The 10th Anniversary

I’m so bad at keeping a flow of blog posts going. I believe the last time I wrote one was over two years ago when we made our move in 2014 from Maui to Southern California. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m not disciplined enough to write on a regular basis, because it’s hard to decide what to write about, or because my blog posts about Dave are always super emotional for me to write. Every post is a tearful post.

So, here I am, at a Del Taco in Lake Forest, California while my car is in the shop, using my iPhone and a Bluetooth keyboard to write. This will be the first post being written in a public place so I’m going to have to keep my sunglasses on to hide the emotions that come from writing about Dave.

Maybe this isn’t such a good idea.

Pressing on…..

Today, August 11, 2016 is the 10th anniversary of the day we lost Dave. Early this morning, Sierra posted her tribute to her daddy as she always does on August 11. I hope she’ll agree to contribute her own post to this blog someday, but for now, I’m happy that she continues her posts in homage to her dad in her own way….

Sierra's Instagram tribute

Sierra’s Instagram tribute

Ten years has gone by so quickly and I’m sure the next 10 will as well. So much has happened since that day Sierra was five years old, sitting on my lap in our bedroom as I explained that she won’t be able to see her daddy again. She’s now 15 years old and coming up on her Junior year in high school with a busy year planned.

One of the things that I’ve been thinking about much more since moving to California, is the fact that I will never have the privilege of watching one of Sierra’s soccer games with Dave. The day she got on her first soccer team was the day he we lost him. Story here: The Gift of Soccer.

A soccer tournament which Sierra played in May 2015 in New Jersey, was the first time that Dave’s family was able to see her play. This was a pretty emotional tournament for me because watching the games with his family is the closest I will ever come to watching Sierra’s games with him.

Besides soccer, there have been so many more activities, events, accomplishments, milestones that we’ve missed out on sharing in person with Dave. The big move from Maui, starting high school, learning and playing basketball and making the varsity team in her second year of playing the sport, all the exciting track meets including running with her 4×100 relay team in the CIF meets, all the extra training sessions at the court, track, soccer field, the academic struggles and accomplishments, the process and commitment to Long Beach State on a soccer scholarship, winning an ASB election as class treasurer, learning to drive a car and there are many more to come that we will only be able to experience spiritually with him.

Sierra's 2nd year playing soccer.

Sierra’s 2nd year playing soccer.

Sierra's 1st talent casting

Sierra’s 1st talent casting

1st day of high school after move to California

1st day of high school after move to California

ASB Elections 2016

ASB Elections 2016

Verbal commitment to Long Beach State on soccer scholarship (Pictured with Asst Head Coach Jeff Joyner on left and Head Coach Mauricio Ingrassia on right)

Verbal commitment to Long Beach State on soccer scholarship (Pictured with Asst Head Coach Jeff Joyner on left and Head Coach Mauricio Ingrassia on right)

I’m always looking ahead and probably stress myself out more than the average person about future events. I know I’ll be a mess at her high school graduation, college graduation, wedding…and any other big event that Sierra and I have to experience without Dave being physically here. As much as I prepare myself, I know it’ll be tough. So if you happen to be at one of these events and see me hiding behind the bleachers or in a private space, you’ll know that I need a little room to try to manage my emotions. Some people need comfort, I prefer a quiet space.

Although he’s not able to sit next to me at a soccer game or track meet or at graduation, I’m hoping that Dave continues to leave little signs here and there, as he has in the past, to let us know that he’s around.

This Nickelback music video “Never Gonna Be Alone” pretty much sums it all up for me… Great song, great video. Bust out the tissues. Believe me, you’ll need it.

As Sierra said in her tribute post, after 10 years, we don’t miss you any less. And we will remember those years spent with you and cherish memories such as these:

Sierra graduating from Preschool, June 2005

Sierra graduating from Preschool, June 2005

New SoCal Friends

Ok so this is like Stalker Mom status but whatever! Lol! I still think this is a trip and that Dave must be helping his girl out 🙂 Check it out….

This move from Maui to California has been super hectic and exhausting, but after living in a hotel with all our stuff, we finally got to move in to our apartment home on August 7. Yay!!

On our 2nd day in the apartment, we finally got a little break and Sierra and I went to the pool/hot tub to chill out a bit. I was very much looking forward to some much needed relax time.

We had planned to get there earlier, but got tied up waiting for AT&T to install Internet service for us so we got there much later, around 6:45pm. The delay turned out to be a good thing! After around 1/2 hour just before we were getting ready to leave, two teen girls entered the pool area. As soon as I saw them I thought, “Yes! New friends for Sierra!”

Long story short, I got out of the hot tub and left the pool area to give them space. In just a few minutes, they were chatting and exchanging Instagram info! I peeked out of the workout room window next to the pool area, sneaked around like a weirdo and snapped these pics 🙂

New friends 1

New friends 2

So….that’s all pretty cool and I can’t tell you how thrilled I was that this was happening! But, THIS is the trippy part!! Turns out one of the girls lives in our apartment complex and the other is moving in soon. In addition, both are going to be freshman at the same high school Sierra will be attending, both are going to be taking Spanish as Sierra is, so they may be in the same class AND one is a soccer player! The other plays volleyball so she’s an athlete too. Awesome!!

Sierra has lots of friends thru her Arsenal soccer teammates, but they all live pretty far from us. One of the things I REALLY wanted to happen when we moved to California, was for Sierra to make friends who were in our area and would be going to her new school before school started. I thought, “How can I make that happen?!”  Well…I guess we lucked out!! What are the odds of this happening?! We chose a small apartment complex in an area of about 80,000 residents and on the 2nd day here Sierra makes 2 new friends, same age, same interests, living in the same apartment complex!!

Monday, August 11, 2014, marks eight years since we lost Dave. However, I believe he’s around us wherever we are whether Maui, California or anywhere else. He’s doing his thing to help his little girl out and I know he’ll keep watching out for her…

Eight years….can’t believe its been that long. She’s doing great, Dave. Thanks for being here for us.


Our New Adventure

“It’s an adventure!” Whenever we went out and did something new or different, that’s what Dave would always say. Taking Sierra on her first trip to Disneyland, going to a restaurant for the first time, even a simple trip to the grocery store sometimes became an adventure! On a trip years ago, can’t remember where, we had an unexpected ride on an airport apron tarmac in a little shuttle bus. I remember being tired, annoyed and wondering why we had to ride around in this crowded hot van rushing and weaving thru luggage carts. I looked at Dave and he just smiled and said, “It’s an adventure”.

With Chip at Disneyland

With Chip at Disneyland

Learning to drive at Disney with Daddy

Learning to drive at Disney with Daddy

The three of us at Disneyland in 2003

Fun cab ride at Disneyland

Fun cab ride at Disneyland

Even with his busy schedule, Dave always kept a good balance in managing his time and created many adventures with Sierra and me. And we didn’t have to go somewhere far away, it was all about making the most of any activity, anywhere…making it into something fun…whatever it was.

Dave and Sierra at Kamaole Beach, Maui

Dave and Sierra at Kamaole Beach, Maui

And now, the time has come for us to set off on our biggest adventure! July 28, 2014 marks a new beginning for Sierra and me as we leave our island home, where we’ve both lived our entire lives. At first I thought about how sad it would be to leave the home Dave and I built where we raised Sierra. It felt like we would be leaving so much behind. Then I realized that wherever we go, we take all the wonderful memories with us and I know that Dave would want his daughter to get out there and be the best she could be. I also believe that Dave will be right there with us every step of the way….including being there as she plays her favorite sport. #soccer

It’s a big world, full of opportunities and we welcome all the challenges, new friends, and new experiences.

Photo of Sierra and Lena at sunset

Photo of Sierra and me at Kamaole III Beach taken by Brad Starks in January 2011.

A hui hou Maui. You will always be our home.



Santa Who?

Even when I was a kid, it was never about what I got for Christmas that mattered.  More so today because I know that there are so many people, so many kids that don’t get gifts because their families can’t afford them.  When I was a kid, we didn’t have tons of money and my parents were always cautious about spending.  They never spoiled us and bought expensive things they couldn’t afford.  And I’m grateful for their wise choices.

The memories I have of Christmastime as a kid are not about Santa and gifts, but more about family.  I remember that our Christmas tree was always ugly! Hahaha! Yep! Our tree was not beautiful like those you see at Macy’s. Why? Because my mom and dad let us kids decorate it!! AND we used those hideous silver icicles which you don’t see in the stores anymore….I wonder why!!  If you had any of those silver icicle things on your tree, no matter how carefully you placed them, there’s no way your tree would be pretty!! I wish I had a pic to show you, but I don’t…just memories of what our ugly tree looked like. The thing is…although our tree was not a pretty site, it’s still a fond memory and will always be one of the things that made Christmas special when I was a kid.

I also remember one more thing.  This memory was actually about presents. Again, what we got wasn’t important…I really don’t remember exactly what we got. This memory is about the giving side of the presents. Every year at Christmas, my sister, Terri, would have gifts under the tree for each of us.  She was the only kid in the family that planned gifts for everyone.  There would be these little kapakahi (Hawaiian for crooked, uneven, messy, disorganized) wrapped presents under our ugly silver icicle covered Christmas tree…one for each of us.  I don’t even know how she got them, if she bought them or made them…just that those little kapakahi wrapped presents were there under our hamajag (same meaning as kapakahi) tree. That’s a special memory and I’ll never forget it.  Thanks for the memories Terri!

With Dave, Christmas was always special because he made us laugh.  He used to say that his mom, Marilyn, would be out shopping for Christmas gifts and forget to get him something. He joked about her standing in line to purchase other people’s gifts, and at that point she’d remember she still had to get his gift and would just grab something as she was in line at the checkout counter. He would jokingly complain about the gifts he got from everyone. He would open something up and look at it with a puzzled expression and say something like, “Oh, you got me this?!” and he would throw it on the ground, then start laughing and everyone would laugh with him.  I think his family started getting him crazy gifts just to see what he would do when he opened it. 🙂 The holidays were always full of laughs…special memories to cherish forever.

Christmas 2003

Christmas 2003

What’s the true meaning of Christmas? It doesn’t matter if you have an ugly tree like Charlie Brown did. It doesn’t matter how many gifts you got or what you got. It’s really the thought that counts…what you do for someone else. If Sierra cleaned her room without me asking her to do it (Sierra are you reading this? 🙂 ), or randomly wrote a sweet little note to her mom, or did something thoughtful for someone, anyone…..that stuff means more to me than a store bought gift ANY DAY! Christmas is about doing something thoughtful for someone…showing someone you care….

For those who are missing family and bummed about the holidays…create your own special memories. Do something special…no matter how small…for someone else.  I promise’s the best feeling in the world and you’ll be creating memories to cherish always.

Mele Kalikimaka to all….



Farewell Grampy

“How do you spell xylophone?” a young Dave asked his dad. “Look it up!” was his dad’s reply. Dave pulled out the dictionary and did just that….”Xylophone….Z-i….” I’m sure his dad had a good laugh!

I remember some of the stories Dave told me about his dad, James Castles, Sr., of Methuen, Massachusetts. When he told them, he always did it with a bit of humor, and his love and respect for his dad was evident.

Photo of Lt. Jim Castles

Lt. Jim Castles of the Lawrence Police Dept.

Jim was a cop for 28 years and retired as a Lieutenant. He was a tough guy….you HAD to be, to be a cop in the town of Lawrence, Massachusetts.

His experience as a police officer in a rough town had paid off many times. One of which was maybe 10 years ago at the community hall where they held special events and parties. A guy pulled a knife on my mother in law, Marilyn! Jim was able to take the knife away and the guy somehow ended up on the ground, after my sister in law, Cathy, got a hold of him. Way to go Cathy! Jim definitely passed his ability to handle crazy situations such as that on to his kids.

Jim was a super supportive dad who would go out of his way to do anything for his kids. When Dave’s sister, Maureen (Mo), started college in Maine, he drove 8 hours round trip to bring her home, and again to return her to school, every single weekend.

Dave and his brother, Jimmie, often talked about how their dad would take police watch shifts at the high school basketball games so he could watch Jimmie, a basketball standout, play. Both of his sons really looked up to their father with great respect and it showed when they spoke of him, and when they had conversations with him. When their dad spoke, they listened.

Jim was also very fun-loving and enjoyed doing special little things for his kids. Dave told me that when he was a kid, his dad would make him peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch for school and cut the crust off for him. He also drew a happy face with the jelly, inside the sandwich. 🙂  It’s the little things that really count…..

When Maryellen, Dave’s sister, stayed home from school one day and asked her dad to write her a note, Jim couldn’t help letting out the prankster in him.  His note went something like this: Please excuse Maryellen for being absent from school. She had hemorrhoids and was a real pain in the —!  I can just picture him handing her the note with a serious face, and then cracking up after she read it.

Jim continued being the jokester with his grandkids, Michael, Nichole, Natalie and Sierra.  “Grampy” would say something jokingly to the kids that they sometimes would not get and he would laugh quietly to himself or with those who got it. The grandkids loved their Grampy and he loved them very much!

Photo of Grampy and the grandkids

Grampy and grandkids Nichole, Natalie, Michael, and Sierra
Taken June 2012

When I got the call on December 17 from Maureen that Jim was again in the hospital, it was a split second surprise that quickly turned into déjà vu. We had been through this for years and quite a bit during the holiday seasons. Dave had always worried about his dad and was sad that he wasn’t able to fly out to see him in the hospital. There were many, many hospital visits and Jim being the tough guy he was, had always pulled through.

The reason for his hospital stay this time was that he had fallen and fractured his hip.  Sierra and I both spoke with him the day before the surgery and he sounded great! The surgery went well; however, other medical issues complicated things a bit.

Throughout this week I thought about how Jim struggled with the loss of his son after his death on August 11, 2006.  I still remember the shaking in his voice when I spoke with him the day Dave died to explain what had happened.  Since the loss, I knew that he had continued to miss Dave, as we all still do. However, during these few days before Christmas 2012, I couldn’t help but think that maybe the time had come for him to meet up with his son again.

During this hospital stay, there were a few things that happened that caused the family to believe Dave was trying to tell us that everything was going to be okay. Our special number 11, showed up as Jim’s room number 6-11, a penny and a dime were found by family members a few times, and on the day Jim went on life support, an animated tv show called, Justin Time, was on in the waiting room.  The little boy, Justin, was imagining he was in Hawaii. Mo took a photo of the TV screen and texted it to me and also texted that her mom said, “Oh my God….it’s a Hawaiian girl with a white boy!” She laughed and said, “Just like Lena and David”.

Photo of Justin Time TV Show

TV program Justin Time played on waiting room TV at the hospital.

It brought the family some comfort to have these signs that Dave was letting us know he was here for his dad.  On Sunday, December 23, 2012, at 10:11pm Eastern, Jim was finally free from all the physical pain and heartache from the loss of his son, David.

Sierra and I were very lucky that we were able to fly out in May/June of this year to visit Grampy. We both knew it would be an important trip and we are both SO glad we spent time with him just hanging out.

This morning, Christmas Eve, was the first time I had spoken with Mo, since Jim had passed.  When she called, she was actually a bit anxious to tell me the story of what had happened when they took her dad off of life support.  After the hospital staff removed him from the machines which kept him alive, the family was called back into the room. Marilyn, my mother in law, sat next to her husband and held his hand as he took a breath…..then stopped. They waited for another breath for a bit, then Marilyn said, “He waited for us….” Everyone was gathered around his bed and broke down in tears. Jimmie asked, “Is he gone?” They weren’t sure. They all quietly wept and watched Jim as he lay there motionless, Marilyn still holding his hand as Mo leaned in and put her hand on his chest to see if he had indeed passed.

All of a sudden, he made a loud “SNORT”!  Everyone jumped!!  Then the whole family started laughing hysterically!

They went from tears of grief to tears of laughter and I’m sure the hospital must have thought the family was nuts! Lol! Jim was a prankster to the end!  I can totally imagine him and Dave standing there together cracking up laughing and pointing at the family. I can also imagine Jim saying, “Gotcha!!”

I truly do believe that Dave is teaching his dad all about the spiritual world as I’m writing this. I’m sure the golf course will be one of their hang out places as Dave and his dad both loved the sport.  I hope they both come to visit us soon here in Maui.

Photo of Jim and Dave

Jim and Dave at the Kaanapali Golf Course

Jim, thanks for being a wonderful father in law to me and a fun and loving grandfather to Sierra. I know you are well and happy. Please say hi to Dave for us.

RIP-AL: Rest in Peace…and Laughter

We love you!




Thanksgiving Grief


In coming up with the idea for this post, I thought, maybe it’s not a good idea.  Maybe it’s just too sad for the holidays. And then I thought, you know, there are people out there that will be going through the very same thing as I did.  There are people who have recently lost someone dear and may be dealing with the loss through the holidays.  I can at least give them hope and show them that although it’s tough to manage, it does get better.  I still miss Dave big time and always will, and I know that he’s still going to be with us during Thanksgiving and every holiday…just in a different way….

I had no idea it was going to hit me so hard. Dave died in August and I was able to manage a few special occasions without completely losing it, including Sierra’s 6th birthday in October.  Who knows when the emotions are going to hit hard?  You don’t…..until it happens.

Between Dave and me, he had always been the better cook.  Although over the last few years, I’ve learned more patience in the kitchen, I still like to rush things if I can.  If the recipe says 45 minutes at 350 degrees, I should be able to crank it up to 450 to shorten the time to about 30 minutes right?!  I remember that Dave would always walk by the stove as I was cooking and turn down the heat so whatever was cooking, wasn’t on “full boil”.

Ever since he moved to Maui from the Boston area, Dave would handle the Thanksgiving feast. One of things he made every year was his mom’s stuffing.  I would help to make the toast and try not to burn them.  Believe me…it’s happened! Lol!

Thanksgiving 2006 was the first Thanksgiving without Dave. I tried as much as I could to “manage” it, but honestly you can only control it to a certain extent.  Keep busy and try to keep your emotions in check….but it doesn’t always work.

I decided that I wanted to do something special for Thanksgiving to remember Dave.  So, I decided to make the stuffing he had made every year on this holiday.  I also told his family back East of my plan.  They thought it was a great idea! I think the family was also glad that they were miles away so they didn’t have to eat the stuffing!

My cooking was kind of a Castles family joke. Dave had told them many stories about my cooking, including the time I made meatballs and I overdid the breadcrumbs. He explained on the phone to the family that when he took a bite of one of my meatballs, “the meatball sucked all the saliva from my body.” He actually called them, “absorbing balls”. Thanks Dave! I have to admit though…it’s true!

So….I went to the store before Thanksgiving day and picked up all the ingredients based on Marilyn’s (Dave’s mom’s) hand written recipe. It took FOREVER to make and Sierra and I were actually late to my brother’s house for Thanksgiving dinner.

The funny thing was…and I will probably never live this down with the family…but my stuffing turned out green!! Why?….because it said to add parsley, but didn’t say how much, so I loaded it up! Parley’s good right? Healthy! They said I should make it for St Patrick’s Day too! Thanks…maybe I will!

I wish I could say how my “memorial” stuffing came out, but I can’t. As soon as I made a plate and sat down to eat, it hit me.

Dave was not here. Dave died. Here I am trying to honor him with stuffing…

I tried to chew and swallow some of my meal, but it’s really hard to swallow when you are sobbing.  I left my plate, left the table and went into the living room. I sat there and just could not stop crying.  No matter how hard I tried, I could not stop. For almost an hour, tears just flowed and the sadness was so overwhelming and I felt like I would never be able to stop. Ever!

Sierra was hanging out with her cousins and having a good time so I decided that rather than passing my sadness on to everyone else, I’d head back home alone. It was absolutely the worst Thanksgiving ever!

That was actually not the only time that’s happened.  I’ve lost it many times, sometimes on special occasions, sometimes something will just pop into my head that will cause the emotions to flow.  It still happens.  It’s normal. Expressing emotions and going through the grieving process is a way to heal.  But for me the emotions will always be there.  I’m actually glad that I still experience them and I know it’s because Dave meant a lot to me.

I got better at making the stuffing. Of course, I still think about Dave every Thanksgiving, every holiday, ever occasion…well just about every day.  I have those great memories of the past holidays to cherish and of course that memory of my  “absorbing balls”. In fact, I’m thinking of using my meatball recipe to help people.  I think it would be great to invent a product to help prevent flooding. Don’t you?! I’m sure Dave would approve 🙂

This was Thanksgiving 2001 with my parents and grandmother. Sierra was just a year old…

I’m thankful that I had Dave Castles in my life. I learned a lot from him, we made many great memories, and I am very grateful for the 11 years we spent together. I’m also very thankful for Sierra, and that we get to spend Thanksgiving together in San Diego where she’s playing in a soccer tournament. Yay! I get to watch my girl play…and I know Dave will be watching too. In fact, I’ve been told that he has been running right along side her on the soccer field. He was always a very active and supportive dad!

Oh, one more memory about this holiday…… Dave used to tell his family back East that for Thanksgiving my family eats fish heads. Well, it’s sort of true. After all, we live in Maui so we did have some whole fish along with the usual Thanksgiving turkey and all the trimmings. However, he made it seem like that’s all we had! So although we are in San Diego this holiday, I’m going to try to find some fish heads just for you Dave 🙂

Take this holiday to be thankful for those who were part of your life and know that they will always be in your life. Cherish those memories….they go with you wherever you go. And remember that the emotions continue because the love continues….

Happy Holidays to all here and in spirit!

Birthday Bear

I did not want Sierra to be born on October 13th because it happened to be on a Friday that year. Friday the 13th was a bad luck day right? I know. It’s just silly superstition. Labor lasted many, many hours but I was fine with that because Sierra was born in the wee hours of Saturday, October 14. Yay!

Dave had a particular trade show that he attended on the mainland every year during Sierra’s birthday, beginning with her first birthday. Due to those business trips, he was unable to be home for his little girl’s birthday for the first four years. After a job change, Sierra’s 5th birthday was the very first that he was able to celebrate together with us on the actual day. It also ended up being the last.

For Sierra’s 1st birthday, Dave brought home a gift from his trip. It was a cute, colorful teddy bear with a little “Happy Birthday” button. Sierra loved it and although she had quite a few stuffed animals in her room, this gift from her daddy was always her favorite. After we lost Dave in 2006, this teddy bear became even more special and we ended up giving him a name. Daddy Bear. Daddy Bear has been great comfort for Sierra whenever she needed it.

Daddy Bear

One of the things I did to help me through dealing with my loss was to write. I kept Dave’s email address and would write to him about what I was feeling…all the emotions and all the cool spiritual things I had experienced. Writing helped me tons and also made me feel like I was communicating with him.

I also wrote poems, including one I titled “A Chat with Daddy”. It mentions “Daddy Bear”, Dave’s birthday gift to Sierra that will forever be her favorite. I’m sharing it with you on a day that will always be a special day to me because its the day that the most important person in my life was born. HAPPY BIRTHDAY SIERRA!!! I love you more than ANYTHING and I know Daddy is also sending you his birthday wishes from Heaven.



Dave & Sierra after her 2nd bday party opening gifts


In Memory of Daryl Yamamoto

“The best portion of a good man’s life – his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love.” ~William Wordsworth

Daryl Tokio Yamamoto

Today, September 7, 2012, is the day of the funeral for Daryl. I had planned to go, but honestly I don’t know if I’ll be able to make it. I was emotional while making my morning coffee and am completely losing it as I’m writing this so I may have to rethink my plan to attend. This would be the first funeral I’d be attending since Dave’s in 2006. Although Dave and Daryl hadn’t met…until a few days ago….there is still a connection and I think that’s what makes it even more difficult for me.

Although Daryl’s wife, Carol and my mom are St. Anthony High School classmates, I met Daryl through his daughter, Donna. She and I had met in the late 90’s when we were coworkers at Maui Electric and continued our friendship since then.

I don’t remember if it was the day Dave died or the day after that Donna came over to my house to offer her condolences. She also wanted to share an idea that she and her dad had for a memorial video for Dave. Her dad had retired from years of service as Maui County’s County Clerk and was doing some video production and editing as a hobby.

Donna asked if I could put together a set of photos of Dave that could be scanned and included in a memorial video that Daryl wanted to produce for us. I remember telling her there is no way I could find the strength to go searching for photos in the middle of this difficult time. She asked me to think about. I did and I’m so glad I changed my mind and decided to do it. It was not easy, but grieving isn’t easy and I believe putting together the photos helped me through the early grieving stages.

All of the materials, including handwritten notes from Dave’s family were handed off to Daryl and he took it from there. I’m sure he put many, many hours into producing the beautiful and touching memorial video for us. It was perfect.

Being at the mortuary for my husband’s funeral was very surreal and also very busy. So many things went through my head, making sure everything was in place and according to plan as well as could be in the rush of a week’s time putting it all together. In the middle of the stress and emotions, I remember Daryl and Carol running around setting up the video and trying to work out the kinks as this was going to be the very first time a video was played during a funeral/memorial service at Ballard’s Mortuary. It all worked out perfectly thanks to them both.

This memorial video created by Daryl Yamamoto has helped Sierra and me through our grieving and healing process and we’ve watched it hundreds of times. We’ve watched it together and I remember times when she’d pop the dvd in the player and watch it on her own. It’s a cherished gift from a friend that continues to help us thru our loss.

Thank you Daryl. Your act of kindness and love will always be remembered by Sierra and me. RIP

Daryl’s kids, Donna and Darren, have inherited their father’s generous nature and dedication to family and friends. They also shared their dad’s love for creating visual arts in the form of filmmaking and photography. View their amazing work here:

The Day We Lost Dave

What do I tell Sierra?  How do I explain to my five year old daughter that her daddy won’t be coming home? That was my first thought when I learned the bad news in the early morning hours of August 11, 2006.

We never spent time together before work. If Dave had to work really late one night, he would come home early the next day.  However, this time was different. Dave decided he would take Sierra to school with me and then we would go out to Makena Tennis Club to play some tennis.  We hadn’t played tennis in over two months because life was just too busy. Just no time.

We took Sierra to school.  That was the last time she would see her dad alive. If we just knew these things before, we could plan for it. We could express our feelings, hang on to a few more minutes together….but sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way.

Dave and I played tennis and he ignored the many phone calls he received during that hour. We kept it pretty mellow. Normally he’s cranking the ball and pretending to be in the finals at Wimbledon. I’d get pissed off and try to hit him as hard as I could with the ball. We had a pretty fun time and Dave won the set, but ONLY because I LET him 🙂

On the drive home, he said something that I’ve thought about a lot.  Just one of those weird things…Dave said that we needed to set up a life insurance policy for me. I just said, “ok”.  Eleven days later that’s exactly what I did as a newly widowed mom looking out for her child.

After getting cleaned up and getting ready to leave the house, Dave invited me out to a lunch that he was scheduled to host with one of their vendors and their sales team.  I declined because I didn’t think it was right for me to attend this business lunch meeting for a freebie lunch.  I wish I had gone because that would have been an extra hour and a half spent with him.

The rest of the day and evening was pretty normal, except Dave was working late.  They had a sales team reward dinner meeting that he had to host. He had planned to be home at 10pm. At 10, he called me and said he was going to stay out for a bit longer. I was fine with it as long as I knew the plan. He was great at communicating with me on being late…something that took a while for him to learn.  I’m such a worrier, and in the past I had called the police station, called the hospital, worried that something had happened to him because he was late.  How silly right? Well, nothing bad had ever happened.  I worried for nothing, because he always came home.

But not this time……

I woke up at 1:55am and saw that Dave was not yet home. I called his cell phone and it went straight to voice mail. I was a little worried, but I knew that the club he was going to had very bad reception. However, he still could have called me or something! How irresponsible! I ended up leaving him an angry voice message. Then, I went downstairs to my office and worked for a couple of hours.

Just past 4:00am and I started trying to guess where he could be.  Did he get into a fight? Did he get pulled over? Maybe he was playing poker…I remember the last time he played just a couple of weeks before while Sierra and I were in Seattle.  He called me about his plans and he wasn’t sure how late he was going to be, he said, “playing to win, whatever it takes”.

4:30am….I can’t stand it. I pour myself a rum and coke and sit in the recliner…extremely nervous and worried that something happened. All these crazy thoughts are running through my head. I took a sip of my drink, then the door bell rang.  Someone is ringing my doorbell at 4:40am.  Why is Dave not coming in thru the garage?! Why would he ring the door bell at this hour?!  Who could that be?! These were my thoughts as I ran down to the front door.

I knew the second that I saw Duke that it wasn’t going to be good. He was a friend of Dave’s and they played beach volleyball together at Kamaole One Beach. Duke was also a police officer.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget those next few moments. It’s hard to prepare for such a shocker…you can run it through your mind…and imagine something happening to your loved one, but when it actually does happen….it seems surreal.  It seems like a stupid dream. A nightmare.

I looked at Duke and he put his head down.  I knew it was really bad, but I had to hear him say it. He finally spoke and said, “There was an accident.” He stopped talking and just kept looking down.

“WHAT DUKE?!” I guess I just needed to hear the words.

“There was an accident…..and Dave didn’t make it.” he said, still looking at the ground.

Those ended up being the exact words I used to explain what happened to everyone else, over and over, “There was an accident…and Dave didn’t make it.”

I sat down on the floor in shock and I remember saying, “What do I tell Sierra?”


I really struggled with handling the information I had based on the final report about what happened.  The papers of course needed to get the story out and printed an article on early information and assumptions. To read The Maui News article that said that Dave “apparently lost control” really angered me and I knew that it was not true.

The final report confirmed my beliefs.

There were other factors, other people involved. Although I’ve had to accept what happened…I do continue to struggle with the fact that others played a role in the accident. Had those guys not been there that night/morning, Dave would be here today. And had it not been Dave, but another motorist driving by at that moment, it’s possible that the result might have been even more loss of life.

I believe that Dave saved the lives of the people who were a factor in him losing his life. Sometimes life isn’t fair, but I think there’s always more to the entire picture and sometimes it just takes a while to see it. He’ll always be a hero to me and Sierra.  He has contributed to our lives so much in the past and he continues to do so……

A movie I had watched soon after the accident, helped me to see “the bigger picture”.  I’ve watched it many, many times and it will always be one of my favorites.  It’s based on a book by Mitch Albom, and it’s called “The Five People You Meet in Heaven”.  I highly recommend it.


Every year, I try to do something special on different occasions including the anniversary of Dave’s passing. Every year is different. Some are easy and some are a little difficult.  This 6th anniversary, 8/11/2012, seems a bit difficult.  I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I have a lot of things going on in my life.  Stressful things, but also really great things…..however, even the good things can be emotional.

How do I handle it? I take it as it comes. I embrace all of the emotions that come because it’s better to feel emotions than to feel nothing. Happiness, sadness…it all makes me feel closer to Dave, so it’s all good!

Life can be so tough. We have to deal with things like not being able to get a job that we really need, financial and business troubles, a family member or friend dealing with medical issues. There will always be losses in our lives from losing a big soccer game …to more devastating losses like losing someone you hold deeply in your heart with no chance to say “goodbye”.  We have to learn, we have grow from all of life’s difficult times.

I haven’t moved on. I prefer to say that I’m moving forward…taking with me all of the memories, all of the emotions.  I try to use all of my experiences….good and bad, happy and sad….to manage anything, everything that comes my way.

Losing Dave has definitely made me a stronger person. I honestly believe that there are some important things that I’m supposed to accomplish that maybe, just maybe, would not happen had I not gone thru this big loss. I’m not even sure what those things are. What I do know, is that I am going to try to do my very best to make sure that I make a difference in my lifetime here on this plane… honor of David Castles.

World Peace maybe?….now THAT would be ridiculous 🙂


We miss you Dave…..

Daddy’s Daughter

Something Sierra said and did the other night gave me this idea for a blog post.  It also reminded me how much of a goofball Dave was…..and how she is so much like her daddy. A big goofball! 🙂

Sierra being goofy

Silly Sierra

The other night, Sierra was in my bathroom….again…and as I walked in to get something, she said, “Mom, look!” She pointed at her left calf, posed and flexed, showing off her calf muscles as she flashed a silly smile and raised her eyebrows up and down. This is totally something Dave would do and has done! He’s done that and……always joked around doing the pectoral muscle dance. Whenever he did it, I’d just look at him and shake my head and tell him how crazy he was.

In April 1995, Dave’s friends, Chrissy and Bonnie Russell from Long Island, New York, came to visit us here in Maui. We ended up taking them out to beautiful Hana. One of the things I remember was Chrissy not enjoying the long windy road and her saying that she was feeling “Nosh”. That was the first time I had ever heard someone say that….”Nosh”.

We stopped by Hasegawa Store in Hana and while walking through the parking lot, a guy stopped Dave and said, “Hey! Are you from Methuen, Massachusetts?!” Dave said, “Yeah, how you doin’?” …something he said pretty often in his thick Boston accent. They chatted for a bit more before we continued on to the store. I was confused. I asked Dave, “How does he know you’re from Methuen?!” Dave looked at me and said,”He can tell from my calves.” And with that he pointed at one of his calves and flexed, then looked back at me and laughed. I thought, “What the heck?” and was trying to figure it out.

It wasn’t until later on that I realized that printed on the back of his t-shirt was of an image of a volleyball tournament held in Methuen, MA.

These photos were taken on that Hana trip with Chrissy, Bonnie and our friend Eric Brooks.  We stayed out at the Waianapanapa cabins and had a blast! Dave always made fun of the gifts his family gave him and they would always laugh about it.  In these pics he was actually making fun of the clothes he had received for Christmas from his parents… a set of Mickey Mouse pajamas.  Those actually ended up being his favorite shorts and he wore them for years 🙂

Dave flexing in his Disney PJs

Dave flexing in his Disney PJs

Dave made us all laugh all the time and and I’m so glad that we still talk about and laugh about the funny things he did and said.

It’s really crazy that Sierra does a lot of the same silly, goofy things Dave did.  I love it! It shows that she takes after her dad in many ways, but also makes me feel like he’s still close by….

Laughter is good for the soul….and I’m happy to say that it’s part of daily life for Sierra and me….