Charlie’s first birthday

Dear Charlie,

Yesterday we celebrated (survived, cried, remembered, loved and honored) you, as you turned 1 years old. I woke up instinctively at 7:30 am and remembered how that moment, exactly one year before, you initiated your entrance into the world with the start of sharp, intense contractions. I couldn’t emotionally process (handle) the memories at the moment so I rolled over and welcomed another hour of sleep before facing the day I knew would hold so many intense emotions.

But I have to say, your birthday wasn’t as difficult as I imagined it to be. Friday as I was driving home from work, I felt this immense emotion come over me and I thought, “How am I going to survive this weekend?” I felt at that moment I could’ve literally died of a broken heart. But my heart kept beating and your birthday dawned, and the day was filled with sadness but also sweet memories, connection with family, love and meaning. Underneath all the emotions of the day there were moments of…something. I wouldn’t call them moments of peace. But there was an undercurrent of calm and divine compassion throughout the day. I felt for those 24 hours like I was being carried again by God, and that was such a welcome respite. I also want to believe that you, my sweet angel, were with us on your birthday, sustaining us and loving us.

Your Baba and Grammy and Papa all came into town to celebrate your birthday, along with other close family members like Preston and Emily, Zee and Wee, Mel, Zack, and Gabers. Everyone brought gifts for you and we put them under your tree!


Your dad and I are going to donate your birthday gifts to Toys for Tots this season, in honor of you.

Your birthday celebration was a simple but meaningful affair. I made you pineapple upside-down cake for your birthday cake. It seemed perfect since it is your Momma’s favorite and it matches the Hawaiian theme we’ve come to associate with your sweet spirit.


(yes, we both look a bit battle worn)

We also made beans and hotdogs for you, because we know your little one-year-old self would’ve loved that as your birthday dinner. We augmented the meal with a salad, dips, a cheeseball, and delicious fizzy drinks to satisfy the more “adult” palates in the room.

After eating dinner together, we sang you happy birthday. I’m sorry Charlie, that I couldn’t join in singing to you. It was perhaps the moment of the day that most broke my heart. But the song was beautiful and your sister was more than thrilled when I told her you wanted her to blow out the candles on your behalf.



We then traveled to a local park where we lit a lantern for you. Everyone wrote messages to you on this lantern. I know you read each one. While the night was too cold for your lantern to travel as far as we’d hoped, it was still a beautiful moment, shared all together.



After the lantern lighting, we returned to our house where together we sat as family and dear friends and shared our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and love with each other. We remembered you and we recalled some beautiful moments together when you were here, in our arms. Everyone also talked about the impact you had and continue to have on their lives. Each person talked about how, not only painful this journey has been of losing you, but also how they have increased hope, faith, love and meaning in their lives. We talked about how much more connected we are to each other, all thanks to you, mister mister. We talked about the tender mercies, beautiful moments, and the faith we have found since losing you.

I don’t know if you knew what an impact you have on the lives of so many people, Charlie! In the short four months you had on this earth and since you have grown your angel wings, you have touched so many hearts. Friends who couldn’t share your birthday celebration with us, released balloons to you, thought about you, and did acts of service for you on your birthday! One special friend spent your birthday in Hawaii and she and her husband released flowers into the ocean to honor and remember you!

So many people love you, mister mister! You have especially impacted the lives and hearts of those in our family and close circle of friends, but also beyond. Your sweet spirit is making the world a better place mister mister! I don’t know what other one-year-old has accomplished all you have in 12 months! While I would give anything to have you back in my arms, your spirit and legacy are truly making life meaningful. You are making my life meaningful. You have a very proud Momma. 🙂

I love you so much Charlie, I can’t say it enough. I remember your pink soft little body when you entered the world and our hearts one year ago.


You came into this world fast and you left fast. But we love you forever and carry you with us always. I can’t wait to see you and hold you again my mister mister. But until then, Happy first birthday!


Christmas card or no Christmas card?

It is definitely time or create, order, and mail Christmas cards. Holiday cards are already beginning to stream into our household from friends, distant and near. Every year I would make Christmas cards that included photos of our family and a summary of the adventures we had that year.  I used to love doing this. But this year I’m dreading it.

I just went on and with the intention of creating a family Christmas card. But within a few minutes, my heart began to sink as all the Christmas cards are so…CHEERY. I’m definitely not feeling cheery this year…at all. All those Cheery “Be Merry!” or “Blessed” or “warm winter wishes” all seem like aspirational statements that are far from my personal aspirations this season. As a family, we are really in survival mode.

Beyond the incongruence of Christmas card cheer and our actual state of being, I feel like if I sent out cards, I’d need to say something hopeful, or inspiring, or meaningful. But I’m not feeling any of that at the moment…words are failing me lately. I feel like my head is a bit of a dark vacuum and my heart just hurts.

But it’d be weird if I just sent out a card with a family photo of the four of us with no text and a simple “Seasons Greetings from the Packards.” That’d be weird, wouldn’t it? Given the enormity and life changing circumstance of Charlie’s death this year? A card with no text as if everything was fine would just be confusing right? Doesn’t Charlie’s death and how our lives have changed somehow need to be acknowledged? Or not?

Beyond these considerations, the Christmas season this year might be the most difficult milestone for us to pass beyond Charlie’s one year angelversary in April, 2013. I feel like, even though I’d love to feel inspired, hopeful, and at peace this season and feel like I have words to articulate as a result, the reality is, I think just surviving through Charlie’s birthday and Christmas may be all my heart is up for right now. So I’m back again at the question of content. What on EARTH would I say in a Christmas card?!

On the other hand, this is, and forever will be, the only year I have photos of all of us as a family: complete and whole. Each year, from now on, there will always be incomplete family photos. For that reason alone, I’m inclined to make Christmas cards. I want that evidence that at one point this year, our world was right and good and complete.

The question I’m frequently faced with when making seemingly simple decisions like this one is: will this be healing or just hurt more? And I don’t know if creating a family Christmas card will be healing or if it will just make the Christmas season harder than it already is?

What should I do?!




Surprising Festival of Trees conclusion

Chad and I were completely taken aback and overwhelmed this morning when THIS was delivered to our house!


The amazing and generous anonymous purchaser of Charlie’s tree wanted us to have our tree back! We couldn’t ask for a better Christmas gift this year! What a blessing to have the tree we put so much love into,  grace our home for this season and years to come! It feels like, in a small way, we got Charlie back! Whoever you are, Thank YOU for your gift of LOVE to our family! I can’t express how much your generosity means to us!

Our tree wasn’t the only thing that showed up on our doorstep this morning. Along with a family delivering the tree on behalf of the Festival of Trees, there was also a Fox 13 news crew! When I heard the knock at the door, I opened it to be almost blinded by a light from a rolling video camera. I was totally surprised and also touched that our story, Charlie, the anonymous tree giver, and our tree warranted news coverage.

Shortly after feeling very flattered, I immediately realized that I hadn’t even brushed my hair yet that morning! But in the bigger scheme of things, this reality didn’t matter.

If you are interested in seeing the news clip, open the link below.

This year we have been the recipient of so much love from others. This gesture of love certainly rises to the top! While we have experienced the most intense pain of our lives this year, I have never been more aware that there are such beautiful, caring, and loving people in the world. Thank you again, whoever you are, who gifted us back our Charlie tree! What peace and comfort his tree will bring us the next few weeks as we celebrate his first birthday and our first Christmas without him!

Festival of Trees conclusion


Today was the last day of Festival of the Trees and we took Hailee to see Charlie’s tree. When we arrived at Charlie’s tree we saw this:


Which made us very happy! We don’t know who bought it but whoever you are, Thank you! It’s so wonderful to know that someone was touched by our story and thought our tree was beautiful enough to grace their home (or office) this Christmas season. Hailee liked Charlie’s tree and asked if she could have a sea shell.

But I think more than visiting Charlie’s tree, Hailee enjoyed meeting a very special man in a red suit.


This sweet Santa has a tender heart and knows our family. He even helped us put our tree up on Decorating Day! A man acquainted with grief himself, we felt very connected to him and his family during this time. And in his thoughtfulness, Hailee wasn’t the only one in our family who got a candy cane from Santa.


This was a wonderful conclusion to our Festival of Trees experience for Charlie. I am grateful to have been able to honor him this way for Christmas!