Year Two

Dear Charlie,

It’s been two years since I have last felt your embrace.  It’s been two years since I have last heard your voice.  It’s been two years since I have last seen your smile.  It’s been two years since I’ve felt your presence and not your absence.  What I feared from the second you went to heaven is slowly materializing with each passing day.  My memories of you are creeping away from me.  I’ve been trying so hard to hang on but they have been making room for the new memories life keeps producing.

When you died I feared that people would quickly forget who you were as a person.  I know most people that know me or your mother will always remember that we, “had a son named Charlie who died when he was close to 3 years old.”  I feared they wouldn’t remember, or never knew, that you were a tender, sweet, and loving little boy with an undying love for his Mommy and little brother.  You shared, had good manners, and took your turn.  You loved puzzles, books, and Spiderman.  You were witty and sharp.  I’ll never forget eavesdropping on you when we had Uncle Eshoo’s groomsmen at our house before Aunt Liz and Uncle Eshoo’s wedding.  You were holding court with nine grown men telling them your old war stories about stepping in dog poop and how you made Daddy clean off you shoes. . . as I was cleaning dog poop off your shoes from a few minutes earlier.  I used to have more examples off the top of my head but they’ve slowly creeped away.

I was afraid everyone would “move on” from your death.   I feared that people would forget you.  Not forget about you but forget you.  I was afraid my memories of you would fade and it’s been happening.  Mommy feels the same way and it kills us.  Our lives and love have continued to flow and with that so have new memories.  We are not moving on.  We are moving forward.  Moving on is reserved for something like a bad breakup or job layoff.  (I’m not saying your death wasn’t bad.  It’s the single worst thing to have ever happened to me.  It’s so terrible, the possibility of you dying never crossed my mind until I saw you on that bed in the elevator at the hospital.)  What I’m trying to say is that your life was spectacular.  YOU were spectacular!  I can never “move on” from you.  This hole in my heart and lump in my throat will forever be a part of me.  Our world stopped the day you died.  But it quickly started up again for most people while your Mother and I remained in that same spot.  That spot in our lives to which we are forever anchored.  I used to be confused as to how people could just go about their lives knowing that you suddenly and unexpectedly died but I learned that life does indeed keep going.

Life kept going and it dragged me right along for a while.  I’ve been trying to recall that first year after you died and not much comes back to me.  I remember a lot of running/training for muddy obstacle races and crying.  A lot of crying while running/training, actually.  Other than that, not too much really stands out.  I was in a state of shock for over a year.  This past year has been filled with more anger than sadness.  I am mad, Charlie.  I am not mad b/c I no longer have you in my life.  I am mad because you didn’t get to experience yours.  (Ok, ok.  I’m beyond angry that you aren’t physically with me but I swear on your life that it’s not as angry as I am that you didn’t get the chance to live yours.)

The past couple of months have been better for me.  The holidays were tough and I’ve had some outbursts sprinkled across the proverbial infield but I’ve made progress.  At least I feel like I have made progress.  Dan and I keep getting tighter with each passing day.  The guilt of loving Danno has subsided greatly and it’s fostered the solidifying of a father-son relationship similar to the one I cherished with you.  He’s become my shadow, much like you were, and there are many times when I swear I’m looking at you.  I’ve begun to call him by your name countless times.  You and he are very different, however, which is what makes our bonds unique but not any less strong.  While you were sweet, obedient and passive; Dan is physical and rambunctious.  If I set a limit, he WILL blow through it. . . and probably punch me as he passes it by.  He’s big, strong, and athletic along with being the kid who takes toys from other kids for no other reason than he can.  I cringe when he does this but he is improving so much and has almost stopped that behavior entirely.  (And don’t be misled by my words, I LOVE the fact that he’s big, fast and athletic with a little bit of an attitude.  It’s what makes him The Danno.)  I know that our grief over losing you severely impacted Dan’s growth and development.  Since our grief has begun to be more manageable, he’s made huge strides in everything from his vocabulary to his sleep and behavior.  He’s become more gentle and kind with others and most importantly, his sister.

Oh Charlie, I wish you could have known sweet little Reese Charlie Tobin.  She’s the sweetest and most beautiful little girl you’d ever meet.  She melts me with her smile and her blue eyes.  I swear I sometimes think the answer to the universe lies within her eyes.  She’s a feisty little thing that is constantly in your brother’s dome.  While I get on Dan for pushing her away at times, I have to admit that she’s asking for it ninety percent of the time.  She’s already big into puzzles and I think she’s going to be a lot like you in that regard.  There is so much about her that reminds me of you.  She’s such a good baby and has helped us move through this devastating time of our lives.  I remember initially thinking that we may have gotten pregnant too soon after your death but as my cousin Mike said, “Forever would’ve been too soon.”  Now I can’t imagine life without her.

Which is what kills me about today- and everyday.  I can still remember our life together but the soul crushing feeling of life without you is what I recall most.  I have a hard time imagining life without the physical pain of your absence.  Life keeps moving forward.  It doesn’t stop for anyone.  The ones who try to stop it are the ones who get stuck.  I knew this the day you died.  I knew I couldn’t get stuck.  It’s been two years and exactly what gutted me the day you died has become true.  I didn’t want to live because I didn’t have you anymore.  I knew that I had a very long life ahead of me that would produce more memories.  I feared these memories would eventually outnumber the ones I had with you.  I didn’t want to make new memories without you.  I wanted out.  I was seriously hoping for some sort of accident that would quickly take me out of here and to you.  I don’t have those thoughts anymore.  I want to live and I want to live with purpose and love.

We love you more than anything in the universe and we hurt every second of everyday.  The pain has become a part of us on a cellular level.  It used to flood out the hope and love in my life but I’ve been able to better navigate the darkness lately.  While your death will always be a part of me, it will not define me.  I’m trying to recapture the love we had together and share it with Dan and Reese.  The guilt that accompanies this lifelong endeavor will always be there but I know I need to work through it for not only Dan and Reese, but for all of my loved ones.  I love and miss you with all of what remains of my heart and soul.  My promise is to use what remains of each to be the best person I can be in honor of you.

I love you,


Here are a few pictures we took as a family in the fall.

IMG_5169 - Copy IMG_4670

IMG_4854 Reese


11 thoughts on “Year Two

  1. Man, I don’t even know what to say, other than I read your post and it was very moving. Just from reading your stories, I know that I won’t ever forget Charlie. I too am mad that Isabella will never get to know Mason. We’ll tell her stories about him, but she won’t have any first hand memories of him.

    Thanks for writing that. You conveyed a lot of the feelings I am having into words that I couldn’t seem to come up with.

  2. Oh Bryan you said it so beautifully-you and Vanessa are wonderful parents and bring love to all around you. Danny and Reese will bring you such joy and they will always remember Charlie because you will tell them all about their big brother. He was such a sweet little boy. We miss our loved ones but we have to keep going because of the ones who love us. And so many of us love you all.

  3. Dear Bryan and Vanessa Our love, and continued prayers to you…it is a tough battle you are fighting….. not a day will go by ,that you don’t think of Charlie ,and wish ,more than anything in the world, that he is here ,on earth, with you Danny and Reese . He is …. just not the way you want him to be. You will tell his brother, and sister, what a wonderful brother they have , always looking out for them,and guiding them through many things in life. .They will love hearing stories about Charlie…he WILL live on in them. That is your gift from Charlie to his family.

    We will never forget your darling Charlie…so cute funny, and lovable. No one who knew Charlie could ever for get him.
    Thinking of you today, and sending love and hugs to all of you. Aunt Diane and Uncle Mike

  4. Bryan – what a beautiful letter to your son. Thanks for sharing. You are a wonderful, loving father! Love to you, Vanessa and the family.

  5. Thanks for sharing Charlie through this blog. I’m so sorry we can’t do anything to prevent your memories from fading, but these stories you’ve written do keep his memory alive. I’m honored to know a bit about who Charlie was- clearly he was an amazing little boy.

  6. Bryan – This is so beautifully written. It expresses everything I had hoped for you after our earlier correspondence – that you would figure out how to move forward, if only so I could know it is possible. I feel as if you have lifted these words from the deepest parts of my heart, because they seem to identically match my emotions in anticipation of our second anniversary of the day Keith left us. Thank you for sharing your heart. Keep loving your family. You really ARE a fantastic dad!

  7. I’m so sorry. I’m about to complete my first year in the next 2 days and all I remember is crying and wanting something accidental to happen and take me away. Extreme difficulty in making new memories. Your words are like taken out of my mouth. I’m sorry again.

  8. Hi, you do not know me. I am Gianinna’s husband, she worked with your wife. I just wanted to say, this was so beautiful and tocuhing.

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