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Are There Hot Dogs in Heaven? by Kathleen A. Barry, Ph.D.
Illustrations by Bill Hart

Four-year-old Kelly recently lost her dad. She confronts Mom one day, wondering why her mom told her he's in Heaven, but her friends told her he's dead. Mom does her best to explain that Daddy's body is gone, but she believes his spirit is in Heaven.

Kelly wants to know if Daddy can eat hotdogs in Heaven, and if she can go to Heaven to eat hotdogs with him, because that was their favorite food. Through the course of the day, Kelly and her mom stay busy—doing laundry, picking flowers in the garden, making hotdogs for lunch, having lemonade on the porch, and then going to bed. All the while they discuss the concept of death and memory, with Mom explaining that Kelly can always find her dad in her memories and in her heart.

Dr. Barry addresses a topic that will deeply resonate with families of young children who have lost parents, relatives, and other special people in their lives.

From Dr. Barry—

Are There Hot Dogs In Heaven? is my story of the first death that I experienced in my life. My dad’s sudden death impacted not only my life but the lives of my siblings and our mother. Our family life was forever shaped by his death. 

I have loved the question “Are There Hot Dogs in Heaven?” ever since I asked my mother in the aftermath of my dad’s death. I was searching for something inside of my question. I remember feeling sad and lost that he was gone. I worried about my mother who was so visibly shaken by his absence.  I was searching for certainty and something that could help soothe the grief and loss we were experiencing.  

My friends had told me he was dead and I didn’t understand why my mother said he was in heaven.  If he was somewhere, then surely I could find him and enjoy eating a hot dog with him once again. But first I needed to know if there were in fact hot dogs in heaven. Writing this story reminded me of that tenacious four-year-old girl who searched for the truth by asking poignant questions.  

“This unforgettable story affirms for all of us how the deep psyche’s creative power can repair the torn fabric of our lives, often with grace and humor. I would wish that every adult and child could read it.” —Dianne Skafte, Ph.D.
Emeritus Professor of Psychology, Pacifica Graduate Institute  
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