Before the death of her 16-year-old twin daughter, Sarah, Caroline Flohr says she was living under some major misapprehensions.
“Like so many, I believed that tragedies happened somewhere else, to other families, and were something we only read about,” she says.
On Aug. 23, 2004, it happened in her community – to her family. Sarah died in a car accident. It would take Caroline several years to come to some kind of peace.
“I believed that death came after a life had been fully lived, when one was long past childhood. I was wrong,” says Caroline who writes about her family’s spiritual journey in the memoir, “Heaven’s Child,” (www.heavenschild.com).
“Death comes when it will.”
On the fifth anniversary of Sarah’s death, her friends and family – Caroline; Sarah’s grandmother, Nonny; her grandfather, Papa Ed; stepfather, Andy; twin sister, Caiti; brother, Christopher; sister, Mary; and her sister, Annie – agreed to set her free. She would be released from her family’s pain and grief, powerful emotions that ensnared her spirit. The family accepted her loss in a celebratory ceremony at Sarah’s grave.
“I’ve allowed my heart to mend, to hold onto Sarah’s memory but not the pain of her loss,” says Caroline.
She says she has become a more complete and spiritual person since the death of her daughter, and explains how her faith made that possible:
• “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” – Martin Luther King … What does a bereaved mother do with the rest of her teenage daughter’s life, which has moved on to the next stage? After a few weeks, Caroline cancelled Sarah’s cell phone, and the family slowly returned to a regular routine. Caroline lights a candle during dinner, with a picture of Sarah and her twin sister placed nearby. Though she can’t see Sarah, she feels her presence. It may be in the kindness of a stranger, the sudden appearance of something that was lost, the smell of a certain fragrance. Faith is believing in that which you can’t see – and not ignoring what you can feel.
• The present is a present: Within weeks of Sarah’s death, the family dog, Emmett, died. After so much loss, the family welcomed a yellow Labrador, which would be named Lady Brooke. While witnessing the joy the dog brought back to the household, it became abundantly clear that experiencing joy in life was a gift. Indeed, every moment given to us should be considered a gift, including the memories of loved ones no longer physically in our lives.
• Interweaving death with life: In the five years from Aug. 23, 2004 to Aug. 24, 2009, Caroline learned how to weave the reality of death into her daily life. Death is no longer one heavy fact that cuts through life but rather a part of life that makes joy sweeter and relationships richer. By interweaving death with life, we are always reminded of what is important.
About Caroline Flohr
Caroline Flohr was a busy wife and mother to five children when her 16-year-old twin daughter, Sarah, was killed in an accident. She was forced to dig into the deeper meaning of existence and came away with profound edification. Flohr lives with her husband and children on Bainbridge Island, a suburb of Seattle. She will be a participating author at Seattle University’s Search For Meaning Conference in March 2013.