SIXTEEN-YEAR-OLD SARAH, younger twin by two hours, wrote “And now it is time for my story to end because we have finally reached the beginning.” Did she know? How could she have guessed? Or did she just happen to choose words that had a greater meaning for her life about to be tragically cut short?
It’s the end of August. High school begins in two weeks. Eight teens cram into an SUV and take a midnight joyride. They’re friends just wanting a last moment of independence before returning to the grind: victimless, harmless, and fun. Somebody’s friend dies.
Simply a series of choices, and now…what’s left behind? Who’s to blame? Accountability? Where’s forgiveness? The pain cuts deep. How do you heal in the midst of such tragedy? Or maybe the question to ask is…will you heal?
Like teens across America, 16-year-old twin Sarah had parents who cared, attended a good school and lived in a small safe community. And yet, life carries no guarantees. Told through the eyes and heart of Sarah’s mother, Heaven’s Child is a searing memoir that grapples with life and death and social issues, forcing readers to take stock of their lives and the people and things that give them meaning.
An intimate and honest memoir, Heaven’s Child is an inspirational and spiritual story that motivates readers to live with authenticity, embracing humanity while embracing the present. It’s about family, community, relationships, parenting, difficult conversations and social issues of today’s complex world. It’s a story of caution and vigilance, decision-making and accountability, living in the moment, and being constantly aware that each day could be our last. It’s a story addressing the consequences of what happens when life is cut short. Told through the eyes and heart of Sarah’s mother, Heaven’s Child is a gripping memoir that celebrates life as it celebrates death, forcing readers to take stock of their lives and the people and things that give them meaning. It’s that unforgettable true story that will warm your heart as it scratches your soul. Heaven’s Child is a true story you will remember, one that challenges you to live your best life.
Read an excerpt of Heaven’s Child……. click here.
book secrets for Heaven’s Child
Heaven’s Child is based on one true event.
Eight teenagers packed into an SUV and went for a midnight joyride on August 23, 2004. Only one teen was killed. The media focused on the story of underage, unlicensed drivers. The local editorials focused on island parenting and out-of-control teenagers. The judge held everyone accountable. Heaven’s Child tells the story of a family and a small community. Five years after the accident, when I knew our family would survive as a unit, I pulled out all my jotted notes and began journaling this epic period of trauma and growth.
How I came up with the book title.
I didn’t. I titled the book FlowerBlack. At three years of age, our twin daughter, Sarah, draped a long, black velvet swatch of fabric over her head and announced that she was now “FlowerBlack.” Why she chose that name, no one ever knew. The name stuck with her for six months but the memory lived on. And I loved Sarah’s choice. Early readers found the title “too black.” An older, wiser gentleman who reviewed the almost-complete manuscript suggested Heaven’s Child. A book lover and reviewer, he convinced me that the word “heaven” was in the title of too many bestsellers. I’m still not convinced the title fits my child’s story.
About the book cover.
In the first edition, the photograph on the cover has always been a favorite. My twin daughters, three years old, standing innocently on the shoreline of the lagoon at our family cabin on Lopez Island. Black rubber boots and denim Osh-Kosh B’Gosh overalls were standard attire. Sarah was just past her FlowerBlack stage. I do not know who is who. Originally, the photo was placed on a simple white cover with the title Heaven’s Child. I was pleased with the simplicity and clarity of the cover. But when I opened an email from a graphic designer with the photo ripped in half, the blue sky and clouds beyond, the image gripped me. It felt as if Sarah was peering through the opening of the sky. And the sun could shine, again.
With another year passed and ready to revise for a second edition, I didn’t want to look at the picture of my twins split apart. I believe that Sarah has never left us. Her love remains. This new cover is blue, her favorite color, with a branch of cherry blossoms dancing across the cover from left to right. Sarah was left-handed. She painted the cherry blossoms every spring.
Why the memoir is captioned “a mother’s story of tragedy.”
I began writing in Sarah’s voice and completed the story in four months. I felt as if Sarah wrote with me. The title of the book was FlowerBlack; the caption was “a wooden cross on the side of the road.” Well, when I took my story to a small island writing group and was asked to read a few pages, I couldn’t read more than a few sentences. Almost six years had passed but my grief was still raw. The group suggested I rewrite the story in my voice. With their support and encouragement, I did just that. The only chapter I couldn’t rewrite is “Tolo Road.” That chapter is Sarah’s voice.
Heaven’s Child is a story told from a mother’s perspective, my perspective. And for the second edition, i decided to change the subtitle to “a true story of family, friends, and strangers.” I feel this subtitle truly defines the story.
Heaven’s Child is not a self-help book.
Nor is it a how-to manual, something that might catch your eye on a library shelf. It is simply a story detailing Sarah’s life and that tragic August night, and what we have survived as a family. I wrote the story for my children. But it is also my hope that this story encourages discussion between family, friends, and strangers.
Symbolism behind the three cherry tree blossoms.
When I was pregnant with the twins, my older brother said, “Three hearts beating together. That’s amazing. When in your life will you ever have three hearts beating within you?” The three cherry blossoms linked together are symbolic of that statement; that even though Sarah is dead, she may not live with me, but Sarah still lives within me. Nothing can separate the three of us. Oh, cherry trees in spring are Sarah’s favorite.
Two statements I put back into the manuscript after the final edit.
“The coroner’s office removed Grandmom’s body from her apartment in late morning as the turkey went into the oven.” This is exactly what happened. I wasn’t equating Grandmom’s dead body with a turkey. It was a simple statement saying that our lives continued, that we sat as a family that Thanksgiving Day and gave thanks for the many memories and loved shared with our dear grandmother. It was a sad day but her gifts to us were evident and abundant.
The second statement I put back after the final edit was: “I could erase Sarah’s space but I could never erase the stretch marks on my stomach. Looking in the mirror each morning, I am always reminded I have twins.” My editor told me the statement was grotesque, that people didn’t need to read that. But this is my truth. I could pack up Sarah’s belongings, erase her space in our home, but never can I erase the marks on my stomach. It was stretched beyond comprehension when I was pregnant with the twins!
The difference between the first edition and the second is…
The main difference between the two editions is structure. I watched people pick up Heaven’s Child, read the back cover copy, and put the book down, saying it was too sad. If I ever had the chance to do a second printing, I knew that the back cover copy would need revisions and a new cover designed. Those two decisions led to a structural change. Except for a few updates added to the second edition, the content remains the same. If a memoir is the transformation of the narrator from one point to another, and I am the narrator, then I must introduce myself first, and convince the reader to travel with me on my journey. And so the second edition of Heaven’s child begins when I open the door at “The Knock.”
Read an excerpt of Heaven’s Child……. click here
Every now and then you read a book that changes your life. This is one of those books! Caroline Flohr courageously shares her pain and grief with the loss of her daughter while offering a new perspective and appreciation for both life and death. I now have a greater understanding of the gift of life and an even stronger belief that we are indeed spiritual beings living a human life, instead of human beings living a spiritual life. This masterpiece also helped me more thoroughly appreciate the true meaning of love, family, forgiveness and the blessing of living in the present. I am convinced that Sarah can be a guardian angel for all who are blessed by reading, and being inspired by her story. Patrick Snow, International Best-Selling Author of “Creating Your Own Destiny” and “The Affluent Entrepreneur”
Caroline’s story will touch your very soul with its heartwarming narrative, lifting your spirits, making you aware that something greater than you ever could imagine happens, and this existence we call life is very special but does not end, as we cross the bridge to the other side. Donna Seebo, International Mental Practitioner, Speaker, Teacher, Author, Talk Show Host
I have cried our loud three times in the last couple decades-at the loss of my parents and reading “Heaven’s Child.” This extraordinary story has caused me to again discover what is really important: children, family, faith, and the future. Richard Mahoney, Ph.D., Chief Financial Officer, The Wine Group, Tracey, CA
“Heaven’s Child” touched my heart…very well-written, providing just enough detail of [Caroline’s] family’s interpersonal struggles. It gives the message that family relationships are often messy and complicated, and are certainly thrown into turmoil from a tragedy, but in the end it’s always the love that matters. That, and the message that a family can and does heal from such a loss, make this book a very valuable one. The evidence that our loved ones still have a presence around us after their death also porvides much hope, solace, and…I’m not sure how to say it, something like awe. Thanks for sharing your family’s story with such authenticity and intimacy. I have no doubt it is helping many people deal with their own losses. Jeff Drake, E.Ed., LPC, Mount Carmel Hospice, Columbus, OH
A must-read for all 13 year olds and parents of teens. One poor decision can cause unthinkable suffering for so many people, and no one realizes until one pays the ultimate price. Heaven’s Child is a story of caution, vigilance, living in the moment, and being constantly aware that each day could be our last. Rick Woodbury, inventor, President of Commuter Cars Corp, Spokane, WA
Hard to read (no parent should ever experience the loss of a child), “Heaven’s Child” was a good reminder that “learning to live and love in the moment is a lifelong process and the greatest gift we have is today.” Caroline is an inspiration. Joni Wickline, Vice President, The Ken Blanchard Companies, San Diego, CA
Moving and powerful….an inspiring story of loss, love, family and courage. [Caroline] gave me such a wake-up call to stop all the little petty bickering that we create and focus on the important parts of my life: family and faith.Paul Dinzeo, father of 4 children, financial advisor, Stillwater, MN
A genuine story about a real family in today’s complicated world, “Heaven’s Child” is a book that rings true…the painful moments, growth and insights. Caroline communicates well how she makes this sad event into a real learning and growing opportunity for herself and her family. Yes, it’s a story about tragedy but “Heaven’s Child” is truly an inspirational story with a message for everyone. Carol MacElwee, grandmother, Essex, CT
I could not put this book down. I felt I was right beside Caroline Flohr, as she traveled from what appeared to be an insurmountable tragedy to her gradual emergence into light and healing. This book is real and raw, an amazing journey. Elizabeth Jones, mother and investment advisor, Seattle, WA
Seems to me that this world- and all of us in it- could use a lot more emotional honesty and courage. ”Heaven’s Child” is a very honest story of being human- feeling human- and embracing our humanity and our need to connect with each other. Perhaps to “emotionally reveal is to heal.” This book is a powerful short read- and is meant to share! Marjo Wilson, singer-songwriter, artist Covelo, CA
Heaven’s Child has brought me closer to my children and step-children. I make sure to kiss and hug those around me and say “I love you” everyday. Even if it’s only through a text message to my children that are away from home. The story reminded me of the preciousness of life and how important it is to express unconditional love and forgiveness. Anna T., mother of four plus three step-children, Huntington Beach, CA