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.