Author Mike Bender examines transformative power of endings in new book
In life, facing endings is inevitable.
Whether it’s the end of a good meal, the end of the day or even the end of a season or relationship, everyone experiences endings.
But what if instead of viewing endings as final, they could be seen as a chance for a new beginning?
That’s precisely the premise of local author Mike Bender’s new children’s book “The End is Just the Beginning” (Crown Books, $17.99).
The book, which officially released Tuesday, is narrated by a caterpillar who helps two small children, a boy and a girl, see that endings in life can actually be transformative.
For Mr. Bender, shifting the idea of endings to focus on their power to bring about something new was exactly his goal in writing the book. He will be discussing more about his writing process and inspiration during a virtual event with Chaucer’s Books at 3:30 p.m. May 2.
“I wanted to write a book that was about seeing transitions in life as transformation,” Mr. Bender told the News-Press. “I think as a kid, we kind of mourn endings. Kids mourn endings. The end of the dessert, the end of playtime, the end of the night.”
He continued, “The idea that we can look at ending from a different perspective and not see them as something with finality but as something that is just a window into a new beginning, well then ends become a lot more exciting to a kid because then they know an end is just the beginning is the beginning of something else.”
Though Mr. Bender finished this book nearly two years ago, he said the timing for its release could not have been better. The COVID-19 crisis left many people experiencing loss in various ways. Yet, perhaps coming out of the pandemic, people will notice the end paved the way for transformation, Mr. Bender said.
“I think we’re looking globally at a massive transition with kids who are not going to school in the same way and we’re all wearing masks and life has changed,” Mr. Bender said. “Things have ended, there have been a lot of ends in the last year, but what we can learn from those things is that maybe I couldn’t go to the office, but I got to spend some more time with my kids. The end of going into the office was the beginning of realizing I could spend more time with my family.”
Challenges in Mr. Bender’s own life have made this shift in mindset very personal, particularly in the last decade.
Mr. Bender was diagnosed with Lyme disease almost 10 years ago, and the symptoms he experienced as a result of the disease significantly impacted his physical wellbeing. Some physical things that used to be easy periodically became more difficult.
It was during this time he decided to not resist the changes he was facing, but rather see the end of his old abilities as a new beginning.
“I think that when you are dealing with any sort of challenge health-wise you have two choices — you can either resist it and just be in a constant state of, ‘This sucks why is this happening,’ or you can accept it and you can even flip it and say what really good things have come to me because of this,” Mr. Bender said.
His health challenges, he added, played a big role in the inspiration for the children’s book.
“(Lyme disease) has taught me, and not without pain, believe me, I resisted plenty, but I think that in itself has taught me to look at life differently and to see another side of it and that is very much in this book and probably in the back of my mind,” Mr. Bender said. “And to remind my kids that even though dad can’t do this thing, it doesn’t mean he’s not learning something else.”
While developing this book, Mr. Bender said his children were his “testers” to make sure the concept could be understood at a child’s level. His daughter Soe, age 6, and son Kai, age 8, are always helping him discover new ideas for his writing, he added.
“They’ve heard this book seven million times at this point, so I absolutely feel like I’ve got two little testers that I can use all the time,” Mr. Bender said.
Just a few weeks ago, Mr. Bender took the book into his daughter’s school to read it to her class, an action he said is the most rewarding part of his work.
“There’s nothing better than that — being able to read it to a group of kids who are really listening and absorbing it. I would do that over a movie premiere any day of the week,” Mr. Bender said.