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?”

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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.

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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 🙂

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We miss you Dave…..


Daddy’s Daughter

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

Sierra being goofy

Silly Sierra

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

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

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

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

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

Dave flexing in his Disney PJs

Dave flexing in his Disney PJs

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

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

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

 


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.

 

 

 

 

 


The Gift of Soccer

Back in 2005, Dave, Sierra and I were driving by Kalama Park in Kihei, Maui where little kids were playing soccer.

“I want to play soccer.” Sierra announced.

Dave and I had played quite a few other sports, but we had never played soccer.  We had actually hoped Sierra would get involved in some of the sports we had played and enjoyed over the years.

“No, wouldn’t you rather play golf?” asked Dave.

“No, I want to play soccer, can I?” answered Sierra.

“I think you should play tennis. Tennis is fun.” I said.

Sierra repeated, “I want to play soccer”.

Dave and I figured that Sierra’s interest in soccer would pass and that one day she would see how much fun it is to play golf or tennis and learn to love one or the other…or maybe both! And there were also many other sports and activities that we thought would be fun for her.  However, I guess she’s like her mom….determined to do what she wants! LOL! I’m glad she never stopped asking to play soccer…turns out, it was meant to be….

I remember Dave always saying, “Life is precious”.  It’s kind of weird that he did, but he did. Although he was like Superman to me, and I think he believed it himself as well, I think he also knew that anything was possible and he always tried his best to live life to the fullest.

Life. You just never know what it’ll throw at you and when.

It was about a year later, on August 11, 2006, that a horrible car accident took Dave’s life and changed ours forever. It was a day I will never, ever forget! An insanely emotional, stressful day that seemed surreal. In the middle of dealing with the loss, Sierra and I received a gift.

I still think the timing was crazy. The day Sierra lost her dad, was the day she became a soccer player. We got a call from Coach Lonny’s wife, Laurie, to let us know that Sierra was on their soccer team.  Later on, we learned that the girls chose their team name, The Butterflies. What a perfect name!

Soccer was a gift to us then and continues to be. The sport became Sierra’s escape from the extreme grief she felt after losing her daddy. Although it wasn’t originally in the plan, I guess soccer was meant to be a part of our lives. Sierra still loves it and I am grateful that it helped her to heal and has brought her so much joy. I see how much she loves it and I’m proud to say that I’m a “Soccer Mom”!

I’m sure Dave is watching his little girl grow up and enjoys watching her play soccer just as much as she enjoys playing it. And this soccer story is not over yet…..

Sierra's 1st Soccer Team

Sierra's 1st Soccer Team: The Butterflies w/ (left to right) Khayanna, Maile, Haley, May, Sierra, and Melia


A Special Birthday Wish from Above

I’ve never made a big deal about my birthday and have always preferred to keep it simple. I don’t need expensive gifts and I don’t really like surprise parties….well, not for myself anyway.

So why am I talking about my birthday now? Well….I decided to post this because it’s that time of year again, and it made me think of a special b-day wish I got on my birthday in 2007.

That first year of special occasions and holidays after Dave died was really, really tough. I became super emotional when a special occasion came up and thought about how he was gone and couldn’t celebrate with me.  He couldn’t wish me Merry Christmas, Happy Valentines Day, Happy Mothers Day or Happy Birthday.

After we lost Dave, there were a few of his personal items that were returned to me. His wallet, his broken watch (which is another story) and his phone. It took hours for friends, family and police to locate his phone at the accident scene. It was the one thing I really, really needed them to find. His phone held all of his contacts and he had spent a lot of time on it, so it was important that they find it for me.  And I was very happy that they did! For a long time after that, I kept that phone with me. I guess having it close made me feel like he was close. So at first I kept his phone in my handbag, then starting keeping it in my car. I also canceled my phone number and his became mine…

This was the phone Dave used to call his family on their birthdays and other occasions. April is actually a heavy birthday month for us with quite a few to celebrate and Dave’s sister Cathy’s birthday is on April 16, the day before mine.

Dave was always joking around and for all the years we had been together….a total of 11…when my birthday was approaching he would say, “When’s your birthday again? It’s the 16th right?” I’d just look him with my “Shut up. You’re gonna get it” look. And he would start laughing, and ask, “It’s the 16th right?”…He did that every, single year.

On April 17, 2007, the first birthday without Dave, I really didn’t feel like celebrating. I had planed to do something small only because I wanted Sierra to enjoy, to be happy and celebrate her mom’s birthday.

And then something cool happened.

I remember the exact road on which I had been driving on this sad, emotional day, when I heard an alarm sound off in my car. It was coming from the center compartment. I opened it and found that the alarm was coming from Dave’s cellphone.

This was the first time since the accident that it had made any sound.

When I opened it, I was surprised at what showed on the screen:

Dave's phone displaying "Lena's bday"

Dave's Phone

It was April 17, my actual birthday. I started laughing….I started crying. It totally made my day! I got a special birthday wish from Dave. That birthday was supposed to be the worst ever, but it turned out okay and one that I think about every year and will always remember. And every year, the memory brings a smile and a few tears….


Run Sierra Run!

Sierra gave up playing in her soccer game this past weekend! Hard to believe, but I’m totally serious!  She actually decided to run in a track meet at Kamehameha School here in Maui instead. I really wanted to post a video we took of Sierra running in her first relay race, the 400 Meter Relay. I ran in this race when I was a Freshman at Baldwin High School and our relay team was undefeated that year and we qualified for the State Meet. Track was so much fun! I was just as obsessed with it as Sierra’s is with soccer! Well….almost as obsessed. LOL!

Pic of Sierra and Lena in Track & Field

Sierra today and Me in high school track.

I know that Sierra will look at the photo above of us and say, “Oh mom! Really?!” But that’s okay LOL! And yep! I know I look like a dork! Look at those bangs! Hahaha!

Although this blog is sort of about me, sort of about Sierra, I created it for Dave and it should all relate him somehow right? Of course there are no rules really because it’s my blog. However, I still needed something, the link to Dave to make me feel that it was okay to post this great video on A David Story of “our Sierra”.

This morning I got that little something…a “sign”, if you will.

I woke up and did what I always do first thing every morning. I picked up my iPhone, checked my emails then Facebook and Twitter. Dave’s sister Mo (Maureen) watched the video of Sierra running and had just posted a reply to my post. Her comment immediately made me feel like Dave wanted me to share the video of his daughter running in her first track meet by posting it here on A David Story. Here is Mo’s comment on my Facebook post:

 

Sign from Dave: Facebook Comment from Mo

A phone call from "David" as Mo posts about Sierra's Track Video

 

It’s one of those really cool things and of course you have to believe in “hereafter”, life or existence after death, to “get it”.  And as they say, “timing is everything”.  And it is! Timing matters big time! The phone call from caller “David” coming in as Mo was commenting on Facebook (and I should add, Mo is RARELY on Facebook), was the reason she posted what she did and the reason I am sharing this.

A few hours later, Mo texted me this:

“I couldn’t believe the timing of the call. I actually started to cry. It’s even a new customer not an existing one. Never spoke to him before today! Coincidence…I don’t think so ”

Here is the video of Sierra running the 2nd leg of the 400 Meter Relay…her first time running this race.  They practiced passing the baton for the first time, just before the race! I believe that Dave wanted to me to share this on A David Story because he is just as proud of his daughter as I am.

Go Sierra! I’m still faster than you though! 🙂

 

 

If video doesn’t appear, here is the direct YouTube link:  http://youtu.be/htdAbueUVDY


Valentine’s “Loss” and Found

I wish I had known about blogging back in 2006.  I probably would have posted entries just about every day about my experience dealing with my loss.  Writing was a healing tool for me. It brought out the emotions and also brought comfort.  I actually emailed Dave thru his email address which I kept because it was my way of continuing to communicate to him.  It was also my way of keeping a journal of my journey through grief.  Besides emailing Dave I also wrote a few poems. The Maui Weekly had posted a poetry contest in 2007 for Valentine’s Day. Since I love contests and I had already written a few poems, I decided to enter one about Dave. It was titled, “What is a Soul Mate?”.  I didn’t win, but was a runner up and was thrilled with that!  Also being able to express my feelings through this poem was very beneficial to my healing process. I’d like to share it once again…..

What is a Soul Mate Poem

I remember that at the time, Valentine’s Day 2007, I thought about how lucky I had been to have found my soul mate in Dave and lived 11 wonderful years together.  Most people never get to experience being that close and connected with someone.  Once he had passed on, I thought about the possibility that this was going to be my life for the rest of my life.  Widowed and single.  And I was completely okay with that…in fact I didn’t feel the need or even want to become involved with anyone else. I had met my soul mate and that’s it…the end. Besides there so much more to life…..

I had mentioned to friends that IF I had met someone, they would have to be super special! I would be insanely picky because of what I had with Dave and because I still had Sierra to consider. She had to like him too! This guy would have to accept the fact that Dave would always be a part of our lives; that Sierra and I continue to celebrate special occasions related to Dave. He would have to be okay with the fact that we still speak about Dave on a regular basis and the memories are very important to us.  This guy would have to be extremely understanding, selfless, emotionally secure and many other things on my lengthy list.  There is NO WAY this guy exists on this planet. And….I’m totally fine with that.

But then I learned that he does exist.
 

A Special Pink Dahlia

"Love Happens"

Fast forward to Valentine’s Day 2012. Five years after I first posted my poem, “What is a Soul Mate”, the holiday of love and romance has come around once again and has made me realize that maybe it is possible to have an amazing connection with someone else.

If Dave and Brad had met, I know they would have been the best of buddies. They have many things in common, but also many differences. And that makes it perfect. Somehow I feel like Dave had something to do with Brad and I connecting through a pink Dahlia flower. But that’s another story 🙂

I’d like to share the Valentine’s video surprise Brad had planned for me. It completely blew me away!  I am a lucky girl. Sierra is too. Dave was the ultimate love and support, our favorite guy. And now we have found another…..


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

 


Despite Hardships Family Remains Hopeful

Through my mom and her generous ways, I have learned that it’s better to give than to receive.  This is what I am hoping to pass on to Sierra. No matter what our situation, there’s always someone that is struggling more.  It’s important to think of others and try to help as much as we can.

Dave made a smart choice for his family when he set up a college savings plan for Sierra. This plan had a life insurance benefit that saved us from having to move out of our home…the only home Sierra knows.  I am so grateful that we are able to continue living in our home. I decided then that I wanted to help others as well and “paying it forward” had actually become part of my healing process.

This is my first post in a new category called “Helping Others”.  I decided to add this to my blog because Dave helped so many people while he was around and I would like to continue his goodwill and try to help others who are dealing with a loss and/or those in need.

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We have all been dealing with financial difficulties in the last several years.  I don’t know of anyone that has not been affected by the recession.  However, there are people who have been struggling more than others and this is a story that I need to tell about a family that Sierra and I have been helping since 2007.

Meet the Askey Family from Pennsylvania.

Photo of Kim and Teddy

Kim and Teddy and their dog Weewee (Tom taking pic)

I met Kim, Tom, and Teddy through a website where individuals could borrow from or lend money to other individuals. I was the group leader of a lending group that I started called, Heaven Cent.  Kim contacted me to help her with a listing she had created for a wheelchair ramp for their son Teddy who has Cerebral Palsy.  With help from a local Community Action group and a re-listing under my group, they were able to build the wheelchair ramp. However, their story of struggle continues…….

Family Home with Wheelchair Ramp

Family home before and with Teddy's wheelchair ramp

On the morning of December 27, 2011, I woke up and as I do every morning, I reached for my phone and checked my emails.  There was one from Kim.

In her email Kim explained that she went to Teddy’s room to get him up and ready for the day and she noticed that his bed was wet.  Initially she thought that he had wet the bed, but then learned that his adult diaper was actually dry. So why was Teddy soaked from head to toe?!  She looked up in horror as she learned their ceiling had been leaking all night right above Teddy’s bed and onto him.  Teddy cannot speak due to his medical condition and was not able to let his parents know what was happening throughout the night. This was just the latest in a series of unfortunate events for the family.

Photo of Kim and Tom

Kim and Tom

Kim and I have been corresponding via email and phone since June 2007.  This is a family that I chose to help beyond the lending website as their story is one of incredible struggle.

Tom had to take an early retirement in April 2001 after a heart attack.  It was then that his doctor told him that he also had diabetes and degenerative arthritis.  After 30 years with the same company, his early retirement caused his pension to be cut by 80%.  In addition, we all know what happens with social security when early retirement is taken…benefits are reduced there as well.

Kim is not in the best of health, but doing her best to take care of her family.  She has a condition called Hammer Toe (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hammer_toe) and has had several unsuccessful surgeries and continues to suffer from the deformity. She suffers from migraines that are so bad that she has ended up in the emergency room.  Kim also has CMT, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, a neurological disorder she explained causes her hands to go numb. (More about it here: http://www.mda.org/disease/cmt.html).  She tries her best to hide the scars from the “cage” inserted in the back of her neck for her degenerative disc disease. In addition, she just learned she has osteoarthritis in her back. Her doctor has ordered her to refrain from heavy lifting, but part of caring for Teddy includes lifting him in and out of his wheelchair every day. Lifting Teddy is something Kim says she will continue to do, until she can physically no longer do it.

And then there’s Teddy.

Teddy is 25 years old and was not expected to live this long. He has been in a wheelchair his whole life. A mild cold for him usually leads to pneumonia.  He wears adult diapers  and requires 24 hour care. He can’t speak. He can’t walk. However he is able to feel when his mother is dealing with unbearable stress and is able to erase at least some of through his smile.  My written words cannot come close to conveying the love and connection between Kim and her son. Therefore, we have put together an audio recording of Kim expressing her feelings about Teddy in her own words:

On December 22 of this year, three days before Christmas, I got an email from Kim to say that they went to a food pantry who was helping families with food for Christmas dinner.  They had received some assistance for food in the past, however, were turned down this time because they were just over the income limit, which is very low. In addition Tom had been off his diabetes medication for four days because they weren’t able to afford it and he had started feeling the effects of being off the meds. This is just the recent part of their hardship…

There is much to tell about this family and their difficulties over the years, but here are some of the things that have happened in the past few years.

In April 2010, both their refrigerator and washer broke down….on the same day.  They could only afford a used fridge and washer.  A year later, the used fridge they bought broke down and all the food spoiled.  Then the washer broke down and needed new parts.

They have one car and have been dealing with car issues for years and that continues.

Photo of Teddy and Jake

Photo Kim sent of Teddy w/ Jake who died this year from cancer

Two of their dogs died this past year.  One was a dog that Kim rescued from the animal shelter in 2005.  He was going to be put to sleep as no one was interested in adopting him.  Kim took him home and saved him. They actually changed his name to Jake, but his original name was actually the same as their son, Teddy.  Jake died in May of this year from a tumor on his spine.  Bridgette died four months later from a tumor on her spleen.

Kim does not have health coverage and their health conditions are only getting worse. Despite her medical issues Kim has considered getting a part time job, but was told her earned income would not only reduce the Social Security disability benefits they receive for Teddy, but also that Teddy would lose his Medicare benefits.  What a great system huh?!

They live in Pennsylvania where winters can be very harsh with extremely cold temperatures. The family can barely afford heating costs.

Their ceiling is now leaking in five different places in their home and they are hoping and praying that the roof won’t cave in on them one day due to ice build up.

This is a family that lives a very simple life.  A family that doesn’t want to ask for more than they need if even that much. A family who continues to endure hardships and despite their situation has and will continue to Pay it Forward by helping others, both animals and people.

This family is hesitant to ask for help, so I’m asking for them. I’ve asked the family to set up a donation account and Kim handled it, but did not want to ask for too much, so the amount they posted doesn’t really cover even close to what they need (especially with roof repair, a car, appliances, etc.).  Any help would be greatly appreciated.  Here is the link: http://gofundme.com/A-little-help-needed

Thanks for taking the time to read about Kim, Tom and Teddy and for any help in sharing their story thru email, thru Facebook, Twitter and other any means.  Also feel free to leave a comment or a note for them below or you may also send an an email to: sendinghelp@gmail.com

 


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