The Golden Sky Tribute for My Daughter

EC Writes

Tomorrow, Elisa Hirsch will be celebrating the release of her new book THE GOLDEN SKY by hosting a blogfest and media extravaganza. Congratulations Elisa!  For more about her book, a huge giveaway ($ and ipad!), some reviews, and a trailer, visit her blog here.

This blogfest is not really like other book-release blog parties I’ve been a part of because Elisa’s book is a memoir about the death of her son, Zeke.

I know that many will have read that last line and clicked away, because let’s face it, the death of a child is unpleasant stuff. But for those of you who are still with me–thanks for sticking around–I know child loss makes people really uncomfortable.

Elisa asked us to celebrate her book release by writing a tribute to someone we have lost. With that on my mind, I’d like to introduce you to my oldest daughter, Rowan. She doesn’t get a lot of attention here on my writing blog, but I don’t think she minds.  She has her own website doing loads of really good stuff here.

Rowan Johanna O’Flynn 12/17 – 18/1999

Rowan Johanna was born on December 17, 1999 and although she spent a little less than 24 hours with us, she changed our lives forever. After almost twelve years, I still think about her every day.

It is so hard to explain to the uninitiated the difficulties bereaved parents face after losing a child. While so much about grief is universal and truly shared by everyone who has felt deep loss, the loss of my child remains the most isolating thing I have ever experienced.

It is almost like waking up in the morning to learn that everyone is suddenly speaking a different language. You feel like you might have some tiny idea what they’re saying, but… you really just. can’t. grab. on. right. now.

Hello and Goodbye

When I think about a tribute to my daughter, I could start listing all the things in my life that I am grateful for. My perspective on the things for which I am grateful was deeply impacted by losing our daughter. There is so much beauty and goodness that can come after loss. That doesn’t make the death acceptable; nothing can ever do that. But what a waste it would be to ignore the gifts.

Rowan’s tile at RTF’s memorial plaza in Colorado.

When I look back on my life and the years since our daughter died, I can’t imagine it any other way. Rowan’s short life has had such an impact on me, my family, our friends, and so many people who never even met her.

Some of my dearest friends came to me through loss. I’ve learned about giving back, about accepting support, about the different ways love can look. I’ve learned about the power of connecting. I’ve learned to let go of the small stuff (mostly!). While I am not even close to perfect, I know I’m a better person for having known my daughter. Her lessons resonate the loudest even though she never made a sound.

Thank you Rowan, for honoring us with your presence and for the gift of being your mom.


If someone you know is dealing with the loss of a child, please reach out to them. Let them cry big fat messy tears in front of you. Say their child’s name. Tell them you are sorry and you don’t know what to say. Tell them about Rowan Tree Foundation (a org which was named for our daughter) or MISS Foundation, tell them about The Compassionate Friends. Tell them about stories written by bereaved moms and dads like THE GOLDEN SKY.  Google “child loss support” for them and find local support. Because there is power in connecting with others and realizing that you are not alone. Healing is made a little bit easier when you can share your story.

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