By Sherry Lucas
Ashley Kazery’s Beautifully Broken, her first book, is one she wishes she’d never had the opportunity to write. The slim volume honors her late son, Jordan, and shares her own grief journey after his tragic death on a canoe trip in 2022, when Jordan was 12.
The book is a vulnerable, candid chronicle of her shock, pain and questions, and the outpouring of community support and reliance on her Christian faith that were blessings on her path. Beautifully Broken holds a wider view, too, with suggestions and considerations not only for those grieving any kind of loss, but also for the family and friend network supporting loved ones who are mourning a loss.
Kazery will have a booth at the November 11 Olde Towne Holiday Market with her book, as well as her devotionals and prayer journals, for sale. Beautifully Broken is also available through Amazon.com. Find her blog at TheGreenestGrassAround.com.
An assistant professor in the Teacher Education Program at the University of Southern Mississippi, Kazery lives in Clinton with her husband, Joseph, assistant professor of biology at Mississippi College, and son, Jaden, a sophomore at Clinton High.
Life changed in an instant that day in 2022. Gone was the dry-humored preteen who sported a mischievous smirk more often than a smile, was witty beyond his years, already had a taste for coffee and was “two peas in a pod” with his mom. Navigating the yawning chasm of his loss lay ahead.
The book’s title references the ancient Japanese art form of kintsugi, the repair of broken pottery with gold-dusted lacquer. The golden seam highlights the piece’s journey and makes the new creation more beautiful, more valuable.
“I did not even intend to write the book,” said Kazery, who has previously published devotionals. But the journaling suggested to her in counseling took a shape of its own. For her, the practice had to go beyond a straight reporting of daily happenings. Instead, she proceeded the same way she researched her dissertation, logging thoughts and questions as they came. She sought those answers, reading “tons” of grief books, about tragic situations, trauma and more.
“Then, I took it a step further with it, and pulled in my Bible reading,” she said, looking up specific chapters and verses.
“I was just typing to get it out, get it on paper, and it ended up flowing as a book, almost automatically,” she said. Her dad, Rick Blakeney, who has his doctorate from Wesley Biblical Seminary, encouraged her pursuit.
“No one teaches you how to grieve,” Kazery said. “We all go through grief at some point, but we don’t talk about it.” Research and therapy provided insights for her own path, that she shares with readers.
“Grief does a lot more to you than you realize. Until you go through that, you don’t know that.”
In the accident’s aftermath, responses ranged from some who held back for fear of upsetting the family, to others who just jumped in.
“I think, in the past, I would have been the person who erred on the side of caution,” she said, “whereas now, I think that would be different.”
“I was so blown away by the amount of people that just showed up,” including neighbors who cut their grass through the summer, those who kept up a steady rotation of dinners, and more.
“If it wasn’t for our faith and the community of support that we had, I don’t know where we would have been. Those two things were so astronomically important, and such a blessing to have.”
She described a core strength of her church, Lakeshore Church in Byram.
“They talk about, as a Christian community, you’re supposed to laugh together, and you’re supposed to cry together. That is something that I know our church has done a really good job with — being there for each other.”
Kazery hopes her book helps people understand more about grief, how to process it and help others process it, including myth busters, practical suggestions and conversation starters that can point the way.
One touchstone memory she holds especially dear harks back to a day she and Jordan were on the Mississippi College campus to play Pokémon GO. She looked up to see Jordan sitting in the lap of Jesus, on the sculpture of Christ with the children on the Quad. She snapped a photo.
“I’ve always liked that picture because it’s a sweet picture. But, obviously, after the accident, it just has a whole new meaning for us.”