It has taken Julia Bethea two years to get over her daughter's death.
When Staci Moody, 26, died in a Pine Bluff car accident in November of 2006, Bethea didn't know what to do first. She surrounded herself with Moody's items, including the large book collection her daughter had obtained throughout her lifetime.
But staring at the various possessions didn't alleviate her grief. She understood she needed to confront her pain, and when a friend suggested she donate Moody's books to a local project, she decided it was time to let go.
"I had been having a really tough time," she admitted. "We had two great boxes of books not being used and a friend of mine told me about the (Bookcase for Every Child) project."
Because the Conway project donates books to young children, and Moody taught pre-kindergarten, Bethea felt the cause would be one her daughter would support.
"That was her passion ... teaching children," Bethea said. "This was sort of the beginning of the healing process for me. Even though it's been two years, it's just been the beginning by reaching out to others."
Her husband, Mike Bethea, agreed, but said the 100-book donation was largely to deal with her grieving process.
"Mainly, it was up to her. She's having a hard time with the grief and all of this," he said, adding that different members of his family, as well as Moody's friends, also donated books to the cause.
"As far as donating, it seemed like a good thing to do. If Staci were around, she would have loved this."
Jim Davidson, director of the literacy project, said he and other members were pleasantly surprised by the amount of books donated by the couple.
"They showed up before (the banquet) started and had 600 books total," he said, adding that the extra 500 had been collected by friends of Moody who wanted to donate in her memory. "It was quite a sight."
In fact, he said the effort the Betheas made allowed him to continue the project. "Without a doubt, without Julia Bethea bringing those 600 books, we wouldn't have had near as many and probably not enough to fit our needs. You may say God served our needs," he said.
Remembering her daughter
Bethea said her daughter was committed to children, promoting reading in her jobs at the Cleburne County Head Start program and later in the Little Rock School District. To make her teaching more personal, Moody would read to students from books she enjoyed as a child, she said.
"It was very, very hard for me to let go of her books because I have helped her collect most of them. It was a tough time, but it was something that I know, had she been here, she would have participated in," she said.
Moody grew up reading, her mother said, and continued to nourish that desire as an adult.
"As a child, her very first book she learned to read was called 'I Don't Care.' She read it with a lot of enthusiasm," her mother recalled.
"Even after she was grown, we would read bits and pieces to each other," she said. "She actually lacked one class for her masters."
She remembers her daughter's enthusiasm for life and for reading and hopes these books will encourage that same love in the children who will receive them.
"My daughter was full of life," she said. "I always think it's not the years in a life that counts, it's the life in the years."
If anyone would like to donate to the project, Davidson said books may be brought to the Faulkner County Library in Conway. "Mark the sack or box as 'Conway Bookcase Project,'" he advised.
(Staff writer Jerrica Ryan can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1266. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)