Heather Summerhayes Cariou pens a beautiful tribute of sibling love in Sixtyfive Roses: A Sister’s Memoir. Heather was six years old when her sister, Pam, was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis and prognosis presented one month to live. “Sixtyfive Roses” was the way Pam pronounced the disease. This heart-wrenching story filled with laughter, tenderness, unconditional love, guilt, and tremendous hopeful account of the will to live, despite probability, is the type of read you can’t put down - it touches the core of your heart and is authored with intense love.
Celine Dion provides the foreword and speaks from personal experience. Dion’s beloved niece, Karine, died of Cystic Fibrosis at age sixteen: “This is a moving account of her (author’s) family’s refusal to give up when faced with the devastating news that her sister had Cystic Fibrosis (CF).”
On her deathbed, Pam wheezes, and struggled to catch her last breathe, yet with conviction, articulates to Heather, “Write our story. Tell what we lived through, together.” Sixtyfive Roses is the result of that wish, honored by Heather with courage, sincerity and genuineness. The portrait painted is not a perfect picture; the impact of Pam’s condition on the family brings emotional and financial hardships, plus drives dysfunctional behaviors.
Anger, disappointment, sadness and happiness are woven into the canvas of this family’s story. Despite hospitalization and medical treatments that at times seem barbaric, Pam defies medical prediction and becomes an adolescent, high school and college graduate, and lives to be twenty-six-years-old. Fearlessly, Pam shows the world, she can flourish despite a terminal illness. Pam’s tremendous courage is evident, as hospital settings are a staple in this read, as well as sibling tears.
The reader clearly ascertains that unconditional love is not without sacrifice. To truly love means washing away one’s own hopes and dreams, especially, in the case of a mother and father. Summerhayes Cariou writes “Death ate our food and slept in our beds, making itself at home like a long lost member of the family. Our hopes curled into thin shavings that piled up around our feet.” The author plagued with culpability propels critical scenes in this read, such as relinquishing a lifetime career opportunity to be close to her sister.
The quest to provide the best life possible for their child drives Summerhayes’ family to establish the Canadian Chapter of Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. A portion of the proceeds from this book will go to Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Sixtyfive Roses is an inspirational read, similar to planting a garden, filled with murky moments that serve as basis to grow beautiful flowers. In the case of Sixtyfive Roses, Pam’s request of her sister Heather, to write their story, is the stunning flower for the world to witness.