The summer of 2017 was idyllic. We had everything they could have dreamed of: a happy marriage, a beautiful home in Colorado, two adorable sons ages 3.5 and almost 2, and a daughter on the way. We spent most of the summer poolside in Boulder and visited beaches in California and Hawaii. Our boys loved to play with Transformers, and Charlie, our youngest son, would point to airplanes and helicopters in the sky shouting—“the guys!”—an endearing impression of the transformers slogan, “robots in disguise.”
But on August 11, 2017 everything changed for our family. That morning, despite everything seeming normal at 6am when we checked on the boys, Charlie, would not wake. At 7am we found him lifeless. Despite administering CPR and calling 9-1-1, he would never come back. He would never get to celebrate his 2nd birthday just one month later. He would never get to meet his baby sister, Victoria, who was born two months after his passing. He would never get to trick-or-treat with his brother as BumbleBee, a Transformer. We would never get to snuggle him ever again. It would be many months before we would discover that Charlie died from what was believed to be a virus that had no symptoms until it became fatal.
Following this tragedy, there was unspeakable grief, endless tears, and the deepest sadness. It’s true that no parent should have to outlive their children. It seemed impossible for us to get up every morning with insurmountable sadness weighing them down. But with a baby on the way, and a surviving son, we had no choice but to brave each new day.
Community took on a new meaning for us after Charlie’s death. During the coming weeks, while police investigations ensued and funeral arrangements were made, our family and friends rallied around us to support however possible; from bringing us meals to driving me to doctor appointments, there was no act too small to show support. Family and friends from all parts of the country came to grieve with us. The love and support extended beyond just us as parents. Charlie’s brother was invited to a special CU football scrimmage and our family was honored on the field at one of their games. Memorials were created all over the town in honor of Charlie. Even our unborn daughter was showered with gifts. Every day for nearly a year we received something special in the mail for someone in their family.
With the help of our community, we slowly began to regain strength. And we saw the incredible impact the community support had on our surviving son. Out of our tragedy, an idea was born. In May 2018, we founded Charlie’s Guys, a nonprofit organization aimed at providing experiences and gifts to bereaved siblings as a way to remind them that they are loved and not forgotten.
It’s been over a year since we lost Charlie, and the grieving and healing process is just that: a process. It will never end, it will never be something we conquer. It doesn’t get easier; so, instead, we get stronger and channel our pain into positive outlets—our desire to help those who are hurting never stops growing. Bereavement is as debilitating as it sounds. If we can help bring a tiny bit of light into something so deafening and dark then we have made Charlie’s death purposeful, and he’s made our lives meaningful.