to visit our home with her family. Your mother’s alumni friend called to cancel, so a line was crossed off the script. The neighbors to our left were on vacation and had placed their daughter in charge of the house. When she was house-sitting, she would spend the entire day basking in the sun on the dock adjacent to ours. That morning, she went out on an impromptu lunch date with a friend, and an actor was deleted. Early that morning, Danny was scheduled for what parents call a “play date” at a little friend’s house, which would have left Denise’s undivided attention on you, Billy. The friend canceled and the plot took a new course. Three young men, our neighbors to the right, were fishing and exercising their dog on their dock that late afternoon, but their lines and attention were cast westward instead of eastward toward our lakeshore. Also, your mother and I would normally wait until evening to leave the house. But on that clear sunny day, I choose to hire the sitter earlier. So the cast was changed. The lakeside screen door had been replaced a month earlier, because the original had become warped with age and would not easily slide open. And so, a prop was added. The wind blew gently, cooling the humid air, prompting us to turn the air conditioner off and slide open the glass door facing the shoreline— which left only the screen as your barrier to the outside. Beyond that door, the lake water temperature continued its deadly climb due to the record heat wave of that northern summer.The stage was set and the dark music commenced. 


     Last night when I wrote a letter for you, Billy, my thoughts easily flowed onto the paper. But when I finished, I was at a loss of what to do with it. The letter isn’t meant as a good-bye, Honey. I’ll never say good-bye. You’ll come back, I’ll die, or the world will come to an end, because my life can’t possibly continue this way. 

     While I wrote the letter, Danny slept fitfully by my side in bed. As soon as I finished signing it with hearts, he abruptly stilled from fretful tossing of only moments before, and his verbal ramblings stopped. I turned from the page of my notebook to find his eyes opened wide in wonder, a smile on his face, and a peaceful glow radiating from his eyes. He didn’t seem to be awake, but he spoke very clearly. “Billy,” he whispered while dreamingly staring past me. I turned around to find nothing there. Then his eyelids closed again, and he fell asleep with the grin still on his lips. His face showed a relaxed contentment, which I hadn’t seen since your death. 

     With that vision in mind, I allowed my eyes to close along with all conscious thought, and the sleeping pill took effect.

Chapter 20: DICK

     It was early October when your mother laughed again for the first time.    

By that time, her cigarette habit had become a renewed addiction and she was puffing at least ten a day. To buy a carton would force her to admit her addiction, so instead, she would make several trips to the local gas station to replenish her supply.

     The bell over the door jingled as she opened the door and left the cool outside air. While approaching the elderly man behind the register, she noticed a woman at the counter wearing a cashmere sweater, angora hat, and reeking of money. A toddler stood by the woman’s side, holding her hand. Your mother thought, this woman has more riches than she’s aware of, while she sensed that familiar empty space beside her. The woman was peering over the cashier’s shoulder through the window, waiting for the gas nozzle to click off at the gas pump as it filled her BMW. Your mother shifted her weight from side to side impatiently.

     “Probably not a good idea to do that, Miss,” the elderly cashier joked with the woman. “Last week a young man drove off without disconnecting the hose. The hose broke off, spilling gasoline all over the ground. Now, I’m well into my sixties, but you’ve never seen an old man move so fast!” He laughed heartily, and the woman laughed with him. “There’s your total now, $21.39, Miss.” 

     The woman chuckled, “Oh, my goodness, I’ll bet you see some strange things in here. What was he thinking of?” She opened her wallet and handed the man the cash to cover her gas. 

     “He didn’t even notice it, just went and drove off. He’s probably still looking for his gas cap!” They both laughed too loudly. Your mother interrupted. 

     “Could I just get a pack of cigarettes. I’m in a bit of a hurry,” She tried to contain herself. The woman looked down her nose at your mother, noticing her for the first time. 

     “It was quite difficult, but I’m so glad I quit that nasty habit years ago,” the woman said while nodding to the cashier. He nodded back in agreement. 

     “Well…,” your mother vowed self-righteously, “I just started a few months ago, and I’m up to almost a pack a day.” 

     “Why, for God’s sake, would you ever do that?” the woman asked, not really looking for an answer and clueless to the trap your mother had set. And so your mother dropped the brick. 

     “Because my son drowned.” 

     At that, the woman took one step back, her jaw dropped, and the condescending smile vanished from her face. As she murmured her condolences, she abruptly grabbed her child’s hand and practically dragged him out the door, trying to get as far away from your mother and her tragedy as possible—as if she would “catch” something from just being near her. 

     While your mother paid for her vice, she glanced out the window as the woman hurriedly climbed into her car. The engine revved loudly, and the woman rapidly drove away from the pump to which her BMW was still connected by the gas hose. The hose tore away from the gas pump,spilling gasoline across the pavement. The elderly cashier frantically dashed outside to save his gas pump once again. 

     He does move fast for a guy his age, your mother thought as she chuckled and an unusual smirk appeared on her face. Through her naughtiness, your mother had discovered humor in her life that day. Yet, when that laugh finally surfaced, her guilt did, too. Not the guilt of tricking that poor, unsuspecting woman, but the guilt of enjoying life when her son could not.