We can forget that books are more than the words we are reading.
That thought came to mind this week during a conversation with Dr. Kriner Cash of Oak Bluffs about “Spool Days,” a children’s book that his wife, Lisa DeLorme Cash, completed during the final years of her life. Ms. Cash died on Sept. 27, 2011, in Memphis, Tenn.
“We’ve always been a goal-oriented family. Not staggering goals, but we’d set three or four a year, and after we achieved them, we’d set some more goals. Lisa was a dedicated educator, and early after our marriage in 1977, Lisa had a goal of writing a children’s book,” he said. Ms. Cash, an educator in Edgartown for four years, also volunteered at a number of Island service agencies during her 20-year residence here.
Life intervened, as it does, and with three growing kids and expanding career responsibilities, Ms. Cash got to undertake her project in 2006, completing the writing and illustrating of “Spool Days” before her death at age 56. “She had completed the book. It just needed a final readover that she had asked me to make. She wanted every comma to be correct. It was a busy year for our family. Our three sons, Kofi, Asil, and Jade, were getting married, within four months of each other, between June and October,” he said.
Ms. Cash had been struggling against a somewhat rare cancer for several years, and her passing was unexpected. While the long-term prognosis was not hopeful, doctors believed she had at least a year and perhaps 4 to 5 five years of living to do, Mr. Cash said. “Lisa was a strong person. She suffered quietly, and she was hopeful,” he said.
Ms. Cash enjoyed son Asil’s wedding in June, struggled physically at Jade’s wedding, then returned to Memphis where Mr. Cash, a former superintendent of Island schools (1995-2004), was superintendent of the Memphis school system. She was resting up for Kofi’s October wedding. “She had setbacks, but she tried hard, and made plans to return to her Island for Kofi’s wedding. She died Sept. 27th on our way to the airport,” he said. Mr. Cash has since retired from the Memphis school superintendency, and lives in Oak Bluffs.
The loss of a parent and spouse is difficult to process, and losing Ms. Cash in the midst of her boys’ celebratory life changes was difficult for the Cash men. “We are all alpha males, but I will say that the grieving process has strengthened our relationships,” he said.
Mr. Cash said “Spool Days” had a major impact on their recovery process. Ms. Cash, a graduate of Howard University in Washington, D.C., earned a B.F.A. from the College of Design, Art, Architecture, and Planning at the University of Cincinnati, and used those skills in writing and illustrating her book.
“Spool Days” has been published, and is available at the Bunch of Grapes bookstore ($14.95). “Spool Days” is dedicated to Lisa’s three grandchildren, Tyson, Harper, and Cameron.
“A copy of ‘Spool Days’ will be donated to each Island elementary school, to the Charter School, and to each town library. Proceeds will be placed in a fund in Lisa’s memory to contribute to educational projects that motivate and inspire children to pursue their dreams,” Mr. Cash said.
The opening page describes the book as “A story of a young girl growing up in Columbia, South Carolina, who had a dream of becoming a school teacher.” It is the narrative of a young girl’s life, Lisa DeLorme’s life, growing up in a family of educators who saw its life-forming values, and encouraged their daughter to spend a few hours a day in study, sharing her knowledge with her grandmother each evening.
The little girl has a backyard bunny rabbit who receives a kiss daily, and a fig tree to sit in. The fig tree gets a hug every day before the girl attends to her studies.
To make her work fun, the little girl uses items from her collectibles basket — a feather, coins, red glasses, a set of jacks; items that remind her of a specific person in her school class. The symbols became her own class. She teaches them what she is learning. When school is out, the icons reside on the spools at the top of the girl’s bedposts. “Spool Days” is a gentle, sweet story with life lessons for kids.
“Lisa’s natural essence, personality, and philosophy as an educator and mother are mirrored and illuminated through the story’s lead character, a young girl nicknamed ‘Buttercup.’ Lisa and Buttercup showed and continue to show tremendous honesty, kindness, imagination, love, and respect for the strong women and men in their families. Her clear desire to work hard and to do well in school, in her chosen profession, and in life, are timeless, unassailable qualities that should resonate well for all youth — today and for generations to come,” Mr. Cash said.