BOSCOBEL - Joy – enjoy – these are all thoughts guaranteed to bring a smile to our faces. The recently released book by Boscobel author Carole Young, Smile Because it Happened: A Guide to Living the Rest of Your Life, tells the story of the life and passing of her daughter, Stacey Reynolds. The young woman battled colon cancer, and won her battle by remaining joyful and hopeful in the face of all adversity.
The book tells the story of Stacey Reynolds, her husband, Tom Lesiewicz, and their three children—Aleks, Kassia and Jakoby (Koby), as they live, laugh and love. Stacey’s mother, Carole Young, daughter of former Boscobel Dial publisher Ralph Goldsmith, compiled the book from her archive of e-mails from her daughter and other family members.
“I wrote the book as a memorial so that my daughter’s death didn’t mean that she did not continue to live on in the hearts and minds of those who knew and loved her. I wrote it as a way of grieving,” Young said. “I began to save Stacey’s e-mails when she moved to Seattle, and after her death, when I knew I wanted to write the book, I had quite a time figuring out how to turn a stack of papers into something I could edit.”
With the help of a scanner, Young converted the e-mails into text documents and launched into the writing of the book. She took a writing class and a book proposal class through UW-Madison online Continuing Education, and was fortunate to find Little Creek Press of Mineral Point and Kristin Mitchell.
“This is a Wisconsin book,” Young explained. “Kristin Mitchell and Little Creek Press were instrumental in the editing, design and layout of the book, and preparing it for printing. They also found me a printer who does smaller runs in the most unlikely of places – Tony, Wisconsin – just a few miles from where I was born in Ladysmith.”
Stacey Reynolds was born in Madison and raised in Boscobel. The book begins, on Easter Sunday, 1995, when the family had gathered for an Easter dinner.
“I have something to tell you. I want to tell you before you hear it from anyone else,” Reynolds told her mother.
“I’m going to be a grandma – my first grandbaby,” Young remembers thinking.
Actually, the news was that Stacey and husband Tom were moving to Seattle.
The book tells the story of Tom and Stacey’s cross-country drive with their two cats, Mosely and Creepy. Tom and Stacey both found work, and eventually, in 1998, conceived their first child, Aleks.
The two lived in Seattle for eight years, lived through the World Trade Organization upheavals in Seattle, and welcomed their daughter, Kassia, into the world in December of 2000, and son, Koby, in January of 2003.
Later in 2003, because of a downturn in the tech industry in which Tom was employed, and to be closer to family, Stacey’s family moved to Elgin, Illinois. Here, she would live the rest of her life.
Throughout, the book is an engaging view into the life of a young woman, raised in Southwest Wisconsin, who goes through the trials and tribulations of moving away from her family, building a career and launching into motherhood. It gives fascinating little insights into her reactions to the news of her time, and honest depictions of the challenges and joys of motherhood. It recounts her lifelong joy in vacations to Fay Lake in the Nicolet National Forest, first with her birth family, and later with her own family. It also shows her evolution into a healthy and environmentally aware adult.
In January of 2010, after having made a life for her family in Elgin, Stacey delivered the unhappy news to her mother that she had been diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer.
After a courageous battle, Reynolds eventually passed away in July of 2012.
Please be screened
The last page of the book cites an article written by Roni Caryn Rabin that appeared in the New York Times in 2017:
“Cancers of the colon and rectum have been declining in older adults in recent decades and have always been considered rare in young people. But scientists are reporting a sharp rise in colorectal cancers in adults as young as their 20s and 30s, an ominous trend.”
A big part of Carole Young’s motivation for writing the book is to illustrate the importance of colonoscopies – not just for people over the age of 50, but for younger people too.
“There is a lot of concern about the rise of colon cancer in young people,” Young said. “I wanted to write this book in part because this, for obvious reasons, was very important to Stacey.”
Reverend Dan Brosier, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church which Stacey and her family attended, delivered some remarks at her memorial service concerning the time when Stacey’s cancer was being diagnosed:
“I told myself that it had to be okay. After all, this is Stacey, vegetarian Stacey, no toxic chemical Stacey, organic food Stacey, black belt Stacey, active an involved Stacey. What was she? Maybe 42? 43?... 46, years old. Young!”
But another big motivation for writing the book was to help others who are living with or supporting someone with cancer by offering them Stacey’s true gift of hope and joy.
Stacey communicated her final wishes to her family in written form. One of the things she described was what she wanted as a theme for the service held to mark her passing:
“Don’t be sad that it’s over, be happy that it happened – Dr. Seuss,” her instructions began.
And speaking of life’s little miracles, here is Carole Young’s story of an experience she had three days after her daughter’s death.
“In an attempt to get back into my old morning routine, I settle down on the couch with a cup of coffee in front of Good Morning America with the puzzle page of the Wisconsin State Journal on my lap desk and began to decode the Cryptoquote. The solution that morning: “Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.” – Dr. Seuss.”
Young will be hosting a ‘Meet the Author and Book Signing’ event at the Boscobel Public Library on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 1-4 p.m. At the event, the book will be available for purchase.