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November 9, 2009

Talking with Keith Desserich about NOTES LEFT BEHIND

Posted by webmaster
As Brooke and Keith Desserich share in Notes Left Behind, their six-year-old daughter Elena was diagnosed with pediatric brain cancer and died just nine months later. As Elena lost her voice and the ability to walk, she communicated through writing and drawing. Unbenownst to her parents, she was writing notes and leaving them around the house tucking them in between books in the bookcase, the holiday ornament boxes and other places where they would later find them as they moved through their everyday lives.

While we often focus on the BIG moments in life --- holidays and milestones --- this book reminds us that it's important to remember that each day there is a reason to celebrate. Elena was wise beyond her years and left quite a legacy of love.

Today we talk with Keith Desserich about what Elena would think about
Notes Left Behind and the outpouring of support the book is receiving, how book club members can take action and more. ---Carol Fitzgerald For readers who aren't familiar with Notes Left Behind, what would you like them to know about the book?

Keith Desserich:
Notes Left Behind was never intended to be about cancer or the death of a six-year-old girl. Instead it is about grasping the minutes of life before they disappear through your fingertips. Too often people focus on the large moments of life like birthdays, anniversaries and weddings and in doing so skip or even forget about the smaller moments such as reading with your son or daughter before bed, walking hand-in-hand and even the small laughs you share together as a family. Originally intended as a letter to Gracie about her older sister, Elena, the book was intended to pass on the lessons of Elena in the final moments she enjoyed with her family. Today it has become a reminder to parents everywhere to cherish their children and to find time everyday to truly learn to love.

RGG: What do you think Elena would say about the book and the attention it's getting?

Elena was a six-year-old girl who shied from attention, preferring to establish her legacy in the letters and artwork she created. Today with the success of the book and with the donation of all U.S. author proceeds to pediatric cancer research through The Cure Starts Now Foundation, I think Elena would be proud. Not only do her notes touch thousands of families worldwide, but in the end they are helping to find a cure for the very cancer that she fought.

RGG: When did you begin finding the notes Elena left behind? Were you surprised that she had done this?

KD: Initially we thought the notes were a coincidence. But after finding 20 or more we realized that it was something more. And as we discovered notes in briefcases, drawers and between books on the shelves we knew that Elena intended for us to find them one day. How much she actually knew about her condition we will never know, but with every note she send us a hug and a reassurance that everything will be all right. Still, there's a part of us that wishes we would have discovered the notes while she was alive so that we too could return the love and even the notes. Unfortunately, though, due to a reconstruction project started before her diagnosis and continuing until after her fight had ended, we never found her notes when we could have appreciated them most.

RGG: What are some of the topics book clubs could discuss about Notes Left Behind?

KD: I think that anyone can share in the meaning of the book and how it teaches us all to treasure our children. Elena's fight taught us how our children are our heroes and changed the way we even relate to Gracie still to this day. Hopefully this lesson is universal, but how we spend that time is individual.

RGG: On the blog we've had numerous discussions about activism, with booksellers, authors, and reading group members offering input. Proceeds from Notes Left Behind are going to The Cure Starts Now, a foundation to fun pediatric brain cancer research. For book club members inspired to do more, how might they take action?

The Cure Starts Now is a foundation that started from a community and a foundation that to this day is fueled by the ideas of that community. Because of this, we offer many events such as our school-based "Caps for the Cure," the business based "Heart on My Sleeve" and the home based "Make a Stand" lemonade stands. Still, even beyond that, people nationwide create their own fundraisers for the cure that extend into their own neighborhoods and touch the hearts of hundreds more.

RGG: What would you like readers to take away from Notes Left Behind?

KD: I think Brooke and I would like nothing more than for readers of Notes Left Behind to appreciate the smaller moments in life --- to put down their phones, stash their computers and learn to be a family once again. And in doing so, the inspiration they will discover with be from within.