Project born of grief evokes empathy, notes from strangers

Up on the cliff at Incinerator Rock, where the bench is, an angel keeps watch in honour of a baby named Serenity.

The book that goes with the tree-top-style angel – a simple red and black three-subject notebook tucked into a plastic zip bag – has become, for some, something of a guest book for the beach -and an outreach for anyone dealing with grief.

The book went missing this week, but returned to its rocky outlook on the West Coast. It’s the third in a series of books started by Jo George.

Full of notes from beach visitors from as far away as Poland and France, the book is very special to her.

Her daughter Serenity died in 2002, an hour after she was born at 21 weeks gestation after Jo’s ex assaulted her. He eventually was convicted of assault in the incident.

“It’s been 12 years, but it’s still fresh,” said Jo, who said she struggled for years with guilt over not being able to protect her baby, even though she herself almost died.

A firm believer in the afterlife, Jo says she still feels Serenity with her everyday – over a decade later.

“She sits up there and I talk with her all the time. We put the angel up there so she was always watching the water for us,” Jo said.

“A surfer wrote in the book, thanking Serenity for watching over him and keeping him safe in the water,” she said.

A family visiting the beach wrote in the book to honour their matriarch; Jo snapped a picture of their letter on an earlier visit.

“We come here today without our beautiful mamma who caught a shooting star Dec. 5, 2013,” they penned. “What a beautiful canvas this coastline is. Our mamma saw a young girl dancing in her room soon after she passed, maybe it was your daughter come to dance with her in skies. We are deeply moved by this book and we are so glad we found it. Our mom was such a child at heart and so loved the beach. Our hearts are with your family and we feel we have walked with you today on the shores of life,” they wrote.