Mike Bender tells PEOPLE he wants kids to "embrace endings" as it "just means that over the hill, there's a beginning right around the corner"

By Georgia Slater
May 25, 2021 05:17 PM
mike bender and family
Credit: mike bender

Mike Bender doesn't believe in bad endings.

The screenwriter and Awkward Family Photos co-founder, 45, is hoping to teach others that endings aren't a bad thing, and instead have the transformative power to bring new beginnings — something he has learned after years of battling complications from Lyme Disease.

In Bender's children's book The End Is Just the Beginning, available now, the father of two tells PEOPLE he hopes kids will learn the idea of "embracing endings" as it "just means that over the hill, there's a beginning right around the corner."

The thought-provoking picture book, illustrated by Diana Mayo, aims to "twist the end in a way, turn it on its head, and frame it as something that's actually something that's really exciting, because it's just a window into a new beginning," Bender says.

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Bender says that he wrote the manuscript two and a half years ago when his condition was getting "worse and worse."

"I started to have sensitivities to everything around me, and that was I think when I started to think about the concept of this book. Because there were certain things I couldn't do anymore," he recalls. "So, with that came sort of the end of life in some ways as it was, and I was looking for a positive way to look at that. What I started to realize is that I couldn't do certain things, but that just allowed me to grow appreciation for other things."

While the inspiration for the book initially came from his personal experience with Lyme Disease, Bender and his wife, SuChin Pak, who hosts the podcast Add To Cart, tell PEOPLE that the book's message is especially relevant today amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"I think that a lot of us could say, 'Well, during that time we found other things that we would've never found that brought us joy,' " Bender says, adding that "kids especially have dealt with some very real endings in the last year, year and a half."

the end is just the beginning
Credit: Penguin Random House

Bender also shares that part of writing the book was to help his own young kids understand his condition.

"I really wanted them to not look at the things that were happening to me as necessarily bad things, and that was part of trying to find the positive spin on it for them," he says.

"I don't like the word illness or disease, I've never liked [those words,] but with all these challenges come a lot of opportunities to grow, and try new things. So, that I think was probably the most important reason for the book," adds Bender.

The End Is Just the Beginning is available now.