I suppose the idea for True North essentially began when I was in high school. Adolescence can hand one person a lifetime of stories to fill countless books, but what really struck me as a teenager was the tragedy of young people whose lives never reached their potential. I’m not talking about the kids who never worked hard in school– or those I worry for different reasons now as a teacher; I’m talking about those kids for whom adulthood would never happen.
When I was 11, my only female cousin, Michelle, who lived in Florida, died ultimately from the leukemia she had been diagnosed with as a little girl. She was 12, and while we didn’t see each other all the time, and we didn’t have facetime back then or even email, we wrote letters and loved the time we spent together when our families gathered. Her death was the first time I remember seeing my dad cry.
When I was a little older, my 13 year old cousin, Stephen, who lived in Ohio, committed suicide on Mother’s Day. He shot himself in a barn behind the house he, his brother, and three sisters had grown up in. I had known many people who had died by this point in my adolescence, but his was the first suicide, and it left me not only filled with grief for his family, my family, but also with endless questions about what could drive a person who had love in their life to feel this was the only way out.
When I was 18 and a senior in high school, just about to graduate, my cousin, Brian, age 21, simply didn’t wake up one morning. His mom found him downstairs in his bed still seemingly asleep. He had passed away in the night from a cardiac birth defect no one had ever detected or even suspected he had. At that time in my life, he was the funniest person I knew, and I was devastated by his death and the absence he would be in the adulthood we would not share.
Teenagers are the epitome of potential energy — of what will become. And so, I started wondering. What would their lives have become if they lived to become grown ups? I daydreamed about them as I grew older. I wondered if they had already been reincarnated into other people. I found peace in my limited knowledge and understanding of reincarnation at the time.
Fast forward twenty some odd years when my husband, Geoff, and I made the decision to allow our remaining embryos to be selected by another family in search of creating a family. Geoff’s spinal cord injury suffered in 1995 rendered normal conception impossible. So after upwards of $40,000 and a few years of fertility intervention through Dartmouth Hospital in Lebanon, NH, we were gifted our children, Carver and Greta, now 5 and 4 respectively.
With nine embryos remaining in storage, we decided that discarding them didn’t feel right. To be clear, an embryo is not a baby. It, too, is a life potential. Embryos can be born into babies given the sustainable circumstances, environment, genetic traits, etc. When it was obvious that two children would be PLENTY to complete our family, we both chose to pass on our remaining potentials to another family like ours who needed some help, a medical miracle to make their wish for children to come true.
The day we drove home from signing the papers, I was struck with the idea of what they might become. These future “possible” children, who would be our exact genetic offspring yet raised in another loving home. Who would they be? What would they become? Would our paths ever cross? I looked over at Geoff in that moment and told him this would all make a good book.
Imagine, I told him, four souls I already knew actually existed in the world and they could pass through again only this time through fiction. The thought was a crazy one. How could I write a book with a full time job and two children just out of toddler-hood? But the idea was born. Its potential had been planted.