"Courage is NOT having the strength to go on,
Another year has passed and I can't even tell if things are getting better or not on some days.
Dear friends and runners of the Turkey Trot,
First things first, the 5th Charlie Normile Turkey Trot is happening… Thanksgiving morning in Sandbridge. The shirt art is being completed, the sponsors coming on board, the registration is active! I have procrastinated and stalled greatly. This is a huge emotional undertaking and its hard to sometimes take the first step. (register at: www.charliesrun.com)
I wanted to warmly personally invite you to join us this Thanksgiving morning. Will you PLEASE RSVP by Halloween? We are going to add late fees on the 5th of November because the shirt printers get so busy so PLEASE register your family as soon as possible.
And now, my message…
I am late in reaching out to all of you although, for different reasons and at many times I’ve been thinking about all of you throughout this past year.
How was your year? Did you celebrate a wedding? A birth? Did your child graduate or take first steps? Have you become a grandparent? Or a widow? Have you lost someone you love? Have you suffered? These moments come and these moments go. This too shall pass. Always remember that. Seize, slow down, and savor the happy times and grit and bear out the tougher days. They both will be gone before you know it.
Today I am planning the 5th Charlie Normile Turkey Trot. Unimagineable. I’ve released the rest of the family from these duties so that life can go on for them. I find it comforting to do things for little Charlie… to somehow mother him. There is SO much to be grateful for. We always knew that. Even after losing little Char Char. I told the children, “It could be worse and it WILL be worse one day.” 4 months after the first trot, we lost my son, James, 16 years old. Thank God, we seized each moment. There’s so much to be grateful for in life.
I often think of Diana Hicks. Her brother, David, was a Navy SEAL, who lost his life in Afghanistan. Diana has stood next to me since the idea of this race was born and stood up for David and every other fallen SEAL at every race. She has their names and photos on display for all to see. David’s sister. Spending a bit of Thanksgiving with her brother. It’s touching. Diana, I want to introduce you to the crowd this year.
((So, let’s drop the depressing message, Normile.)) Let’s celebrate together!! We have our dj back and a professional photographer. We are simplifying timing and awarding prizes for finishes in the 5k nearly immediately. We have drytek race shirts for all participants and have even picked the 1st place trophies out for the women and men’s divisions… Wine bottles AND Beer Growlers- filled of course!
My son, Jack, said the other night, let’s stop doing this right before the year that only a few people show up.
And, so I realized… MY boy has no clue about Sandbridge. These people are my family. Our town is our family. It really is.
Would you believe that the first Turkey Trot was the first Thanksgiving my family spent in town? We always spent it with just our children on a mountain or in a cabin somewhere.
Would you believe… and this is the first time I admit this to others…That we have no family picture of all seven members of my family? Of course, now we never will. I don’t know why. One of us was always snapping away or felt too messy or asked not to be photographed I guess. ((I know I would regret wasting moments more than I regret not capturing them. ))
Would you believe that we also have not sent out a Christmas card since Charlie’s passing. I think it seemed to us disloyal I suppose to pose, to smile, to have a family photo taken without the whole family….
Well, this year, I am going to take a family photo of the five of us remaining Normiles… and with the rest of our family, you the Turkey Trotters. Before, the race as we all gather, I will ask everyone to simply look up and smile as a rooftop photographer snaps the photo that my family has been missing… and boy, won’t our friends be surprised to see how our family has grown since they last heard from us?!
I love you, Trotters. Truly. You know I do. I’m going to try to slip something extra into the bags of those who’ve joined us all 5 years. That’s pretty cool of you. We’re family, aren’t we?! Getting together at the holidays like family seems to do.
I love the visitors who join us from out of state… you’re official Sandbridgians once you’ve spent Thanksgiving with us. You are the “out of town” family.
I love the costumed runners. You will be getting the most epic of prizes this year- we will announce that soon.
And most of all, I love the little trotters… The Charlie aged gobble wobblers, 6 and under, who run 26.2 yards for free. This year, YOU ARE RACING FIRST! We will line the streets and cheer for each of you. You are our legacy. You are so chubby cheeked and small and happy.
THIS is why it took so long to write. I simply had so much to say.
So, quickly to close, I want to say:
THANK you NEAL KLAR for being our major sponsor this year! Boom! $1,000 and all race bags. Awesome, Neal, awesome. ((James was going to be an orthodontist. He planned on working with you… don’t know if he ever told you as you tightened his bands or glued brackets. But, that’s a life fact of his.))
THANK you NOBLEMEN for partnering with us to collect toys for little boys and girls.
Thank you to my Original Trotters- all 5 years together.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, handsome and brave, but fallen Navy SEALS. For those living and the Navy SEALS we have lost- You are the most badass group of men, the highest of humanity- physically and mentally, to serve, protect, train, gut, push, fight, kill, die in order to protect us. To protect America. We are a proud 400 year old country. We are the descendents of rebels and fighters and patriots. You are beautiful men of class, honor, and chivalry. YOU define America. YOU are what we always intended when we landed in America and had our first Thanksgiving. The rest of us could always do more to deserve your service and to protect our country. Your mothers, especially, are so proud of you.
Finally, we made great efforts to pursue and establish a Navy SEAL beach entrance after last year’s race but, the red tape, requirements, cost, and business of the entire undertaking was too much for us. We donated the funds to the Navy SEAL foundation for the 4th year in a row and this year we will be supporting them as well.
Will you send me a note and tell me how your year was? Will you look for me and introduce yourselves again at the Turkey Trot. I honestly think of you more than you know. And I am so grateful to see you at least once a year.
(register at: www.charliesrun.com)
Please, warmly welcome, my young new race director, Naheda Nassan, who has been too patiently waiting for me to officially send out these race invitations.
Thank you to Miss Kat Hildum who with her parents support ran this race like a champ for the last two years. I imagine I’ll have a campaign sign for young Miss Hildum on my lawn in about 10 years. Great, smart young gal. Coolest family. #goingplaces
Will you PLEASE register quickly so that Miss Nassan and company can plan for all of our race day fun… and so that Jack knows that more than “only a few” will be showing up.
Keep in touch,
Elise Normile (register at: www.charliesrun.com)
Each person's grief journey is as unique as a fingerprint or a snowflake. And what a journey we are taking. My own grief journeys for Charlie and James are also both so different from one another.
So, I lost, Charlie, my son and I wrote and wrote… expressed and shared. Poison trailed from the pen. Pressing from my deepest corners, I pushed on to let it all out, to let it all go….
Freud said, the treasures of Pompeii were indeed treasures because they were in fact buried. They stayed just as intact as when they were first made… had they been exposed to the elements, they would have eroded and broken down and disappeared many years before. He used this metaphor to show the danger of buried emotions. How, the denial and suppression of feelings will keep them sharp and new until they are one day exposed or uncovered.
And so I wrote and released and expressed… and it helped.
But, then I lost my other son, James. He was in so many ways, the hardest and deepest loss my heart may ever feel. He was one of my closest friends, and my son, and my buddy, and we got along so well together just walking or sitting or texting…
It doesn’t matter.
There are no words.
With Charlie, I was a word shaker, with James, there are no words.
Grief is a mystery.
Sometimes there are no words to sum up the day. No clever quotable quotes to make things better.
Grief is like that. Grief is not a disorder, disease, or a sign of weakness. It is a necessity- a physical, emotional, and spiritual need. It’s the price we pay for loving someone. The only cure for grief is to grieve.
There are no words. Nietzche said we all will suffer. Survivors will find meaning in the suffering.
So, in surviving, I have learned to love easily, accept flaws, and show my soul more quickly. Love is such a beautiful state of humanity. For those who haven’t loved and lost, we may appear weak or fragile or needy… Instead, I feel strong in my infinite willingness to simply trust my feelings and take chances, to lose and find happiness, and to love the memories and learn from the past.
I have learned that when I feel I’m having a nervous breakdown, its far more likely I simply need some Sleepytime tea and cookies. The symptoms of both must be very similar but, I keep my tea and cookies stocked and, in rare cases of emergency, they have met my needs splendidly.
Lola and I were driving to Williamsburg a few weeks ago and a radio talk show was talking about organ donation. She asked me what that meant and I explained that the woman speaking had a son who was really sick and dying and so her husband had an operation so the doctors could give their son one of his kidneys.
“Well, how soon after—“,
“Did he get better?”, I finished her question. “Right away, I think. I’m sure he got better right away.”, I assured her.
“Well, I would give one of my kidneys to Gaela or Jack if THEY were dying”, she declared.
“Really?”, I asked… smiling at her in the rearview mirror.
“Of course”, she said, pulling her hood ties around her fingers…
“And how soon after surgery-“
“Would they get better?”, I finished again. “Right away. They would be much better right away!”
“And how soon after, would I die?”, she asked.
And I was stunned…. And in awe. She thought that giving a kidney to save the life of her brother or sister would take her own life… and yet, she was willing to do it. Volunteering it without a need.
The willingness to love and love completely and love without being asked is not a weakness. To love someone without demanding they love you in return or do for you in return is organic, and elevated… and the best intentions God could have for humanity. And an extremely difficult challenge for us all. It’s so much easier to only care for those who care or to simply love when we are loved.
So, tonight, although it is difficult, I take the time to love you James, although, you can’t love me anymore the way I know. I write to you again after too long of a time.
I adore you, sweetheart.
I know how much you like to hear that — but I don't only write it because you like it — I write it because it makes me warm all over inside to write it to you.
I find it hard to understand in my mind what it means to love you after you are dead — but I still want to comfort and take care of you — and I want you to love me and care for me. I want to have problems to discuss with you — I want to do little projects with you. I never thought until just now that we can do that. What should we do? You started to learn to make hand planes to surf — and we were reading that awful, dull Chinese book about the satin slippers— we sold the old weight set in the garage- and were going to Puerto Rico to hide for a month….Wouldn’t THAT have been great?! Can't we do something now? No. I am alone without you and you were the "idea-guy" and general instigator of whatever we ended up doing.
When we lost Charlie, you
worried because you could not give me something that you wanted to and thought
I needed. You promised me that all of you would give me grandsons named Charlie. You
needn’t have worried. Just as I told you then there was no real need because I
loved you all in so many ways so much. And now it is clearly even more true —
you can give me nothing now yet I love you so that you stand in my way of
letting you go — but I want you to stand there. You, dead, are so much better to
all of us than most other people have while alive.
I know you will tell me that I am silly and that you want me to have full happiness again and don't want to be in my way. I'll bet you are surprised that I haven’t even emptied your drawers or cleaned your room after over two years. But you can't help it, darling, nor can I — I don't understand it, for I have done quite well and really stayed moving and continued to live and I don't want to remain in grief — but the idea of us-any of us- living without you- that idea seems made of ashes. Your memories, your words, your laughter remain with us. You are still real.
Gaela, Jack, and Lola are doing so beautifully.
You haven’t left them, have you?
Jack’s a shadow of you, a true shadow of your spirit. He’s the kid who will lift the worm on the sidewalk back to the grass and dirt. He knows what its like to have a not-so-nice day… and worms are good for the earth somehow.
Gaela, is just so fiercely strong. As she always was. But, also so feminine and fragile. You know those vampire books, all those teen girls read? I think Gaela has learned some of those characters might exist in real boys. She’s wary and smart. I do believe she could drive a stake through a young man’s heart who meant no good for her. I know you’re happy to hear that.
Your estate left her some money. She’ll be travelling to Europe this summer. I hope she treats herself in a Prague market and twirls in some of those vintage pieces that look so good on her or classic styles that she loves so. I hope she rides a moped in Italy and laughs really loudly. She got a tattoo of your promise and love. And your signature. It’s so personal. Ashes to ashes. She knows she’s marked as yours until death does part her from me. And returns her to you. That’s powerful, isn’t it?
Do you remember our conversations? We would talk about heaven and the signs we saw? We called it the “willing suspension of disbelief”… How we don’t notice things around us that later we’ll look back in amazement and what was really at play. Like seeing a good movie a 2nd time and seeing things we never saw the first time. How things are connected or happened to make other things happen. Did you find out if we were right? About that one sign? We were talking as we raced to Chick's Beach and I ended up getting a speeding ticket. We were so animated in conversation... it took him several blocks just to get our attention to give me the ticket.
I think I see the signs more clearly.
Sometimes, people pass on messages to me without even knowing. What seems like random comments to them are actually spoken in a pattern, a cycle, a rhythm to me. An answer I recognize. I question I had asked. That’s cool. I don’t pause to explain it to them. I earned the knowledge. I’m a veteran of the death wars.
And again, for those who haven’t lost, no explanation is possible. And for your brother and sisters who I find sometimes are the messengers?- They HAVE lost, so no explanation is necessary.
Well, that wasn’t so bad, was it?!
I don’t know why I waited so long. I think I was prompted to write when Lola wrote a Valentine to Charlie earlier and so I did as well. And it made me feel warm inside to imagine how easily I could make him laugh had he been here. I can’t think long of that or him or you because my face flushes and my breath staggers and my eyes can almost see the horror that stands right beyond as far as I can look today. Its not nearly as far as you’d think. Just a short horizon. But, my eyes always look just ahead and just shy of the horror of our lives.
It doesn’t matter. I’m walking at my own pace- (each of us is) and, James, forgive me, but I’m happy. Ha- of course I am… We’re just so lucky aren’t we? And aren’t we smart to even consider ourselves lucky? We are clever to know so much and know so well. We always land on happy, don’t we?! We used to always talk about that… if anyone could even imagine how happy we are.
Life is beautiful, isn’t it?
God, boy, you’re lucky to live in the land without alarms or homework,
You know, I don’t regret you for a minute. Not a minute. I’d do it all again for just one more day.
Thank you, despite the darkness.
You made everything awesome and innocent for us all,
You’re the reason for us to live better and brighter… Sometimes, we are running now, but, usually we are just walking…and slowly,
But, we are all working our way back to you,
I love u more,