It’s been practically four years since David Lee Small, in the early on stages the divorce proceedings, collection fire to his family’s valve Alstyne home, death his two kids — Reagan, 9, and Grant, 8 — himself and also their 2 dogs.

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Nothing of the residence remains now, not even a slab. Every little thing is gone and also life, as the saying goes, moves on. Yet what of those closest come this tragedy who space left behind — especially the children’s mother, Karen Sparks, 41, who has struggled to discover purpose and also hope ever since?

Some answers to that concern will soon be known, as Sparks’ upcoming book, “The 11-Year Burn — A Mother’s Memoir,” is slated because that completion in November and also will information her continuous journey back from despair and her plans because that a abundant future. V the book, Sparks also intends to honor the lives of Grant and Reagan and raise awareness around domestic violence.

While Sparks’ route from Nov. 1, 2015 to the current was anything however easy, she now appears poised to bring on — and try to aid others. The book, which is a collaborative initiative by Sparks and also her sister, Kori Sparks, 45, will use as that story arc the extreme 90-day residential therapy regimen Karen Sparks completed last year in Tennessee.

Karen Sparks and also Kori Sparks currently live with each other in Melissa. They sat down recently at Cardinals stadium to talk about the book. It’s here that their father, duke Sparks, has actually his office as director of athletic Operations and Community Partnerships because that the Melissa Independent school District.

“It’s a message of hope,” Karen Sparks said. “The reality is it’s a choice. I have actually a selection to one of two people cave and never carry out anything about any of this and also just wither far — like sometimes I want to because I’m for this reason tired and exhausted — or I keep fighting. There are plenty of of us, i think, that shot to be irradiate in this dark world. I’m praying the this will certainly be just an additional spark come ignite the fire in me. … i can’t carry out this alone, I understand that. I think I believed I could, most likely a couple of years ago. Yet there’s no way.”

‘I’ve learned come speak up’

The publication will call “everything,” Karen Sparks said.

“This is no of me,” she said. “This is very humbling. This is about God. This is around Reagan and also Grant. I’m being an extremely vulnerable and also open and also real. … I’ve learned I have a voice and to speak up for myself. Ns want people to know that they have the right to do the very same thing.”

Karen Sparks’ bottom line: before she’s through, her kids will no have died in vain — and also perhaps others have the right to be saved.

Her fight for relative normalcy is fixed over. Details places and particular times that the year deserve to still lug deep sorrow and also panic. The very first day of school last month was an especially tough, she said.

Through it all, Karen and her family, consisting of mom Sue Sparks, have found strength in their Christian faith. A most her journey, Karen Sparks said, has involved taking a action in faith.

“I don’t understand if I’d ever before truly done that,” she said.

While she had pondered a book for part time, the ultimate motivation came indigenous On High, as provided by duke Sparks in ~ a current Melissa football scrimmage.

“On may 5, 2019, I remained in my quiet time,” that said. “And the mr spoke come me as clearly as I’m speaking to you. That said, ‘Write the book. It’s the key. I’ll take treatment of it.’”

Duke called his daughters that his experience and, with that impetus, the sisters began writing in July.

“It is going to change lives,” fight it out Sparks said. “It’s going to save babies’ lives. Ns truly believe that.”

Kori Sparks, with a to teach background and years of functioning in film production in California, has actually lent her creative writing an abilities to the effort.

“When ns came ago from California (in 2012), she was not all there,” Kori Sparks claimed of she sister. “But she was a good mother. She had no self-esteem. She was just quiet. She to be still fun every now and also again yet she was the usual abused spouse. She to be being controlled.”

Karen has only freshly seen the full investigation report, including forensics data and also post-fire picture of Grant and also Reagan on the floor that the home’s understand bathroom with small and the dogs. Lot of the information she’s gleaned will show up in the publication — and also some will be common here.

The fire

“We looked prefer the All-American normal family from the outside,” Karen Sparks said.

By October 2015, Karen had actually moved in through her parental in Allen and also filed because that divorce. 2 weeks after ~ being served papers, over the Halloween weekend, tiny had his first unaccompanied visit through Reagan and also Grant. Karen Sparks would never ever see her kids alive again.

Duke Sparks to be to pick up the children on Sunday. The an initial chapter that the book describes in information what followed — the frantic speak to from a neighbor informing Karen the residence was top top fire; Karen’s call to her father questioning if he had gotten the youngsters yet; battle each other dashing to the residence to learn the terrible truth; and his call back to Karen, as soon as he didn’t have to say a word.

Duke Sparks would certainly tell household members, “Do not let Karen come.”

“I wasn’t a part of that day,” Karen Sparks said. “I wasn’t on-site, ns was protected. … i didn’t watch (Grant and Reagan) till eight days later in caskets, as soon as they to be embalmed. That’s choose a shell, that’s not my kids. I felt robbed everywhere again.”

Precious points from Karen’s childhood — and from Reagan and also Grant — the were stored in the garage were additionally destroyed.

“He burned my whole life to the ground,” Karen said.

Karen said, the examination revealed how small had doused the home’s inner with gasoline and other accelerants.

Most all the home was gutted — except where Reagan and Grant were found. Autopsies showed smoke inhalation together the reason of death.

“The roof to be still over them and also my kids were beautiful,” Karen Sparks said. “They were whole and also they didn’t suffer. They were laying as if they were laying in their beds. … This would be a entirety nother ballgame if ns knew mine kids melted alive. Ns don’t know if I’d it is in here.”

Questions remain, though, that may never be answered. How did little get the children into that room? just how were lock made come stay? No drugs were uncovered in their bodies, they weren’t bound and also no one had actually been shot.

“The only human that to know the price to all of this is David Small,” Karen said. “No fireman, investigator or anybody i spoke with might give me the exact answer.”

Running top top empty

Karen continued to continue to be with she parents because that 18 months after the tragedy. During this time, she threw herself right into distance running — and boxing.

“I took her to location Boxing in Allen,” Kori Sparks said. “I just dropped her off and said, ‘Here she is. Let her rage.’ … She just constantly seemed prefer she to be strong. She rarely would present us her pain.”

“She ran, she boxed, she did everything,” battle each other Sparks said. “But that was running from the grief and the tragedy. … It to be her way of fighting v it, because she’s a coach’s kid. She didn’t know however one way to do it.”

In might 2017, Karen Sparks acquired an apartment in McKinney and started work-related as a part-time receptionist in she cousin’s salon.

“She provided me a chance,” Karen Sparks said. “I was getting my independence earlier and make the efforts to uncover who ns was again. I had no idea.”

But by fall, close to the 2 year anniversary of she children’s deaths, Karen’s brave front started to crack — and family members easily noticed.

“We watched her run out of she physical and also mental toughness on her own,” Kori Sparks said. “She to be depressed, she was suicidal. Us were really concerned.”

Looking back, Karen Sparks stated she felt as though she had actually no identity. She had actually been a mom. She have to be dropping her kids off at football practice or the gym. The family began researching residential treatment facilities and also presented the idea come Karen.

“She feeling betrayed by every one of us,” Kori Sparks said. “It was, like, ‘How dare we?’ as soon as again, we’re ‘meddling’ once she’s trying come heal.”

“I wasn’t totally versus it,” Karen Sparks said, but added that she didn’t really think it was necessary. “I had a time framework of as soon as I want to go. Climate a series of points happened and also Dad said, ‘I cannot sit earlier any longer and also watch this. You space going at this time, this date.’ he just had actually to placed his foot down.”

Duke Sparks journey Karen to the highly-recommended facility in Tennessee the they’d preferred — a 10-hour trip, and also the two claimed they didn’t speak for around the first eight hours.

“She was very angry,” fight it out Sparks said. “It’s favor I was acquisition her come prison. … We had actually a small ice-breaker after dinner and started talking.”

She entered the doors of the basic on might 21, 2018.

The regime there devoted in post-trauma treatment — any trauma, indigenous childhood come adult — and also at first, Karen Sparks was no on board.

“I would certainly think, ‘Why am I even here? I’m not an addict. Nobody understands,’” she said.

After daunting starts and also stops, as in-depth in the book, Karen Sparks began to watch some light.

“I learned the ‘little Ts’ and ‘big Ts’: small trauma, big trauma,” she said. “All those tiny ones can be a major one in her life. … girlfriend can gain in the pit, however don’t continue to be there. Don’t let circumstances take you under and keep girlfriend under. Keep going. Everyone has actually a purpose.”

“She did the work,” Kori Sparks said. “There are human being that don’t do it, however she go the work.”

Karen even went ago for a main this year to accomplish with other grieving parents. Sit one-on-one through mothers who’ve shed a child is currently something rather she wants to carry out with her life.

“I have actually met various other moms choose me about the U.S. And also we affix through Facebook,” Karen Sparks said. “It’s crazy due to the fact that just as soon as you think you’re the only one the end there, it’s taken place to someone else — and you reach out and also it’s like that domino effect. I’m thankful the I’m not the only one feeling choose I’m drowning all alone.”

The publication will conclude v the “race” Karen Sparks wants to run now — even if it’s just acquiring up each day and pressing on.

“You don’t win,” Kori Sparks said. “It’s a loss because that the rest of your life. But you can rise every day and also say, ‘I have actually victory since I’m able come share the love of my youngsters and assist the people I can.’ … come sit here and also listen to her now, this is the sisters I always knew. Come hear she speaking and also have a voice — she didn’t have actually that.”

“Their legacy will live on,” Karen Sparks said of Reagan and also Grant. “I’m the advocate, I’m the messenger. … If something wake up to me, or if I choose to quit, climate they die a second death — and also I’m no going to have actually that. Ns can’t.

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For excerpts from “The 11-Year Burn” and much more information, visit karenasparks.com.