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!




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: http://www.element-pictures.net/

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…..in honor of David Castles.

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


We miss you Dave…..

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.