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.

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!

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….


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.






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.

Maui Romance

Volleyball at Kamaole at Sunset

A volleyball in flight as Dave plays and the sun sets at Kamaole Beach, Maui

“It’s kismet!” is what Dave said on our wedding day and any other day when asked about how and when he and I had met.  I can still picture the look and smile he would give me after that answer. Then, he would proceed to tell “his” account of how I saw him playing beach volleyball and how I fell in love with him at first sight. He’s told that story a thousand times! Of course, I would then have to explain what really happened….

It was 1995 and Dave was on a break from the long hours and stress as general sales manager for a car dealership in New Hampshire.  He and his friend, Eric Brooks, decided they would visit Maui for the first time and hang out for a few months.  Eric signed up for classes at Maui Community College and also found a part time job in Kihei. Dave on the other hand, spent every day at Kamaole Beach I and the beach volleyball court there became his second home.

I had left my job as office manager at a Maui radio station and was on an extended break.  My friend, Renee Akiona Ostrem, was a beach volleyball player and often played at Kamaole Beach.  One Saturday afternoon, I decided to stop by and visit Renee while she played volleyball.  I stayed for about an hour and left.  The next day, I stopped by Renee’s apartment and she said a guy who’s visiting from the East Coast asked about me.  She handed me a little piece of paper with “Dave” scribbled on it and his phone number.  Although, Renee said he was “cute”, I was not in the habit of calling guys I didn’t know, so I decided to pass on the phone call.

The following weekend, Renee invited me to the beach to hang out and watch volleyball and possibly meet Dave. I was a bit reluctant as I wasn’t really interested in getting involved with anyone.  After some thought, I decided to stop by for a short while.  I watched a few great volleyball games, tanned on the beach and had a fun time with my friends.

Halfway through my time there at Kam I, Renee introduced me to Dave Castles. He said he was semi-retired, from the Boston area and on Maui for a six month stay.  I remember thinking…”semi-retired?! What does that mean?” He was cute as Renee had described, but he seemed a little a bit of a “wise guy” and his confidence shone brighter than the Maui sun.  He was also very entertaining, had a great sense of humor and I could sense the good-natured soul within him. The other half of my beach time was spent with Dave, chatting and joking.  We talked for hours about our lives and past experiences.  Our connection was instant. From that day forward for the next 5 months, we spent every moment we could together, until his vacation was over and he had to return home.