Colors of Goodbye ~ A Book Review

Colors of Goodbye ~ A Book Review

Despite my determination NOT to buy any more new books until I had made some inroads into the pile of unread titles weighing down my bookshelves, as soon as I read about the new book written by September Vaudrey and published last month, I was hooked. Within minutes my fingers had navigated the familiar keys of my keyboard, the book was ordered and it was on its’ way.

Colors of Goodbye

As soon as it arrived, Colors of Goodbye: A Memoir of Holding On, Letting Go, and Reclaiming Joy in the Wake of Loss captivated me with its tasteful cover and the delicate artwork that marks the beginning of each new chapter. I couldn’t wait to start reading it. I read the entire 292 pages in less than a week. There is much about September’s journey as a grieving mother that is different to mine, but there are also many similarities. September’s 19 year old daughter has a car accident and she is in a coma. They are told that she is ‘brain dead’.

September is a natural writer, she shares openly and authentically with her readers how she processes everything that happens:

Praying and hoping that God will perform a miracle and heal Katie.

Wondering if she should tell her adult children everything about Katie’s medical condition before they fly home or if she should wait and speak to them face to face, but thereby run the risk of them being informed via social media or text whilst en route?

September describes being alone with her daughter in ICU and noticing how quiet it is, save the beeping of the monitors and the rhythmic whoosh of the ventilator. She holds her daughter’s hand and asks herself “Is this real or is it a parent’s worst nightmare?” I too was that parent, alone in an ICU room with my unconscious daughter and the sounds of beeping and swooshing, knowing I would never again hear my daughter’s voice or feel her loving embrace.

Interspersed with these details are references to September’s unshakeable faith in a God who cares and her unfaltering sense of humour – I felt so at home in this book.

September writes through her pain and talks us through some of the challenges of being a grieving parent who is parenting grieving children. She speaks of her and her husband being together, yet alone – he doesn’t know what it feels like for a mother to lose a daughter and she doesn’t know what it’s like for a father to lose his little girl. Their four other children are teenagers and young adults and between the six of them they demonstrate a range of grieving styles. September describes the delicate process of learning to respect each other’s ways of coping. Her stoic husband Scott describes their grief and loss as being like an amputation – ‘the wound will eventually heal but we’ll still be missing an arm.


September gives us insight into her thought processes as she endeavours to both hold on and let go. To find enduring ways to remember Katie and honour her place in their family, whilst at the same time not wishing to turn their home into a ‘Katie shrine’. September talks about the gaping wound in her soul that her daughter’s death has created and how easy it would be to fill this hole with bitterness, anger and self-pity. On the three year anniversary of her daughter’s death September discovers that the sorrow that has been her constant companion since Katie died was now mingled with ‘an inexplicable sense of peace and unapologetic sparks of joy’. September writes of this discovery:

God, always the gentleman, had not rushed me or demanded I accept this life whose story line still horrified me, and perhaps always would. He had simply continued to invite and to fan little embers of joy beneath the ashes as constant reminders of His love for me. He had not forgotten me or my family or our pain.

September’s authentic voice, as she writes movingly about the life and death of her beautiful daughter Katie and life after loss, has helped me to reflect on my own grief journey. Whilst travelling through the story of this grieving mama, I have revisited some of my own difficult places and found little pieces of healing. I highly recommend this book to anyone seeking to navigate the minefields of grief and loss while holding on to their faith in a loving God.

In this 6 minute video September and Scott talk about their loss. Scott says that he has good news and bad news: the good news is that you won’t always feel this way, that gradually the intolerable ache softens, the bad news is that you never get over this. He says that he’s learned to get on with life, but the loss of his daughter is always just below the surface. September says that in the almost eight years since Katie died, that God has continuously showed up in their story, usually in the thumbprints of other people – especially when people don’t forget your child and they don’t forget your sorrow – she describes ‘church’ as a community of people who do life together.

Three of my Favourite Words

Three of my Favourite Words

I currently have three words that I really like.

They are – in no particular order – HOPE, JOY, and GRACE.

I don’t claim to exemplify the qualities inherent in the concepts that these words embody, but I would like to think that by focussing my thinking on them, they will then become more evident in my life.

Wikipedia describes HOPE as an optimistic attitude of mind based on an expectation of positive outcomes related to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large.

Kay Warren describes JOY as the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.

John MacArthur defines GRACE as the free and benevolent influence of a holy God operating sovereignly in the lives of undeserving sinners.


Some people criticise modern worship songs and choruses by saying that they are too simple, with not enough depth to them.

I accept that some of the traditional hymns contain an amazing depth of theology, that is lacking in some of our modern worship songs.

However, I think that there’s a place for both.

When I’m in a place of very deep emotional pain, it’s usually not deep theology that I need. Sometimes I need to very simply be reminded of the basic truths of the Christian Gospel.

On several occasions since Leah has died, we as a family have attended a church other than our own, in the hope of being able to worship God, without being engulfed in the inevitable emotion produced by attending the church where our daughter was so involved and where our children have grown up.

It really is impossible however to avoid “grief triggers” completely, so on these occasions I usually find myself crying in whatever church we’re visiting.

On one of these occasions not long after Leah had died, the church where we were visiting was having a family service. The hymns that they sang were very simple – of the “Jesus loves me, this I know” variety. Instead of a sermon, they showed a children’s DVD that taught a simple Bible lesson.

I came away feeling that I had met with God. A full blown sermon could have left me feeling discouraged by my inability to connect with what I was hearing. I was exhausted from grieving and my attention span was very short. Their simple service, aimed at the younger members of the congregation, had been exactly what I needed.

I just needed to be reminded of the basics:

God loves me.

Jesus died for me.

Some day all who love the Lord Jesus will be reunited for all eternity.

Listening to modern worship songs, with their beautiful words, helps me to hold on to these truths on a daily basis.

One of the songs that I’ve been listening to a lot lately is simply called GRACE by Martin Smith:

I was lost when you found me here

You pulled me close and held me near

And I’m a fool but still You love

I’ll be your fool for the King of Love

You gave me wings so I could fly

And gave me a song to color the sky

And all I have is all from you

And all I want is all of you

It’s Grace, grace

I’m nothing without You

Grace, Your grace

Shines on me

And there’ve been days when I’ve walked away

Too much to carry nothing left to say

Forgive me Lord when I’m weak and lost

You traded heaven for a wooden cross

And all these years You’ve carried me

You’ve been my eyes when I couldn’t see

And beauty grows in the driving rain

Your oil of gladness in the times of pain

Your Grace, grace

I’m nothing without You

Grace, Your grace

Shines on me

Grace, oh grace

I’m everything with You

Grace, Your grace

Shines on me