Like many, Jamie and Taylor Petree have had their share of grief and loss.
It's one reason the mother and daughter were so passionate about helping a central Ohio religious sister create books to help children cope with losing a loved one as well as deal with other difficult life lessons.
Taylor Petree, a junior at Ohio Dominican University, was 12 years old when she suddenly lost her great-aunt, who was more like a grandmother to her. That loss made her feel a personal connection to the first book Sister Rosemary Loomis, a 1969 ODU alumna and a Dominican Sister of Peace, wanted to publish.
Called "Henry's Hope," the children's book tells the story of Henry, a young walrus, and how he copes with grief after his father is killed by tusk hunters.
"This story, it struck me just because I've had personal experience with it," Taylor Petree said.
After illustrating the book — which shows Henry shedding his grief and finding hope (the pages get brighter as the book goes on) — Taylor Petree began looking for the good that has come to her, even from the loss of her beloved great-aunt.
"I look at lessons I've learned from her," she said. "Family was important to her, so was being kind. She was the kindest person."
Taylor Petree said she never imagined touching so many people by helping to illustrate Loomis' books — or bringing her 44-year-old mother, Jamie Petree, a 1988 Ohio Dominican graduate, to help.
Loomis, who used donations to self-publish the books through an independent publisher, loves that all three of them went to Ohio Dominican.
"Three generations of ODU women collaborating on this project, I thought that was a pretty awesome thing," she said.
Though Loomis has dabbled in poetry and other writing, she had never published before now.
Loomis' second story, illustrated by Jamie Petree and published in October, "Mr. Irvin's Eggs," is about the relationship between a man who volunteers at a homeless shelter and a young boy living there.
"The Thanksgiving Train and Other Adventures," also illustrated by Jamie Petree, is a true story of a childhood holiday Loomis experienced and comes out this month. A fourth book, "Lessons from Mama," slated to come out in February, will be illustrated by Taylor Petree, and is about lessons a mother squirrel teaches her child about survival.
Loomis calls the whole experience a "God project," because she didn't do it, she said, God did.
She said she remembers seeing the book title "Mr. Irvin's Eggs" in her head last year. It was the second book she published, but the first she wrote.
"I said a prayer: 'If you want me to write a book with this title, you gotta give it to me,'" Loomis recalled saying to God.
Then, Loomis sat down at her desk, she said, and "It just flowed."
More than 500 of the "Henry's Hope" books have been sold in the U.S. and elsewhere. They are intended to help children understand difficult topics and lessons. Loomis was a grief minister for more than 20 years and likes to call "Henry's Hope" universal when it comes to grief and the fact that everyone has or will experience the loss of someone they love.
"It's about a walrus covered in muck; he was trapped inside the baggage we all have in life and couldn't run," Loomis said. "He worked his way to the water and the stuff washed off and he was set free."
Loomis has visited some local elementary schools and read the book to children, as well as discussed grief with them. When she was at Holy Spirit Catholic School on the East Side a few weeks ago, a third-grade girl came up to her and whispered in Loomis' ear, asking if Henry's story was true.
"I said, 'Well, walruses don't have the same feelings we do, but we're sad when we lose someone who dies,'" Loomis said. "'Henry's story is our story.'"
For more information or to purchase one of the books, email Sister Rosemary at email@example.com. The books range in price from $10 to $15, with an additional $5 for shipping.