Happy Birthday Dave!

Today, January 4, is Dave’s birthday. It would have been his 50th so it was important to share this post on this special day for Dave and for me and Sierra too.

For years after Dave died, Sierra and I would get him a card and write a note to him and get a cake for his bday. It was important for us to continuing celebrating him.

A cake Sierra and her Aunty Mo made for Dave’s bday in 2008


Sierra with a cake we got to celebrate her dad’s birthday back in maybe 2010.

Tonight, we will do something special to remember him as well as add butterfly #50 to the David Tree that we put up every year during the holidays. (Story about our David Tree)

Sierra and I decorating the David Tree for Christmas with a butterfly for each year of Dave’s age. We add another butterfly to celebrate his birthday January 4th.

I’ve always preferred small, quiet celebrations for my birthday. I still do! I enjoy organizing surprises for other people, and I have to say, I’m pretty good at it! However, everyone who knows me knows I’m not a fan of being surprised with a party. No parties for me please! I do not like being the center of attention. This is where Dave and I were opposites. He loved being the center of attention and he was good at it!

Dave making fun of some clothes a family member got him as a gift. 🙂


A past birthday celebrating with his family back east. The cake had both his name and his sister, Maryellen’s name on it since their birthdays were close. But notice who the cake is in front of 🙂

For his 35th birthday, I decided to throw a surprise party for him at our house. Sierra was 2 years old at the time. I asked our friends and business associates of Dave’s, Dave Simonson and Sue Stischer to pretend that there was a photo shoot at Maalaea Harbor which my Dave would be part of.  The photo shoot ended up being “canceled” and Simonson kept Dave out for a drink to give me time to set up. Friends and family arrived on time and I had them hide their cars in our neighbor’s driveway. I also asked Simonson to distract him and get him to look in the opposite direction as they entered our driveway. We had to be extra careful because Dave was always super aware of everything around him.

Success! It worked out perfectly! Dave had no idea that we had been planning the surprise!  Of course, he didn’t really react when he showed up because he’s tool cool for that! Lol! But…. I knew we got him!

Sierra was looking through some DVDs the other day and found the video of the surprise party!

Dvd of Dave’s 35th birthday surprise party!

Our long-time friend, Brian Lynx did an excellent job filming and narrating the video. Dave edited the video himself. I’m so glad we have this available to watch again and again! I’m sharing here for friends and family to be able to see him and hear his voice again and also for those who only know him through my shared posts and memories.

Dave was cool guy in many ways and he always made me laugh even if he was deliberately being annoying. But I’ll save those stories for another post 🙂

I donated all of Dave stuff except for a few things. One of them happens to be one of the gifts he got from the birthday party. I kept this because it describe Dave perfectly, “The Amazing Dad”.

Amazing Dad shirt from 35th bday


Dave, the Amazing Dad and Sierra at Disney


Reading to Sierra at bedtime. Same books over and over and over. Barney was a fave!


At the beach in Kihei, Maui. One of my favorite pics because of the way Sierra is looking at her daddy.

Happy 50th birthday Dave. I miss you more than ever.

Extra note: Every time he picks up Sierra in the video…oh boy…it’s hard for me to not get emotional. Lots of tissues used on this post.

A Special Red Rose

Dave and I were married on January 30, 1999. Today would have been our 18th wedding anniversary. Dave and I would always forget to celebrate our anniversary! Something always came up where we were busy and would just space it. We’d both remember days later. We didn’t really make a big deal that we forgot and we’d just do a little something later when we did remember.

January 30, 2007 was the first wedding anniversary I remembered before the date arrived. But I didn’t have my husband around to celebrate with….because he died five months earlier.

For about two years after Dave died, I set up a memorial site at the location of the accident. We based the set up and decorations on different holidays and special occasions. I remember how windy it was out there near Sugar Beach and how I didn’t really like being out there near the busy road with people looking at me as they drove by. It was a location that was a little difficult, a little dangerous to get to with traffic flying around the bend, but I had to do this for me and for Sierra. It was a way for us to pay our respects and to remember Dave.

For our wedding anniversary coming up in 2007, I needed to come up with something cool and special. My thought was a GIANT long stem red rose. But, we lived in Maui. Where would I find a giant long stem red rose??? I don’t think this is something that would be easy to find anywhere for that matter. I looked at every store I could think of and of course was unable to find one. So, I decided to make one. I’ve always loved making things anyway and this would be good project for me. I used mailing tubes (for the stem), felt fabric, wire and busted out my handy pink mini glue gun (which I still have!). Both Sierra and I were pretty happy with how it turned out.

Long Stem Red Rose

Sierra age 6, with our custom hand made long stem rose


Sierra and I made the trek out to the site and figured out a way to connect it to the tree. Creating things was part of my therapy and I was happy to be able to display this single long stem red rose for Dave to celebrate what would have been our 8th anniversary. We kept it up through Valentine’s Day and also added a few other things. We also had a container there for notes from people that were walking by on the beach and friends who went to visit the site.


Currently there is just a single cross on the tree at the site on North Kihei Road in Maui. Sierra and I continue to celebrate special occasions and remember special memories with Dave and talk about him all the time. Tonight, to remember Dave on our 18th anniversary, I wanted to share this past memory of our special red rose.

Happy Anniversary Dave…I remembered 🙂



Merry Christmas From Heaven

I’m not even sure his parents and siblings knew this, but Dave loved Koalas! It’s weird because he was so adventurous, fearless, energetic and koalas are so mellow, slow moving and sleepy. When I told Sierra when she was around seven years old that her dad loved Koalas, she chose one to add to her Webkins collection and she named her Koala, David.

Today, Christmas Day 2016, Sierra got a special gift. I’ve heard that sometimes messages from our loved ones who have passed on, come through other people. I believe it.

When Sierra opened a Christmas gift from her friend My-Linh, I got that message as soon as I saw it. A Koala ornament.  I had to text My-Linh to ask how she came up with the Koala ornament to give to Sierra. Here’s her text response and pic of the cute Koala ornament which came all the way from Australia:



I’ve been posting about how much we miss Dave after 10 years of him being gone, but I think maybe he’s trying to tell us he still around and wishing us a Merry Christmas. Before he died, I didn’t believe in any of this stuff. Now however, I truly do believe that those who have passed on leave us little signs here and there to let us know they are still hanging out with us. We just need to be aware and open.

Merry Christmas from the Castles Family: Dave, Lena, and Sierra. Wishing you all peace and pennies from Heaven.

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 you..it’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