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.

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!

Remembering Daddy

I’m used to planning everything out and many were surprised that I had decided to wait to find out if we were having a boy or girl. Both Dave and I felt it would be even more exciting that way! Since we had no idea what we were going to have, we chose both a girl’s name and a boy’s name in advance. The boy’s name we chose was Christopher and for a girl’s name, Sierra. I honestly thought I was going to have a boy, because the baby was very, very active and kicked a lot.  Did she know she would be a soccer player before she was born?

It was October 13. My due date was still three weeks away, but according to my doctor, it was time to go to the hospital.

This year October 13 fell on Friday….FRIDAY the 13th! I did NOT want to give birth on Friday the 13th! To me that was bad luck, even worse than giving birth on Halloween! Why?! Because of the horror movies made about those days?! I know….it’s silly! Well, I got my wish for our baby to NOT be born on Friday the 13th. I suffered through a very long labor and she was born on Saturday, October 14! Yay!!

Sierra became Dave’s little pride and joy and they were always close and always had lots of fun and laughs. I have so many cute, funny, fun memories of the two of them and the three of us doing things together. From a trip to Disney to a day at the beach, from hanging out with Dave’s family in Boston to just hanging out at our home in Maui, we always laughed and had fun.

Fun at the pool

Nana & Grampy visiting from Boston

Tea Cups at Disney

One cute and funny memory I can recall was when Sierra was about three years old. Dave just got dressed for work and walked into the kitchen where Sierra and I were making breakfast. As he came around the corner and into view, Sierra looked up at what he had chosen to wear and said, “Those are old man’s clothes!” She had this perplexed look on her face as if wondering why her daddy would choose to wear that “old man’s” outfit! I remember cracking up and of course Sierra started laughing too. Dave had this expression that was partly shocked, partly bothered, partly amuzed. I can still remember that look on his face as he turned and walked away. So did he change his clothes?! YES!! Hahaha!! He listened to the fashion assessment of this little three year old girl and changed into something that she then approved. 🙂

Dave worked hard so that I could be a stay at home mom. Although he worked quite a bit, always on call, always on the phone, he did a GREAT job in balancing out his family time. And yes! He helped with everything….including changing diapers, reading to Sierra, teaching her to brush her teeth, and of course teaching her to ride a bike!

Sierra learning good dental care

Dave was there for as many events and activities of Sierra’s as possible. If he had to choose between an activity that he enjoyed and one that Sierra was involved in, he would choose to participate in Sierra’s activity. Every time.

At Borders Books to see Uncle Wayne perform


Dave was an awesome father who was committed to making sure his daughter was safe, healthy, and happy. He worked hard to make sure she enjoyed life and wanted the best of everything for her. Although he died the very day Sierra became a soccer player (see post http://adavidstory.com/giftofsoccer), I believe he has seen every single one of her games and continues to support her in the sport that she loves.

On July 29, 2006, Sierra and I were in Seattle visiting my sister and her family.  We were going home the next day, and Sierra wanted to call her daddy to say hi and that we’d see him the next day.  He wasn’t able to pick up the phone at the time, so she left him a message.  I was surprised because she didn’t like leaving voice messages. However, she chose to leave one for him this time and it was perfect! We arrived home on July 30 and at the time we had no idea how precious those next 11 days were.

If video is unavailable below, click this link: http://youtu.be/3lwCPGINkJE

Father’s Day in 2006 was the 6th and last one Sierra was able to spend with her daddy. However, since then and from now on, for Father’s Day and every day, she and I can reminisce, as we often do, about all the wonderful memories we have with Dave.  Those memories are forever, but of course, they had to be created.

Hanging out at the beach in Kihei

Create as many memories as you can with your dad, with your mom, with everyone that means a lot to you. That way you can have more to talk about, laugh about, cry about later on…..

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads here on Earth and in Heaven.






Remembering a Special Anniversary

January 30, 1999 was the day Dave and I were married. We both decided to keep it very small and intimate and we had the ceremony and reception at the Kealani Hotel, in Wailea, Maui. We had been married for 7 years before Dave died in 2006.

The crazy thing…. is that in the 7 years after our wedding we never once remembered to celebrate our anniversary!  Not once! Not even the 1st anniversary! We both completely spaced it and remembered, I think, the following week. We had even kept a little of our wedding cake in the freezer to save for a bite on our 1st anniversary.  However, I don’t think we ate it because it was freezer-burned! LOL! Every year after that, we were always so busy!  In addition,with it being in January, with the hustle and bustle of the holidays, Dave’s birthday being in the same month, and then having our daughter Sierra in late 2000….all caused us to forget our special day, January 30.

And oh, the irony of how things work sometimes. Now that Dave is no longer here in person to wish a Happy Anniversary…I have NOT forgotten January 30th.  I remember every year now.  And today is no exception.  Happy Anniversary Dave. I’ll be seeing you…..

To those who read this….remember to celebrate every occasion, celebrate every day, because…..you can.

Dave and Lena on Wedding Day

Dave and Lena, January 30, 1999


The Most Beautiful Christmas Tree Ever!

It was a week before Christmas in 2006. This would be our first Christmas without Dave.  The post office had just delivered a box from Dave’s sister, Mo, that I was about to open.  I was on the phone with my sister, Terri, chatting away as I used a pair of scissors to cut open the tape and pull open the box flaps.

“Eeeeouuw! What is THIS?! I can’t believe Mo actually bought this!”, I said to my sister on the phone. It was a silver tinsel tree!! Not a very attractive tree and definitely not one I would have picked to display in our home. I thought it was so weird that she bought us this ugly silver tinsel tree! Then, I saw the note.  The note I failed to notice because I was busy talking on the phone. The note was written with a black marker on the outside of the box.  It said, “Do not open until you get the small box!” Oops!

Do not open note

Pic of Michael

Dave’s nephew Michael 2008

The small box was delivered separately the next day so I had to wait until the next day to find out about this “lovely” silver tinsel tree.  There was a note on the outside of the small box that said, “Open this box before the large box”. Ummmm….LOL!

Inside the small box was a photo Christmas card of our nephew Michael, who at the time had Farrah Fawcett hair. (Sorry Michael…just couldn’t help myself) Inside the card, Mo had written about her idea for a special Christmas tree. And what a wonderful idea it was!

Tree infoIn years past, a silver tinsel tree was what Dave’s grandmother had put up during Christmas for all the grandkids to enjoy. Mo picked up trees for her parents, brother Jimmie, and sisters Cathy and Maryellen in remembrance of Dave. To make it extra special Mo included ornaments for our new David Tree…butterfly ornaments! How cool! We started off with 38 butterflies, for Dave’s age. Each year we add another butterfly to the David Tree. I’ve actually changed things up a little bit and added an extra butterfly so that we could also celebrate Dave’s birthday on January 4th with the number of butterflies for the age he would have been.

I’m not sure I’ll continue putting up a big Christmas tree or going all out in decorating every year. It’s a lot of work and Sierra is growing up so the need or motivation to keep the house “Christmassy” is sort of fading.  I do know, however, that the David Tree has become a Castles Family’s holiday tradition and that is one I will continue to carry out with pleasure. I love my David Tree and I think it’s the most beautiful tree, the most special tree ever!

This year we are adding butterfly #44.  Merry Christmas Dave and Happy Birthday soon!

Christmas 2012/Jan 4, 2013: Butterfly #45

David's Christmas Tree

Our David Tree


More to Come…..

I will be posting on a regular basis so please feel free to come back again.  I’ll be writing about life with Dave, what happened when he died, my experience in dealing with losing him, and how I managed both my grief and Sierra’s. I’ll also include many of the things that happened after he died…experiences that caused me to re-evaluate my non-existent spiritual beliefs.