Local author memorializes granddaughter, who died at 8 years old, in new book

  • Priscilla Stevens Gaignard is holding a book signing for her book “I Love You Today” on Thursday at the Wendell Free Library, and on June 28 at the Orange Dance Studio. The book memorializes her granddaughter, Victoria Rose Gaignard, 8. Contributed photo

  • Priscilla Stevens Gaignard’s book “I Love You Today,” which memorializes her granddaughter, Victoria Rose Gaignard, 8. Contributed photo

Recorder Staff
Thursday, June 14, 2018

WENDELL — In the months after Victoria’s death, her grandmother Priscilla Stevens Gaignard visited her grave every day. She’d mourn, remembering Victoria’s eight brief years of life.

But one day, “some words came to me,” Gaignard said. It was poetry from within — and not sad words, but happy, reminding Gaignard of the beauty her granddaughter brought into the world.

Now, Gaignard has written a book of poetry and pictures, “I Love You Today,” dedicated to her granddaughter, Victoria Rose Gaignard, and Victoria’s friend Leena Shea Ciolino, 6, who both died in a March 2016 house fire in Orange.

Today, June 14, at 5 p.m., Gaignard will be holding a book signing and reception with refreshments at the Wendell Free Library, 7 Wendell Depot Road.

Another signing will take place at the Dance Studio at 34 North Main St. in Orange on June 28 at 5:30 p.m. with 100 percent of the proceeds go to the Victoria Rose Gaignard Scholarship Fund.

Each picture in “I Love You Today” is of Victoria and has a corresponding poem underneath.

“Every picture, every verse is supposed to make people happy, not sad. It could be a good healing book for people who have lost someone, especially a child,” Gaignard said.

Writing the book and seeing its publication — by Haley’s Publishing in Athol — has been Gaignard said, a “healing experience.”

Gaignard would come home from the cemetery each day and post a new poem on Facebook, slowly writing the book without knowing it.

“Orange pumpkins all aglow bring back memories of long ago,” one post reads.

“I don’t know how it happened or why it happened, but it happened,” said Gaignard, who had never written poetry before.

With positive feedback from family, friends and anyone who knew Victoria, Gaignard decided to turn her uplifting poems into “I Love You Today.”

“I took me a long time to do it. I wanted to do it in one year at first but it took two. It was difficult to choose the pictures, it was just so emotional,” Gaignard said.

The excerpts Gaignard has released from the book are touching and simple snapshots from Gaignard’s memory — and Victoria’s life.

“Another first day of school is here, my smile so big, from ear to ear,” Gaignard writes.

“When you get invited to a tea party, wear a funny hat,” another verse reads.

Now that “I Love You Today” is done, Gaignard sees it as a source of happiness — not just for herself, but for others.

The money the book brings in will allow children to learn dancing — one of Victoria’s passions — through the Victoria Rose Gaignard Scholarship Fund.

According to Gaignard, Victoria would always be excited to go to her dance lessons, and wanted others to share her excitement for the art.

“She would always ask me to pay for her friends to dance, since many of them couldn’t afford it,” Gaignard said. “I couldn’t afford it, to do that, but now children who come from families that can’t pay will be able to dance.”

Gaignard is proud to be honoring Victoria’s wishes, even now that she has passed away. The foreword of “I Love You Today” is written by Victoria’s dance instructor, Ingrid Schatz at the Dance Studio in Orange.

Gaignard recently retired, having worked many years at the Greenfield Women’s Health Center, and plans to continue writing poetry and releasing books. She is currently working on a book of poems about her childhood memories of Mount Agamenticus in Maine.

All of the works, she said, will be uplifting, just like “I Love You Today.”

“It is a positive book,” Gaignard said.

For more information about the book or scholarship fund, visit www.iloveyoutoday.org.