— Jupiter, Fla. - Today most Americans are still digesting their turkey dinner, and savoring this rare time of year when family near and far gather to catch up. But in a quiet Florida neighborhood, Jim and Muriel Sitton are alone.
It shouldn’t be like this.
A year ago, their world was shattered when an estranged member of their extended family showed up and was welcomed to the dinner table.
When the meal was over, witnesses say, he pulled two pistols. A rampage ensued.
When it was over, four lay dead, including Jim and Muriel’s 6-year old daughter, Makayla.
Muriel, who home-schooled her only child, said, “I spent every hour of my day with Makayla. And when she was just instantly gone like that, all life stopped for me. Anything that I cared about was gone.”
Coping with this tragedy and their grief will be a lifelong process, the Sittons said. And their first big step was when they remembered “the recordings.”
Treasures on tape
Muriel said she still can’t remember why she first picked up the little cassette recorder and started taping her daughter. Today, she has a treasure: Hours of audio recordings where Makayla, a talkative child, chats about her world.
One day, Muriel asked her daughter: “Tell me a story.” Instantly, an impromptu tale of a bear and a unicorn poured out.
This past year, Makayla’s parents would listen to that tape over and over and over. The lively, well-structured fantasy was their private keepsake until they wondered: If they shared this story with Makayla’s friends, would it keep her memory alive?
From that simple question was born a book: “The Bear’s Castle” by Makayla Joy Sitton. (The book is on Amazon.com, and available directly by clicking here.)
The book is illustrated, and includes a CD of Makayla’s voice as she tells her story. Jim Sitton says he included the CD of his daughter because “children love to hear other children speak.”
Proceeds from sales of “The Bear’s Castle” support a charity that pays for classes in the arts for disadvantaged children. Music, dance and art were Mayakla’s passions, say her parents.
At a recent book release party at the local library, the Sittons beamed like any proud parents would. Makayla’s friends were lying on the floor thumbing through the pages, reading about the bear and the unicorn. When the party ended, Jim said he and Muriel were happy they were able to share their little girl.
But, he added, “We came home to silence.”