To My 800 Plus Member Family- I LOVE YOU! : Surviving Charlie
Team Charlie Lives

To My 800 Plus Member Family- I LOVE YOU!

by Elise Normile on 10/19/16

Dear Runners, Trotters, Friends, especially the Honrath/Newman/Hendricks Families:

I’m writing to you all to ask that you join us this Thanksgiving for Charlie’s 6th Annual Turkey Trot.  Ironically, I write especially to the Honrath-Newman-Hendricks families although I already know they will NOT be able to join us.  You see they are any of us and all of us.  They had joined us for the 2014 race from out of town. Perhaps, you are also from out of town or have not joined us for every race either. They knew only their own family and relatives at the race, perhaps like you.  Certainly very few of us know a lot of the trotters.  But, they joined us, had fun, enjoyed themselves and a lively family Thanksgiving reunion, and then returned to their ordinary lives in different towns and states.  Perhaps, that sounds like your Thanksgiving plans as well.  I don’t know if I met these families the year they ran.  I imagine I didn’t.

I heard from Alyson Honrath recently and I was struck by her story.  Her family has lost two dear and vital members of their large and vibrant family since they joined us on Thanksgiving 2014.   Two mothers.  Two wives. They are still recovering and reeling from this grief.  Three children have lost their mother.  A young husband is now a widower as is his father as well.  These families gathered with us, ran with us, and pounded the pavement with us and OUR race was the central piece of the last weekend that they were all together.  Imagine that.  IMAGINE it. 

I ask all of you to join us because we are a family.  Tradition is comforting.  Children should be celebrated.  Pie should be walked off in advance.  And because we will have tremendous personal battles one distant day, we recognize and run on the days that we can. Even after losing two precious sons, I’m well aware that things could be worse for my own family.  I’m also well aware that one day they will be.  So, we, you, all of us have every right and every obligation to just stop and give thanks and lighten up, drink a beer, walk briskly with our ever-aging children, or hold our spouse’s hand. 

Please read the letter that Alyson Honrath sent me (at the end of this letter).  It was REALLY intended for all of us.  I scanned it once or twice when I first received it but, tonight I forced myself to read it slowly and even despite the chills and sadness, I’m really struck at the value of our town.  We are a family.  So, come join us.  Write to me.  Tell me your story.  And stop and tell me your name and welcome me.  I’m a stranger among us all, just like you.

So Alyson, Honraths, Newmans, and Hendricks families, we’ll miss you all.  Truly.  To the 10, 12, and 14 year old children who lost their mother, I want to tell you some things that I know are fact:

·         Your mother, would have given her life to save any of yours, if she were given the chance. So, maybe her heart was read and that’s what happened.  I would’ve died in a heartbeat so either of my sons could have lived.  Easily.  I would’ve rested in peace to pass before them so they could live.

·         It’s hard to know, see, or hear God in a modern world.  It’s easier to focus on mom.  The reunion with her one day will be a much easier North Star for you to follow throughout life as you determine your conscience and make your decisions.  Walk to her.


·         Do something different and new in your lives because of mom.  This is so that one day when someone asks, “When did you start playing the guitar or singing or painting?”  You’ll be able to say when I lost my mother and life changed without my choice, I decided to make my own choice about what else was new or different in my life.  ((I recommend that you take up surfing…  It’s physical.  It’s nature.  It’s a thinking time.  It’s a thrill.  It’s a reason to come back and visit us more often until you buy the beach house or move here. ))   Let me know and we’ll connect you with some top local surfers/instructors.


·         Final fact, I have no idea how you feel or what it’s like or what you’re going through.   You can tell me.  You can shoot me an email and tell me.  There’s a lot that’s been so terrible for me that I don’t share it with people because I’m afraid that just hearing about my worst experiences… just HEARING about what I’ve experienced might make them too sad.  SOOOO… if you want to tell someone about this whole experience or ask someone questions who’s a little farther down the road that you are walking, you are welcome to write to me.  I’m a mother if you need to talk to one.  You are kids, and I’d love more in my life.     

((SPOILER ALERT: You will have great lives and you’ll be very proud of each other, your father, and yourselves for your strong shoulders from what you will carry each day.  You’ll love each other and your dad so much more than many families can because you are veterans of the same hell.  Only you saw, understood, and walked through it with each other.  It’s a beautiful thing.))

To the rest of the Trotter Clan-  we look forward to catching up and seeing so many of you this year.  We hope you join us.  There is so much to be thankful for and so much to celebrate.  And for all of those who have lost loved ones recently, I’m so very sorry.  That is just so very sad.  Take some time for sweatpants and ice cream.  Some tears and bathrobe days. Then get back into life and the trot and come run with us.  The beers on us for registered runners.


Cheers to you all.  Let’s have some fun. 

Charlie’s mom,

Elise Normile



Thank you for you wonderful letter ( email).  I am an out of town one time "Trotter".  My sister and family live in Va Beach and every other year we (all five sibling's families, mom and dad), meet at her home for Turkey Day, staying in our home states on 'off' years.  2014 was our Va. year.  It was also the year that every single family member, 30 in total, made it in for the gathering.  Your race was a central part of our celebration.  My daughter was an Ensign ( now a LTJG ) on USS Porter '78, Spain, my sister's son is an ROTC officer at Embry Riddle, Fla, and my brother is Coast Guard Captain (26 yrs), and I was a Lt in the NJSP (28 yrs), I retired this past May to help my brother and my Dad out. We understand what it means to stand together in support of each other.  We all participated in the candle Guinness Record challenge of "Most People Blowing Candles Out Simultaneously and a good number of us ran.  What a great way for our entire family age 6-80 to participate in this day.   Anyway, we had quite a clan in from NJ, California, Massachusetts,Maryland, Fla, North Carolina, and of course Va. Beach. We also had some good quality runners in the family.  So, where did this mob of Newmans, Hendricks' and Honraths disappear to?  Well, 2015 was our off year.   Sadly we did not  realize that your wonderful event would also be the last time we were all together. My sister- in -law died suddenly and without warning, at age 47, in August of 2015, leaving my brother and their 10, 12 and 14 year old children.  My mom followed her in November on Thanksgiving Day, three days after a serious stroke, 79yrs.  We are still regrouping and adjusting.  I just wanted to let you know that your wonderful event and tribute to Charlie will always and forever be remembered by our family as the the Best Thanksgiving we have ever had.  Our last complete family memories are of the great time we all had, running, walking, laughing, having an after race beer,cheering each other on, and meeting new friends at the race.  What a great community you belong to!!! Everyone is not ready for another T day gathering yet, so even though this would be our year back in Va Beach, we are giving each family time to heal.  I hope to be back in the next couple of years, and if possible to be at your race. I wanted to share my story with you to let you know that your family and my family will always be tied together, through Charlie's Turkey Trot, as one of the best family times we ever had while we were all together.


Wishing you, your family, and all the coastal communities a safe Labor Day weekend from this upcoming storm.


 Alyson Honrath

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