Surviving Charlie
Team Charlie Lives

Surviving Charlie

Courage

by Elise Normile on 11/03/15

"Courage is NOT having the strength to go on,

it is going on when you don't have the strength."  Theodore Roosevelt

So there you go.  If you are walking with me in your own veil of grief, then you are courageous.  

Four and a half years ago, I lost my son, Charlie Normile.  What I couldn't have known than is that I lost us all.  We all died with Charlie.  Who we were.  How we saw, thought, felt, and lived....  were all gone.  It was also the day that the story of Charlie Normile's Turkey Trot began ironically.  Not symbolically.  We actually talked about it that day, my daughter and I.  Hours before he passed.  A message for how to live and where to walk and a destination until we could get our bearings again.  Until our senses returned.  

Today, we are healing and rebuilding our lives around the loss but, we will grieve forever.  We will never be the same, nor could be the same, nor would we want to be.

For various reasons and in many ways we have come so far from the hell and the hole into which we were cast.  One of the most profound and significant sources of healing for us was the scaffolding of friends, neighbors, and strangers who crowded around us, lifted us up, and refused to let us fall.  Meals were made, housecleaning provided, encouragement, support, and even silent respect extended as so many different faces stood witness to our pain as we shared, expressed, and cried through the earliest stages.

I once told a beautiful friend that she could speak to dead people.   She stood before me without grief experience herself.  So much of my suffering and injuries were invisible to others and yet, she could see me exactly as I was.  I'll always remember the difficult conversations she would have with me, the high expectations she would place on me, and the intolerance she would have for my self pity and failings.  

I remember moments when I would laugh hysterically when I once thought I would never smile again. Or we would have far more fun doing simple things - too much more fun- than made sense to others watching us.

It's easier to believe now that certain paths we seem to cross in random  is more of a grand design.

So how can you speak to those who feel lost?

Sometimes a person doesn't need to say anything with words.  Silent fingers drumming.   A forehead gently rubbed.  When you don't know the right words to say, there may none we want to hear.  Sitting, listening, and sharing is enough.  A simple I am here for you goes a long way.

Loss is difficult.  Loss of a child, a spouse, a marriage, a home, a pet, a job, or even your closest friend.

Your thoughts try to work things out.  What now?  Why me?  Why does it have to be so hard?

Loss has taught me to cherish life and the living just as I have learned to grieve and mourn the lost.

I will not walk away from people.  I will be devoted to those who healed me, held me, and walked with me.  I will not fear love or laughter.  I will not be so afraid to hurt that I will pass up the chance to be happy.  Some people guard themselves into a solitary existence, surrounded by friendly faces but, refusing to allow a person to belong to them, care for them, or share with them.  I will not.  My heart is open and my hopes are high. 


     And for those sweet faces that I have loved and lost,



I have an ache where you used to be.


               I think a part of me will always be waiting for you.

Life will go on and happiness always returns... love will as well... But, not the same, and not you.

But, I will seize the day and do my best and love and laugh.

You see,  above all I have discovered that the key to happiness in life is something to do, someone to love, and something to hope for. 


**If you are one of the kind and brilliant people who are a member of Team Charlie or have loved and lost yourself or would love to join a community of beautiful people, come run with us... or walk your dog... or simply celebrate with us this Thanksgiving. Or order a shirt if you won't be in town.     www.charliesrun.com

This is our 5th and perhaps our last Charlie Normile Turkey Trot....  Please be a part of it.    www.charliesrun.com

Could you reach out and tell me your story?  I find them simply fascinating and sometimes truly inspiring.  

i love u.  

e

So Here We Go Again...

by Elise Normile on 10/15/15

Another year has passed and I can't even tell if things are getting better or not on some days.


I know now that I have definitely changed.  Enough time has passed to be able to tell the difference between injuries and damage.  Not necessarily damage but, between what was temporary and what has truly changed in me or about me.

I've had angry moments and low points but, I haven't become an angry person.  More of an adjective than a noun.  Like a rainstorm versus a wet climate, I suppose.

I also have shown great strength.  Not in mighty ways.  Not always.  But, sometimes, the smallest things for someone in grief takes the greatest strength.  The eternal conversation continues.  Charlie. James. Charlie. James.  Always.  In every moment of silence.  For all of us. 

I have resisted losing myself in it, though.  I haven't written an angry letter to the organ recipients and said, "Hey, how about a little thank you note?  A little gratitude for saving your kid's life?  Our kid did that.  When he died?  How about a "Heyhowareya?"   Yes, so I haven't written to them at all... Still hoping that I WILL hear from them.  (Note to self:  is it possible that we won't hear from these families?!  Noooo...  Would that be CRAZY?  Brides send thank you notes for gravy boats. Right?  This was a life saving organ! Ya, noooo, not ready to think we won't hear from ANY of them.)  So, i resisted and didn't write to them again this year.  Sigh... That was hard.

I ALSO didn't do any age progressions of Charlie or James' photos.  Would that be crazy? Or is that healthy curiosity?  Sad or sane?  I don't risk it, so I push the idea out of my mind.

Lola bought them pumpkins recently with her sister, Gaela.  She proudly showed them to me in the bag from the farm.  Little mini white pumpkins for her brothers who are like angels she says.  "Awesome", I say matter of factly.  My boys remain with us... Raising the dead with the living MUST remain matter of fact and ordinary and not shameful.  Isn't that something?  Raising the dead.  I don't even remember how old they are.  I can't remember my opinion compared to Jack's last January.  Was James turning 19 in his mind or was he the one who said he was still 16?!  I kind of think he said James was now 19.  Strange things no one knows go on inside of grief's walls.  The garden that grows from it all.  The different directions that thoughts and memories can move.  

Well, although Charlie has been gone for only 4 1/2 years this is going to be the 5th Charlie Normile Turkey Trot.  Kind of a brainteaser, isn't it?!  How can that be?  It's because the first occurred in year zero of loss... and honestly, Gaela, I have NO idea how the hell you did it.  Seriously... We were buried in mental jello.  I don't think you got a sound idea or productive help from any of us.  You are so cool.  How can I ever thank you?  I'll never forget waiting for you and your friends to exit Central Park on bikes and waiting and waiting... and finally pedaling back and you are there pacing in conversation about a sponsor and securing someone to pick up signage.  It was Greek to me.  You did it all yourself.  I'm so glad you have a happy life.  I hope you are always rewarded with warm and sunny days of happiness for the days you have lost. 

I wrote this letter below to my trotters tonight who have been there for us from the start and have continued to stream in and join us.  I don't know if we will have a 6th turkey trot.  It doesn't matter.  We will do what's best for us.  We must.  But, nothing in the future is guaranteed- for ANY of us- so we look forward to giving thanks at least this approaching Thanksgiving and having an awesome holiday with all of you.

Will you join us?  Whether you have attended in the past or have never trotted...  This is our 5th and possibly our last.  You don't want to miss it!  

Love you.  Love you all.  Is everyone ok?  Did anyone cry today?  I'm sorry... It feels good to cry, though, doesn't it?! Strangely.  It's the pain that caused the tears that sucks to much.  Shoot me a message.  Eat some ice cream.  Run quickly.  Don't do anything stupid.  This will pass.  

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.

                                                (register at: www.charliesrun.com)

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.

 

Warmest regards,

 

 

Keep in touch,

Elise Normile          (register at: www.charliesrun.com)

Grief

by Elise Normile on 09/20/15

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.


The pain of Charlie compelled me to speak, to write, to share, to express all and everything that I was feeling.  It was all so new and indescribable and I felt horror at imagining how many people were in this private hell on their own.  How many hollow people walked among us, suffering in their silence.  And so I wrote and wrote and wrote.  Sigmund Freud explained that the treasures of Pompeii are indeed treasures because they were buried so deeply.  Had these treasures been exposed to the elements they would have eroded and broken down and disappeared completely.  

Expressing my grief helped me to imagine the anger, the hurt, the sorrow being exposed to the elements.  Ceasing to exist.  And the exposure of the pain and the company of so many kind and nurturing souls truly helped me to heal.  So many strangers reached out to comfort, nurture, and keep us company throughout our earliest days of this journey. 

My grief for Charlie compelled me to speak so many words.  He meant so much to me.  

My grief for James made me speechless.  He meant that much to me.

In Charlie's grief, I was happy to be heard.  In James grief, I was hurt that I could not be understood.

I didn't even seem to cry enough throughout this journey although I never felt that was a sign of weakness.  Since the first seconds of our birth, in fact, tears are the signal we are alive.

Today,  I asked Naheda Nassan to direct the 5th Charlie Normile's Turkey Trot- I know, the 5th Trot.  ((God Bless you, OTs- original trotters, there since the start))  
I have known Naheda since she was 4 years old in Jack's pre-k class.  She is also my buddy and one of the few students that I have had the pleasure of teaching 3 different years.  She is exceptional.  Last year, her mother and I helped to organize a group of students to participate in the Model UN in Manhattan.  Naheda was a member of the elite Security Council and debated the issue of Syria with students from all over the world.  This was a personally valuable opportunity for Naheda as I'll explain in a minute.

A portion of the Turkey Trot proceeds will go to the Navy Seal foundation as always.  These men who have given their lives and the wives, parents, and families they leave behind are hometown heroes.  The living SEALS share our neighborhoods and school hallways and the fallen men have left their loved ones to live among us well.

A donation will also be made in the name of the Turkey Trotters on behalf of Naheda's own family to the Syrian Refugee Crisis.  Naheda is Syrian.  Her father came to America when he was 25 years old and has never returned.  It would be a death sentence to do so.   She couldn't meet her grandparents who remained there, or attend their funerals.  Her relatives and cousins remain strangers but, their pain, fear, and loss of country, their grief is her family story.  Her father's country, heritage, language, and story is her legacy.

Her father quietly set up for the Turkey Trot last year with us.  Spraying xs on the street, loading chairs, and setting up tables.  He is a quiet man but, I want him to know that grief is universal.  That all of us suffer.  He doesn't walk alone.  Especially, in Sandbridge.  It is the Hollywood image of a neighborhood and Mr. Roger's best intentions for one.  Sandbridge people are family that you haven't yet met. They share, they lend, they laugh, they work, they care.  You can be alone but, you can never be lonely in Sandbridge.

Life isn't easy but, it is beautiful.  For any and all of you that have lost a loved one, I am so sorry.  For those who suffer the loss of health, marriage, or jobs... THAT is grief also and I'm sorry for your suffering.  And for any of you that have lost a child, well that's just so sad, isn't it?  Your life ended also, didn't it?  The life you knew.  The person you were.  Did you ever imagine?  No.  We couldn't.  I'm close by and understand so much that you understand.  I understand that I do not know what you are feeling. 

I want to warmly invite you to Charlie's Turkey Trot in Sandbridge in Virginia Beach this Thanksgiving.  I'd like to meet you all.  It will be a celebration of survival, of love, of living, of running, and remembering.  It is the day to give thanks.

I'm sorry I've been so silent for so long but, I'd love to hear from you.  I have greatly missed your company.  You are warm and wonderful witnesses and although you may not see the fruits of your kindness, they are securely tattooed deeply on my heart.  You will be rewarded for all of your company and kindness.

I am truly and deeply grateful.  Charlie's Turkey Trot information will be available through www.charliesrun.com as it becomes available.  Please join us, Charlie's family, and make sure you introduce yourself to me ...  New friends are such a cool gift.

((And so, unofficially, begins the most difficult and debilitating time of grief for me... Turkey Trot through New Years. It physically shuts me down.  Deep breath.  And here we go))

Dear James- I wrote to u publicly- in case it was meant to be heard

by Elise Normile on 02/09/15

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.

Dear James,

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?

Wasn’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,

Until,

I love u more,

Momma

ps.   i smile because it was never my intent but, now that i wrote all of that, i know you're going to do something really nice for me in return and i can't wait.

love u, sweet baby james.  all is good here. the swell has been stunning.  but, i have a feeling u know that.  

My Belated Condolences

by Elise Normile on 11/05/13



Mr. Stephen Colbert

So now you know...

Last year, I reached out to you because I had lost two of my sons...  My son, Jack, was 10 years old.  I told him during a visit to New York City that Mr. Colbert had lost 2 brothers of his own by the age of 10...He looked at Colbert's picture on the MTV Studio building and said, "I want to meet him."  I wasn't surprised, I wanted to meet his mother, Lorna.
You wrote to us from the show on 12/11/12 and said we were invited to stop in, you would be honored to meet us.

If we wrote for the celebrity attraction, we would have come running... But, now you know... We wrote from the grief... and so we couldn't respond.  We couldn't visit.  My son wanted to meet Stephen and I, his mother, because we are on a long and difficult road and the best advice we can get about the journey ahead is from those we pass who are on their way out.  We saw you as those travellers.  But, fear and hollowness weighed heavily and we couldn't move.  Jack is detached from his peers still at 12 years old.  He is older than they are in many ways. He can't share their follies or ignorance.
  
And Stephen, did you know?  Did you know you saved your mother's life?  She lived for her children, for the survivors, when she lost her sons and dad.  You were her destination.  You honored her efforts by going far and thinking deeply and using your humanity to its fullest.  You are your dad and brothers best intentions for a great life when you live fully and speak far and influence greatly and laugh often.  This world isn't so serious, is it?  Compared to what you and I know.  The only matter of life and death is... well, life and death.   Stephen your mother didn't remember her favorite color, her favorite song in her final days because, well, what is a favorite to a mother?  Whatever delights her child.  Her own favorites came last.  The true happiness in her life was the joy of her children.  But the prayers she remembered....  Ah, Stephen, of course, it was the prayers.  Because she lost her children for reasons beyond her control and through no fault of their own...  and her heart knew deeply even when her mind remembered little else, that prayer is all that she had in matters she could not control... and for the sake and care of her children?!  Well, in those matters, well it became all that mattered.  

I will bring my son Jack to New York City now. We would love to stop by.  Please let us know if you are available. Oh and Stephen? Like your mother I too tell my children of this amazing gratitude I have for each day I am given... but, guess what your mother and I have also told our other children that we have lost?  We assure our boys we will be equally grateful on the day we get to die as well.  Your mother loved you dearly, Stephen. You know that... but, she never loved you more.  

I think she needed you to hear that because she wants you to be a good boy and not her baby and so let her spend some time with your brothers for once before you come back to them.  I hope this reaches you.  I think she'll see that it does.

Warmest regards,

Elise Normile

I admire you but, am your mother's greatest fan.