Ordinarily I’m very organized with the writing for this blog. Initial thoughts may pour out of my head in a jumble, but by the time the words hit the page and I hit publish, they are constructed into nice and neat little packages. Once I’m satisfied with the end product, the post goes into the queue, poised on deck until the timing is right. But this post is not like other posts. This is the hardest post I have EVER had to write. As my thoughts fill up this screen my eyes fill up with tears, and as the words come together, they still don’t make any sense. And I am certainly not satisfied with the outcome. But I feel compelled to share, as I’ve found that my heart is most open to learning (and healing) when my emotions are still raw and vulnerable.
There’s no sugar-coated way to say this – a friend and colleague of mine is right in the middle of what can only be described as every parent’s worst nightmare. One of my fellow Adventure Moms, Jen Charette (aka Velo Mom), has been on a “digital nomadic” adventure since last October, when their family of 4 rented their Colorado house and took to the open road. Between homeschooling their oldest boy and working remotely to keep the bills paid, Jen was always quick to say that her current lifestyle was not a “vacation,” but rather a constant family adventure that took a lot of work and planning. Their family was spending the winter in Sayulita, Mexico, and I had enjoyed reading her updates about surfing, biking, and bonding as a family.
But last Monday morning, as I was snuggling with my little guy per our usual morning ritual, I reached over to grab my phone, scrolling through my facebook newsfeed. I was shocked to see Jen’s facebook status – it said that her youngest son Axel “was killed in Sayulita, Mexico on 2/28.” It took a few hours for this devastating news to sink in. Slowly but surely reports started trickling in with more details, each one painting a more horrific picture than the last. You can go to this online source to find out what happened, but I can’t bring myself to type it out here. Besides, this post is about remembering Axel’s life, not the tragic events surrounding his death.
I’ve been trying to wrap my head around this all week, and no matter how hard I try, I keep coming up empty. Every time I try to put myself in the Charrette’s shoes it feels like my heart is being ripped out of my chest. Just the thought of it and I can’t breathe. And I’m sure that I cannot even begin to comprehend the pain they are being forced to endure right now. As someone who has always used words to vent, understand, encourage, and express myself to others, I have found myself struggling to find even one word that seemed appropriate to offer up in support. Somehow well-meaning phrases such as “sorry for your loss” just don’t seem to cut it. Things like this just aren’t supposed to happen, and there’s no magic words or formula that can make it all go away.
But that being said, throughout all of the feelings of sadness, fear, anger, and confusion that have prompted my prayers for this family all week, there has been one glimmer of peace that kept popping up. And that was the thought of sweet Axel’s life – though from our perspective it seems to have been snuffed out far too soon, it was certainly a life well-lived. In fact, it’s probably safe to say that Axel packed more adventures into his 2 short years on this earth than many grown-ups have in a lifetime! And that my friends, is a blessing that should not be discounted. I am so thankful that Axel was born into a family that adored him and gave him a chance to experience life to the fullest. And in turn, I’m thankful for the time that the rest of the Charrettes family and friends were able to spend with Axel. Regardless of the pain and suffering that family is having to endure, I know that each of their lives are far better for having shared it with Axel, even if it was just for a fleeting moment.
Do I believe that God has a sovereign plan and that He is control? Undoubtedly. Do I believe that God can use this horrifically painful situation for His glory? Yes I do. But I also know that healing for this family will be a life long journey.. This post is not intended to be a Band-Aid to cover up vulnerable emotions. This tragedy is just one small example that we live in a broken world, and on this earth their family will never be healed completely. But without knowing what to do with my own thoughts and emotions, it seemed more productive to focus on the love in this story rather than the hate. My prayer for the Charrettes is that they will somehow find a way to do the same – to lean in to God and cling tightly to each other during this time of unspeakable anguish. That they won’t close themselves off to each other or to the support they are receiving and will continue to receive from family and friends. And if I’m being completely honest, I’m also (perhaps selfishly) praying that I won’t ever have to experience something as horrible as losing my son, but I am very thankful that there’s a Heavenly Father who has.
If you would like to reach out to the Charrettes, please feel free to leave your own words of prayer and/or support in the comments below. A memorial service is being held today (March 12) in Ridgway, Colorado. The Charrettes have also set up a fund in Axel’s name that will be used to get more kids active and on bikes. With the support of Strider Bikes, they hope to share Axel’s passion for riding with other kids that might otherwise not have had the opportunity. If you would like to donate, you can send a check made out to the Axel Charrette Fund, c/o Alpine Bank, 119 Liddell Drive, Ridgway, CO 81432, or call 970-626-4100 and reference the Axel Charrette Fund.
As we all know but so often take for granted, none of us are promised tomorrow. Our response should not be one of fear, but rather one of gratitude, and a desire to make the most out of the time we are given. So take an opportunity today to tell a family member or friend that you love them. And for those of you that are parents, it probably goes without saying to hug your children extra tight today.