Do I Miss or Love Charlie More? Or are they the same?

Is it possible that I miss Charlie more than I loved him? Or is it the intensity with which I loved him that makes me miss him so much?  Do I miss him more than I love him?  Are they one in the same? Am I talking in circles? Is this a chicken and egg inquiry? These types of thoughts torture me. I think about Charlie all of the time. He is constantly on my mind. It doesn’t matter where I am, what I am doing, or who I am with- I am always thinking about Charlie.  I know that even before he went to heaven I was amazed at the capacity with which I was able to love another person.

Before Charlie went to heaven, I remember telling anyone that would listen how much I loved him. I honestly did not know I was capable of loving anyone how I loved him. The intensity, pureness, and wholeness with which I unconditionally loved him surprised me. I felt completely secure in a relationship for the first time in my life and that’s what knocked me back about my love for Charlie. There was no chance he would ever leave me. For the first time, I had no fear of abandonment. I’ve been with Vanessa for 16 years. We have our 6 year wedding anniversary this August. Our marriage and love for each other seem to grow stronger everyday. I still think she’ll end up leaving me or kicking me out someday. I always have and probably always will. (I am a product of divorce. As most kids of divorced parents will tell you, I know I wasn’t the reason my Dad moved out. But he did move out. Gone were the everyday interactions -those “15 Second” interactions I previously wrote about- only to be replaced with visits every other weekend and my sporting events. My Mom also “left” because she had to work days as a teacher and nights as a waitress to keep us in the suburb where we grew up. So that’s where my fear of abandonment probably originates. And I’m not blaming my parents for anything. They had to do what they felt was best for them and their kids and I think they made the right decision.)

Becoming a father allowed me to start a relationship with a clean slate. I wasn’t bringing any emotional baggage or insecurities that could hold back my love for Charlie. All I brought was pure and unadulterated love for my son. He was instantly my everything. I never wanted to be away from him. I always wanted to hold him, feed him, and even change him when he was a baby. As he got older, we always wanted to be with each other. I couldn’t go anywhere without him. Everywhere I went, he followed. If I was leaving the house for anything other than work, chances are he was coming with me. I couldn’t even go to the bathroom or take a shower without him banging on the door to let him in. I know some people that loathe that type of attention from their kids. “I can’t get 5 fucking minutes alone,” they say. But I didn’t mind it. We were inseparable. He was literally my shadow. And I cherished every second of it even before he went to heaven.

And then in an instant, he was gone forever. I left for less than 24 hours and he was gone before I could get home. By the time I got to the hospital, he was already completely brain dead. When I left the house Friday morning everything was fine. He was his normal witty self playing possum in his bed as I tip-toed into his room to give him a kiss goodbye. As I crept closer to his bed, he sprang up and asked, “Dad, what’s going on?!?”  I shared my normal goodbye big squeeze, kiss, and “I love you.”  I’m lucky in the sense that I have a loving embrace and a kiss goodbye as my last physical interaction with him. I also had one last phone call where I got to hear, “I love you Daddy.”  Vanessa was wrestling with him most of the night after dinner and before bed. Everything was normal but he would never be the same after he fell asleep.  Unfortunately, Vanessa was not as lucky to have a good memory of her last interaction with Char.  She had to watch him have multiple seizures, code in the ER, and slip into a catatonic state right before her eyes.  I would do anything in the world to remove those hours that are forever burned into her psyche.

I’d tell you to try to imagine how it feels to go from having a perfectly healthy and vibrant son one day to having a son that is completely brain dead the next day but that is impossible to comprehend unless it’s happened to you. You have no idea how it feels and I hope you never do. Charlie going to heaven has monumentally changed us forever and we need your understanding and support. To those who have shied away from or even avoided us, I know we’re uncomfortable to be around but think about how we feel. Take your discomfort and multiply it by a billion. . . you’re still nowhere close to how we feel. To those who want the “old us” back, I’m sorry to tell you that those people are gone and “just getting back out there” won’t fix anything.  In fact, jumping into some of our “old normal” activities is extremely hard and sometimes we just can’t do it.  If you do know this feeling. This feeling like you’ve been punched in the gut over and over again, I am sorry for your loss and I share your pain and grief.

This void in my soul. This hole in my heart. It will NEVER be filled.  He was a piece of my heart and soul and now he’s gone. No matter how many books I read, how many times I go to church, or how many support groups I go to it will ALWAYS remain empty. The only way it could be filled is if Char came strolling into my bedroom tomorrow morning to kick me out of his spot on my bed to watch cartoons and that is not happening.  This darkness surrounding us, however, can be lifted. We can work through this part of our lives and learn to carry our grief with dignity and pride. We can lead a fulfilling life full of love and laughter. Just like Char would want us to. I miss him so much it’s scary. It makes me wonder if I miss him more than I love him.  Or if they’re one in the same.


9 thoughts on “Do I Miss or Love Charlie More? Or are they the same?

  1. Oh Brian – I can only begin to imagine that your heartache and love must be one in the same, and it makes my heart ache for you and Vanessa both. I follow a friend’s blog, a friend whose daughter was also taken too soon, and as she says, it’s NOT ok that they are gone and that’s going to have to be ok with everyone who wants to be with me. I hope you know it’s ok that everything won’t be ok again, but we will support you and Vanessa just the same!

  2. Hi Bryan-
    I have read your posts and I am so sorry for all of the pain you and Vanessa and your whole family are going through. I know I will never understand what its like (and hope to God I don’t ever have to), but my parents lost two sons–one as a newborn and one as a young adult. What you explain helps me better understand what they went through and gives me even more respect for them. I hope that you are finding strength everyday.

  3. Brian,

    Being a father who is going through the death of his own son, I can tell you that you definitely love him more than you miss him. To feel such anguish can only be brought upon by feeling an equal amount of love. The universe has this funny check and balances thing that equates a positive and a negative with equal but opposite values. You would never be able to feel such pain without feeling that much love, and while you may miss Charlie in the most intense way possible, your missing him will always be second to your loving him.

    To use your own words, you do carry yourself and you love for Charlie with great pride and dignity.

    Take care,

  4. Brian,

    Your words and pain just leap off the screen as I read your post. Everytime I read it, it brings me to tears. Both for your love of Charlie and that it reminds me of my daily struggle dealing with the loss of my daughter. Your words have been so inspiring and have helped me in dealing with my grief. I am so sorry for the loss of your son Charlie. I hope that you and your family will in time find the peace you need. Just know that your family will always be in my families prayers! Thank you for sharing your stories and your precious little boy.


  5. you and vanessa have incredible strength; it is truly inspiring. i am so sorry for your loss. i feel blessed that i was able to meet charlie twice, i remember he was so excited to see the real fire truck uptown at that thing in the park. i have thought of you both many, many times and i cannot imagine your pain, but i hope that someday it gets easier.
    take care,

  6. I found your blog through a Facebook post and I’ve read it through with a heavy heart. I’ve envisioned this little boy so full of life and wonder, articulate and witty beyond his years. Thank you for sharing him with me. Thank you for sharing your grief, hope and love. I lost my daughter in utero. After her birth I stared at her closed eyes and just wondered who she would have been. I’ll know one day, I know. How I wish I had some memories—some, even one, 15 seconds. Thank you for sharing yours.

    Your family is in my prayers. Lots of love and prayers.

  7. Hi Bryan, It’s Bitsy your Mom’s old friend. Only someone who has experienced this heartache can communicate it so poignantly. My heart aches for you, Vanessa and Danny. There are no words, only prayers. Thank you for sharing this unimaginable grief. Bitsy

  8. I finally took the time to read your blog and between the tears of joy for the love, laughter and life Charlie brought to all your lives were the tears of sadness for your loss of what the future with Charlie would have been. But I, for one, believe Charlie…he will always be with you. YOU will always be his Dad. YOU HAVE THE CHARLIE “THING” ! Thank you Bryan for sharing your thoughts, feelings, memories and mostly the healing you are going through as you pass from darkness back to LOVE!

  9. Brian, I’ve just sent you a PM, thanks so much for your response. Reading this piece, I find the similarities uncanny. My Anni (26 months) died very suddenly in January 2013 and was pronounced brain dead within 48 hours of going to hospital with flu type symptoms. She was also my shadow. If I was around she was either on my lap or in my embrace. We are soul mates. I too am the product of divorce and also eternally grateful and taken aback by the scale of the mountain of pure reciprocal love I experienced with Anni. On 6 January 2013 I had never been happier in my whole life. I never realised it was possible to be so happy until my children came into my life.

    I’m, glad you wrote this back in 2011, it helps me to read the thoughts of a like minded soul.

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