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Meet Shelley Buck of “Leave Your Light On” in La Cañada

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shelley Buck.

Shelley, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I was born into a creative family in the Midwest and moved to California to follow my dream of working for Disney. It was there I met my husband, Chris, who was working in animation. After we married and had our first child, Ryder, I stayed home to be a full-time mom to him and the two brothers who followed. My husband went on to direct several animated features, including Tarzan, FROZEN, and FROZEN II.

I am a storyteller and artist, which I express through my original jewelry at ShelRae Designs. When the boys were growing up, this was where I found my peace and inspiration. That continues to be true, even after the tragedy that visited our family in 2013, just one month before the worldwide premiere of FROZEN.

Ryder had been diagnosed with cancer the year before. He rallied through nine months of grueling treatments, followed by a jubilant celebration of victory over the disease. He then threw himself into his musical career with a sense of joy and abandon we all dream of feeling in our lives. He had become so clear about his purpose – to lift people up through his music – and it was really happening for him.

Then on a dark and foggy highway a few months later, Ryder was killed in an accident. With no warning, my son was gone.

All the feelings I had poured into the journal I kept from the day of his diagnosis through the years of grieving his death ultimately became a book called “Leave Your Light On.”

This was the title of the first song Ryder ever wrote, and it was his mantra. He had a fierce commitment to living his truth, which sometimes made him exasperating. But in the end, his light left an imprint on the world that was so much larger than his dad or I ever knew.

At his Celebration of Life service, over 1200 people showed up to our church. It was overwhelming to discover what his spirit had been up to out in the world. We heard so many stories about the deep and healing impression he had made on people’s lives, we were stunned.

That light Ryder always talked about continued to shine. It guided us through the darkness of our grief. And it taught us that he knew something many of the rest of us didn’t, about living an authentic life and facing the mysteries with grace and love.

As a result, I have become an unwitting expert in parenting through tribulation and tragedy, as well as a torchbearer for the inner light we all have the power to access during dark and difficult times.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Raising three boys in a creative household was never easy, but I was born to do it. It brought out all my best instincts and constantly challenged me to grow. I always felt we lived a magical life, and I taught our boys to recognize both the joys and the responsibility of that.

Losing Ryder made me question everything. I lost my optimism and sense of magic, which had seemingly been a part of me since birth. I didn’t know how to live without him, and I thought my life was over without that part of me.

In writing the book, I was able to see more clearly how Ryder’s light simply helped mine to come back on. Even in spirit, the connection with him is stronger than ever. So the person whose light I thought I lost is the spirit whose light helped me heal. That’s been a profound lesson.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
Anyone who has ever bought ShelRae Designs jewelry knows that my style is both bold and inspired by the beauty of nature. That describes my life, too, I guess. I have always lived with bold strokes, and my appreciation of nature – both human and otherwise – has sparkled my journey with joy and grace.

So when I lost my firstborn son in an unspeakable tragedy, I thought my life was over. In fact, I wanted it to be. But my comeback turns out to have been as bold as everything else I’ve done in my life.

I credit Ryder with helping me find my own spirit, again. I credit my best friend and co-author, Kathy Curtis, with helping me tell his story. I credit my family – husband Chris and sons Woody and Reed, for holding me up through all of it.

I also credit Pete Donaldson, Literary Manager, who encouraged me to find a co-author and publisher for this book. His belief that Ryder’s story would make a difference gave me confidence before I had found it on my own.

My friend Katherine Kavich has been an enthusiastic supporter from the very beginning, in fact, it was her encouragement that started me down the path to writing this book.

It would take an entire book to thank everyone who deserves credit for me being exactly where I am right now. I hope I can embody the faith they have shown in me and turn our family’s circumstances into healing and light for others who need it. I’ve never met a brighter light than my son, Ryder, and he’s proof that we never die. Especially if our light is shining brightly while we’re here.


  • Hardback – $24.99
  • Paperback – $18.99
  • Ebook – $9.99
  • Audiobook – $7.49

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