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‘Life is hard, joy is simple,’ Lannette Cornell Bloom talks about her insatiable need to write about her mother, magic in death, and living a mindful life

By Leslie Lindsay 

Simple beauty in the overwhelming task of caring for a dying parent, Lannette Cornell Bloom, RN, renders a gorgeous narrative about living life to the fullest. 

You will be utterly surprised to learn MEMORIES IN DRAGONFLIES (September 1 2018) is the author’s first book. Lannette Cornell Bloom was a typical over-worked mother, wife, and school nurse, when she got the call that her mother was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a slow decline in which the lungs gradually fill with scar tissue, in effect, suffocating the person.

After careful consideration, Lannette decides to quit her job to care for her mother and maintain her parent’s home full time. What results is a tender vulnerability filled with unexpected moments, an awakening about her mother, the lessons imparted to Lannette and her sister, and so much more.

Written eloquently in first person, MEMORIES IN DRAGONFLIES is ultimately a memoir that reads as though it could be a novel. It’s not long and can easily be finished in one sitting. It’s not exactly a how-to-guide for caring for an ill loved one (but it could be used for that), and it’s not strictly a memoir or a book about grief–it’s about living. I felt inspired. I wanted to mine experiences in my own life in which I was shown greater truths behind those events that may seem ‘unfair.’

There’s symbolism, understanding, empathy, and lush prose contained within this slim book, and I am so honored to have Lannette chatting about her book.

Leslie Lindsay:

Lannette, it’s a pleasure! I started MEMORIES IN DRAGONFLIES and didn’t want to put it down. I got this sense your desire to write was just as compelling. Can you talk about that moment when you knew you just *had* to write this?

Lannette Cornell Bloom:

You’re absolutely right, Leslie! As I mention in the “Note to My Readers” at the beginning of my book, I woke up one night—years after my mom had passed—and felt the need to write down my experiences. I couldn’t believe how much I remembered—all the details, things my mom had said, how I felt. It all came pouring out. I had no idea those memories would turn into a book until months later, but I knew I needed to get them onto the page.

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Leslie Lindsay:

You’re a nurse by training (as am I), but MEMORIES IN DRAGONFLIES isn’t exactly a nursing book, it’s not a how-to [care for an ailing parent], it’s not entirely about grief, but about living. Can you talk a little more about that, please?

Lannette Cornell Bloom:

It’s true! Again, when I began writing the book I had no idea what would come of it. As I wrote the memories down, what I found early on was that nearly all of what I remembered was positive. The beautiful moments, the small lessons my mom taught me, the times I found joy where there was seemingly none to be found. And that, I ultimately realized, was what this book was really about:

How do we find the positive side of dying? How do we turn an awful hardship from something to be endured into something to be cherished?

“A relatable, tenderly observed account of the “sacred joy” of tending to the dying.”

Kirkus Reviews

Leslie Lindsay:

I understand you attended the La Jolla Writer’s Institution and took a class in memoir. The instructor said something like, “Great! So you wrote a memoir; are you open to some structural changes?” Can you tell us a little more about that process, your time line and what you found most challenging?

Lannette Cornell Bloom:

Yes, it was the La Jolla Writer’s Conference. My younger daughter had attended the year before and took a class with a writing coach named Marni Freedman, whom she felt would be a good match for my book. After the conference, I sent Marni my notebook of memories (well, I typed them up first!) and she provided a fresh perspective of what she thought my book could become. We worked together over the next year to dive deeper into the memories, decide which ones were most important to keep, and how to express the changes I went through from the beginning of the process to the end. In essence, she helped me turn my memories into a story.

From that point, I showed the draft to my daughters—who both had amazing feedback—and my younger daughter ended up joining Marni and I in the process of rewriting over the next year. So I really did have an amazing team behind me!

The most challenging part was definitely diving deeper. My daughter would say, “but, Mom, how did this part make you feel.” And that was when I really relived some of those tougher moments. In a way, writing this book was an extension of the healing process that I didn’t know I needed!

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Leslie Lindsay:

You talk about the ‘magical side of death,’ and I’m curious if you could explain that a bit more? Death can hurt. It can seem unfair. It can be a lot of things, but ‘magical’ isn’t always word that comes to mind for most. 

Lannette Cornell Bloom:

You are absolutely right. And that’s what I want this book to accomplish. We are all going to die one day—and almost all of us will experience the death of a parent or other loved one, oftentimes way sooner than we could ever anticipate. So if we don’t have a choice, why dwell in that negative mindset of how unfair it is? That’s not to say to ignore emotions that need to come out. But there’s always joy to be found within a hardship. Whether you do something as simple as brighten your love one’s room with flowers, have a picnic lunch in the park while waiting between hospital visits, ask your loved one a question about his or her childhood, share a silly joke—each and every one of us has the ability to shift our mindset and dive into those precious moments no matter what the situation or how long we have to say goodbye to a loved one. And that, to me, is magical.

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Leslie Lindsay:

Your mother seems like she was such a remarkable woman. Generous, funny, a great cook, and that smile! What do you think she might have to say about this book?

Lannette Cornell Bloom:

Thank you so much! I keep a picture of her in my kitchen with that big smile so I can still see it everyday. My daughters and I still make her recipes and recite her quotes, my favorite of which is:

“You have to make yourself happy, no matter where you are.”

Which, in some ways, is so fitting to the entire journey of taking care of her and through the process of writing and publishing this book.

I think she would, of course, be proud of me. But, as I mention in the book, my mom was also a very private person. So I think she would also be slightly frazzled by all the details I reveal about her and our family!

Leslie Lindsay:

Finally, your tender, symbolic title, MEMORIES IN DRAGONFLIES has a much deeper meaning to you. Can you talk about that, please? And if it’s not dragonflies, do you suppose others have had similar experiences…perhaps with birds or ladybugs or some other piece of nature? Do you feel we’re all connected by nature somehow?

Lannette Cornell Bloom:

Yes it does. Without going into all the details of my book, dragonflies are my reminder to be mindful and, more than that, a reminder of my mom and how the experience of taking care of her changed me. Whenever I see one, I pause and pay attention to the moment, because, more often than not, there is joy to be found there.

I absolutely think others have had similar experiences. Actually, years before my mom got sick, another—much younger—family member passed away suddenly and my family has always associated her with white butterflies. Whenever we see one, we point it out and think fondly of her. The day my mom passed, we saw a yellow butterfly trailing a white butterfly in my parents’ garden and it felt like another message from my mom. So, yes, absolutely, I believe there is so much we can’t know, that we are all a part of nature and so often lose sight of that in our busy lives and modern world. My hope is that this book can inspire others to slow down, to go beneath the surface of what is present to us in our everyday lives and find the simply joys lurking there, just waiting for us to grab hold.

white and black butterfly on white flower

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Leslie Lindsay:

Lannette, it’s been such a pleasure! Thank you for taking the time.

Lannette Cornell Bloom:

Thank you, Leslie! It was an absolute pleasure answering your thoughtful questions.

For more information, to connect with the author via social media, or to purchase a copy of MEMORIES IN DRAGONFLIES, please see:

Order Links: 

Lannette-Cornell-Bloom-authorABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lannette Cornell Bloom is a speaker, healer and author who is passionate about bringing simple joys to others. As an Registered Nurse and health practitioner of more than 32 years, she has seen firsthand the need to care for others both emotionally and physically.

In her book, Memories in Dragonflies, Simple Lessons For Mindful Dying, she teaches us how to cherish even the simplest moments in life that make emotional healing possible. She brings into focus the fragility of life and the importance of enjoying the simple joys that slip through our fingers if we’re not paying attention – because life may be hard, but joy is simple.

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites: 


#mothersanddaughters #bereavment #sandwichgeneration #death #nurses #memoir

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[Cover and author image retrieved from author’s website in conjunction with PRbytheBook.]

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