For the past four years, I've been working on this story. If you'd like to read sample chapters, let me know in the comments.

a picture of death, drugs and forgiveness
by Amy Scheer

On August 21, 2004, at 4:45pm, Marilyn Jansma slowed her Honda CR-V into line to pay toll on a Chicago highway. Kevin Jansma, home in Iowa, played blocks with their son, Trey, a toddler. A Chicago car mechanic, tired from a raucous all-night birthday celebration, left work and fell asleep at the wheel.

The crash that resulted killed Marilyn, shattering the lives of all who knew this spirited church leader and budding clinical psychologist. And it forever changed the man who took her life.

Frames presents a picture of this real-life tragedy and its hopeful end by letting the central characters speak for themselves. First-hand accounts stand side by side, forming an elegant and complex narrative collage. Interviews with the young widower and driver, as well as excerpts from Marilyn’s journals and other primary source materials, draw in the reader with their highly personal revelations.

Part oral history, part elegy, Frames displays moments in poignant pairings. Tales of a church group awaiting news of the accident and faithfully reciting the Lord’s Prayer sit alongside a recounting of the meeting of Kevin and the driver—which began with the same prayer and ended with Kevin saying, “I forgive you.”

When Kevin would later make plans to remarry, he encountered a new set of difficulties. His mother, overwhelmed in her grief, became preoccupied with the space on her mantelpiece. If there will be a second wedding, what should she do with the first framed bride and groom?

Her question becomes a metaphor for Frames, showing that the many snapshots of our lives rarely stand alone, and one picture of death, drugs and forgiveness has lessons for us all.


  1. Lisa Creech BledsoeMay 20, 2011 at 11:21 AM

    Yes. Please. Send.

  2. Hi Amy. Marilyn was my aunt...she was 9 months older than me and always felt like an older sister. I too have written about her as a means of working through my grief. I would love to read your story (and possibly share mine with you if you'd like). Thanks.

  3. Meredith, thanks for stopping by here. I'd love to see what you've written, and would be happy to swap writings some time. Send me yours at amy AT gregscheer DOT com.

  4. Amy, I was just searching around the web and found this. Marilyn was my cousin and there are moments where her life and place in our family is very poignant. I would love to read this if you are willing to share. Thanks
    Dawn Lupkes-Kroontje

  5. Yes, please. I'd be interested to read more.

    1. Great to hear, Lorraine. If you email me at amy(at)gregscheer(dot)com, I'll put you on my email list. Thanks, and hello to Sean!


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