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2017 ECPA Christian Book Award Finalist (Biography and Memoir category)
What happens after the worst happens?

Before May 31, 2008, September Vaudrey’s life was beautiful. But on that day, with one phone call from the ER, her whole world—everything she knew and believed—was shaken to the core. Katie, her 19-year-old artist daughter, had been in a car accident and would not survive. How does a family live in the wake of devastating tragedy? When darkness colors every moment, is it possible to find light? Can God still be good, even after goodbye?

With the depth of C. S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed and the poignancy of Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, Colors of Goodbye offers a moving glimpse into a mother’s heart. Combining literary narrative and raw reflection, September Vaudrey walks through one of life’s worst losses—the death of a child—and slowly becomes open to watching for the unexpected ways God carries her through it. It’s a story of love and tragedy in tandem; a deeply personal memoir from a life forever changed by one empty place. And at its core, Colors of Goodbye calls to the deepest part of our spirits to know that death is not the end . . . and that life can be beautiful still.

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On May 31, 2008, Vaudrey’s 19-year-old daughter Katie was in a fatal car accident. She was home on summer break from Azusa Pacific, where she was studying art, and that particular day she was running late for her waitressing job. Vaudrey and her husband, a pastor at Chicago-area megachurch Willow Creek, rushed to the hospital to find Katie in a coma with a broken neck and severe intracerebral hemorrhaging. Was her accident the result of sloppy teenage driving, or—as Vaudrey saw in a vision—had Katie already been unconscious at the time of the crash from a burst aneurysm? With Katie brain-dead, their large, close-knit family had just 24 hours to say goodbye. This moving debut memoir, richly illustrated with Katie’s own artwork, interweaves medical detail, flashbacks to Katie’s childhood, convincing reconstructions of dialogue, and a brave rendering of the two years following her death. The content is lovingly arranged under color headings and inspirational epigraphs. Grief was often nearly overwhelming, but the whole “horrid-beautiful” time drew Vaudrey closer to God. “Don’t put it off. Don’t avoid. Lean into the pain,” she kept reminding herself. Exquisitely balanced between sadness and joy, this sensitive account of a mother’s loss will leave ripples.

The author writers with colorful prose about her personal walk through pain and darkness in the early months after her daughter’s death. As a keen observer of life and people, Vaudrey eloquently captures her husband’s and remaining children’s stories just as clearly as her own. Colors of Goodbye walks readers through the steps of grief and into the brave new tomorrow that will always be checkered by loving memories of a child who died far too soon. Readers will appreciate the skillful manner in which Vaudrey brings faith-based life principles into every scenario while tenderly addressing the natural scars that open and close when a loved one dies. Her experience will comfort and challenge anyone who has dared to love deeply, lost profoundly, and kept on loving just the same.