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In Memory of Axel Charrette

Jen with a much younger Kalden and Axel on the bike trail. (Credit Velomom.com)

Jen with a much younger Kalden and Axel on the bike trail. (Credit Velomom.com)

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.

Axel at his first "bike race."

Axel scoping the competition at his first “bike race.” (Credit Velomom.com)

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.

A recent picture of Axel in Mexico

A recent, beautiful picture of Axel in Mexico (Credit Velomom.com)

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.  :(

 

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28 Responses to “In Memory of Axel Charrette”

  1. Erica,
    Thank you so much for writing this. I have been praying for the Charettes since I read your post last week. I did not know the circumstances of Axel’s death until today, and it was very hard to read. But I think as fellow parents and members of the Body of Christ, we are called to enter into grief with those who are grieving and to share in the burden they are carrying. And certainly we can’t alleviate the Charette’s suffering, but by knowing my heart has been broken a little more in union with theirs and yours and everyone else who is praying over this family today.

    Jen, I don’t know if you will read this, but please know that I am praying for your family. It seems so inconsequential from so far away, but I believe that God hears.I am praying specifically for your and your husband, that God would protect you from undue guilt and from attacks by those who would judge you. You were teaching your sons a great lesson in living each day to its fullest, and that a safe, comfortable life is not the best life. I hope that you are able to keep living that legacy even in spite of crippling grief.

    Blessings,
    Jenn T.

    Reply

  2. I am an online friend of Jen’s, and this news has been absolutely devastating. I can’t pretend to know or understand her family’s pain, but I have shed tears for them in sympathy. You are absolutely right that Axel lived a beautiful (albeit short) life, and that they were blessed to have had him (and he to have them). I believe families are eternal, and it will be a grand reunion on the other side. I know Axel has been healed from the pain that he suffered, and that he now stands watch over his family. That doesn’t stop the pain now, and all I can say is that I am SO very sorry for all that they have endured, and the loss they will continue to endure. I would also like to 2nd all that Jenn T. said in her comments–beautifully said.

    Reply

  3. Erica,
    Thank you for your brave and heartfelt memorial to Axel. My heart has been aching for the Charrettes since I heard the news last week. As the mother of two adventurous boys almost the same ages, I have felt nearly crippled by empathy. I have a deep appreciation for your words — full of just the humility, grace, perspective, and call to action that are needed in times of deep sorrow.
    Warmly,
    Teresa

    Reply

  4. Jen Classi

    I was Axel’s daycare provider here in Ridgway from the time he was a tiny little guy until he went on his adventure with his family. I got to watch him drool (i called him my little drool bug) crawl, walk, ride his strider (younger than most tiny ones can walk) and a lot of little things in between, such as figuring out how to put the large legos together into a tower and then knock them down and just laugh and laugh. I could go on and on about the things that made me laugh on my days with Axel. He had chunky thighs and I would chase him and tell him that I was going to get his “hamhockers” and he would fall to the floor just to let me tickle him. (my favorite memory) That little boy smiled more than he was mad or sad. I live in the same neighborhood as Jen and Randy so when they would come outside (which was his favorite thing) he would make his way to my house to come see his friends at the daycare. I remember watching him ride his strider for the first time and just cheering for him as he made his way with his Mama down to the mailbox. Each day he went faster and faster and then to see the pictures of him in his first race was beyond exciting (one of my fav photos). I love all of the children at my daycare and most of them I have had since they were infants so they become part of my family. The loss is huge here at Mrs. Jen’s and I know it does not compare to the feeling of loss that Jen, Randy and Kalden have. I want to thank you for writing such a wonderful blog in tribute my little buddy and the hope that the Lord gives us that we will see him in heaven. God’s grace and peace is what I hold on to for the ease of the grief and I pray that the peace of the Lord will spread across our community. Jen is such an amazing person and I am in awe of her strength. Again, thank you for your tribute it is beautiful and it is so true that although his life was too short, it was lived to the fullest because he was blessed with the best parents anyone could ask for. With all my love, Jen Classi

    Reply

    • Jen Classi

      Erica, I too would like to ask you to remove that comment. This as you said is a place to tribute Axel’s life. He loved riding and that is a major part of the Charrett’s lifestyle. The memorial and Bon fire is our farewell to his sweet spirit and the comments above are hurtful even with the best of intentions. What happened is not lost on anyone who reads the story of his death but this is not the place to talk about that. I wholeheartedly agree that we need to help keep our kids safe from this kind of harm but as you can see it not only happens in different countries or unfamiliar situations, it also happens at home. Nothing that the Charretts did was wrong, they were giving their children so much more than most adults ever experience. (Feel free to delete this or not post it if you feel it is not appropriate)
      Tonight was a beautiful memorial to an amazing child, it helped ease the pain a little but let us not forget to keep surrounding this family with love and prayer. Healing will be a long road.

  5. Erica

    Jenn T – Your words are beautiful. The image of our hearts breaking in union together is painful but poignant.

    Living…- Thank you very much for sharing your heart.

    Teresa – Crippled by empathy is a very accurate way to put it. Thank you for sharing.

    Jen Classi – I am so sorry for your deep personal loss. It is very apparent to me that Axel was a special little person, and it has been bittersweet reading all of the memories others have shared about him. I am thankful the Charrettes will have you to lean on and grieve with. I will be praying for you all at the Memorial this evening.

    Reply

  6. Pat L.

    Thank you for putting some words around the emotions we all are feeling … “sorry for your loss” was just so so inadequate … there just are no words for the emotions …

    Reply

  7. Philip H.

    I have a 16mo. old daughter and I can’t even finish reading this. I commend you on your courage for crafting such a soul shaking eulogy Erica Lineberry. This little boy must have been so so special.

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  8. Jessica G.

    So sad…my heart aches for this family.

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  9. Kristin E.

    I cannot stop crying! What a horrible, horrible tragedy. Words are inadequate. Many prayers to this family.

    Reply

  10. Bonnie Metzger

    I think I can speak for the people of Sayulita in saying that this community is in mourning and horror over the loss of darling Axel. This crime is unspeakable and incomprehensible, and has shaken the local Mexicans as well as the expat community to its core. Our lives in “paradise” have been altered on a deep level, but not nearly as deep as the lives of every member of the Charrette family and their friends. Talk is underway about planning a memorial for Axel so that he is not forgotten. Please extend my deep, heartfelt sympathy to the family and know that you are never far from our minds and hearts.

    Reply

  11. Susan

    Erica, this is such a beautiful window into Axel’s life. Thank you for finding the words when most of us are too stunned to speak.

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  12. Amber Kleine

    This shook me to my core. My mother and stepfather helped to care for this family in Sayulita in the days after this took place and to hear it through their eyes was almost too much for me to take. I have 3 young children two of them very active little boys, brothers….. I know so deeply what was taken from this family. I grew up in Sayulita, my kids have gone there since birth. The days following this news for me were very hard. I found myself broken. I imagined the pain of the family, the plane ride home from a foreign country….leaving without your baby. The first time walking through your front door without him, it’s all too much. Too much for anyone to take. Just the thought of my mom looking into the eyes of a mother who just lost her baby brought me to my knees. It still does. No one should have to experience this. The realization that you can’t protect your children from everthing all the time no matter how hard you try is terrifying. I applaud the family for taking an adventure with their boys teaching them to color outside of the lines. I have decided to honor little Axel each and everyday. When I get to run my hands through the boys’ hair, when I get to see them wrestle, and giggle, hold hands, run, stomp in mud puddles, all of this will be even sweeter because I will hold Axel’s memory close.

    Reply

    • Erica

      Bonnie and Amber- Thanks for chiming in from Mexico. I am thankful that they were not alone in their grief those first few days. Amber, I think you nailed it. I read your comment and the tears came yet again. Brokenness, sadness, anger, fear…I think those are emotions we are all dealing with right now, although I’m sure it’s all just a fraction of what Jen and Randy are feeling. Poor, sweet Axel. :( I am relieved that he is in a much better place and the tears are wiped from his eyes now – he will never have to relive that horror again.

  13. Oh, my! I stumbled upon this family’s tragedy while reading another blog I follow. I can’t begin to imagine what they are going through and my heart pours out for them. Such a senseless & horrible act upon an innocent child. Nauseating to say the least. My thoughts and prayers are with them through this time.

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  14. Marley

    What a nice tribute. I have said it before in other places, but will say it again here for the sake of keeping this post as it should be: a place of encouragement and emotional support. Axel, we have never met you, yet in the last week you have changed our lives in ways we never imagined. We watch our boys, one of whom rides an orange Strider just like you, with a new sense of appreciation, gratitude, and overwhelming love. We carry a new sense of perspective about what really matters at the end of the day and will move past our fears and work as hard as we can to live our lives as deeply and fully as possible. You have inspired us and truly changed our lives in so many ways. We hope you are peaceful sweet angel.

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  15. Nikki

    Erica, thank you for writing a deeply poignant and genuine post about this family. I do not know them, but I had read Jen’s blog and was very inspired by their lifestyle and goals. I read about what happened to Axel because of your post on Facebook and for the past few days have not been able to get it out of my mind. I feel for the family so much. I am not a parent and I cannot imagine what they are going through, but I am glad to know that so many have provided support to them. I hope in their grief they find comfort in your post and the others who have commented here with such compassion.

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  16. jen m.

    Erica, thank you so much for your words and for your heart. I can feel this whole valley crying for Axel and his family. I really found Amber’s words to be just really right on, too. The vulnerability we have as parents. How scary that is. I have lost a child, our son died after he was born about seven years ago. When I wanted to check out of this life, I remembered a friend’s very helpful and wise words, “live to honor your son.” Honestly, that’s how I dragged myself out of bed each day. I lived to honor him, IN honor of him. In no way am I comparing our losses, but just sharing what helped me to breathe. Also, I really believe that Axel’s purpose in his life, in our lives, is only greatened by his death. Does that make sense? His purpose is different now, but it is so so present and stronger than ever. That helps me. Another friend shared to me words from another grieving mother, that she chose to not relive the tragic way her daughter was murdered because that was not who she was and it happened one time not a thousand times. I am trying to move from that place so I can strengthen my spirit to help support the Charrette’s (even though I have never met them). This valley has embraced this family, there is no better place, in my mind, to be supported and eventually, someday, to begin to heal. blessings and peace.

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  17. Amy

    i just returned from sayulita and am devastated to hear of this senseless tragedy……My heart goes out to this family and beautiful little Axel.

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  18. Erica

    If you have been following this thread of comments, you may now notice that a few comments are missing. I ordinarily do not delete comments just b/c I don’t agree with them, but this situation is much more sensitive than most and goes far beyond me and my personal feelings. So, out of respect for the Charrette family and in order to keep this post on track, I have decided to take down a comment that myself as well as others have deemed offensive and poorly timed. I also took down any other comments that referenced the deleted comment. If you have any questions, please message me privately.

    That being said, let’s all remember that this post is a forum to express our love and support for a deeply grieving family in the midst of the unimaginable. Before you hit “submit,” think about whether your comment will do just that – if not, feel free to email me privately. I very much want to hear from all of my readers, even if we have to agree to disagree – but this post in particular is not an open forum for personal agendas…and there are certain words that are outrageously inappropriate for a grieving family to hear.

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  19. Jamie

    Thank you for your love and honesty. Your love poured out on to the page. You are bold and courageous and will continue to be a voice of love and truth in the months to come.

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  20. Erica,

    Thank you for sharing this devastating and inspiring story. It helps to remind me to cherish everyday that I have.

    Ed

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  21. Jamie

    Thank you for your thoughtful reflection on the life and memory of this beautiful baby. Sending thoughts and prayers of peace and love to this family.

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  22. Ann

    I am so very, very sorry this family has been so deeply wounded. It was hard to read this. This family is in my prayers. I hope that the evil that took their son not destroy their lives. I also lost a son and I know that you can laugh again.
    I take comfort in knowing that in Mexico you are guilty till proven innocent. And the lives of the two individuals responsible for this has changed for the worse.

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  23. erica. thank you for writing this. i am so heartbroken for them. thankyou for pointing us to the beautiful and full life that he lived. thankyou for reminding us to focus on the beauty of the world in the midst of all the tragic brokenness surrounding us. for Jen – i am praying immensely for you and your family. as a mama, i can only imagine what excruciating pain you, your husband, and oldest son are going through. but i believe in a faithful, loving God that walks with you through this pain and for His healing comfort through others surrounding you, upholding you, lifting you up to Him. and i do hope that you will be able to resume your adventures in honor of your sweet Axel when you are able. loving you to Jesus. xoxox

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  24. Axel, a special gift from God. All children are God’s gift to us here on earth. You and your family were blessed to have him even though it was for such a short time. He touched many and gave you that special love only a child can give. He is now a little angel in heaven and I am sure if you talk and pray to him and he will ask God to give you the strength to get through this. You’ve experienced love and pain. The love will always be there but the pain will ever so slowly diminish. Keeping you, Randy and Kalden in our prayers
    Much Love
    MaryEllen and Ken.

    Reply

  25. Linda McAtee Lysaght

    Thank you for your beautiful tribute to little Axel. Everyone in Ridgway has a hole in their hearts, but especially the Charrette’s. I was so happy to see the community gather around this family. Made me very proud of Ridgway.
    Linda Lysaght

    Reply

  26. Jeniffer McClosly

    I stumbled on this story a month or so ago while looking up “Two year old development”, since then I have lost countless hours of sleep and cried so many tears. I have felt rage that until this point I didn’t know existed within me. However, I’ve also been able to reflect on what a beautiful life this little boy lead, so many people who love him and through them his spirit will live on. Thank you for writing this. To all who know them family, I have been praying for you all everyday with everything that I have in me. My church has been praying for you as well.

    Love, support and prayers from Ontario, Canada.

    Reply

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“Not all who wander are lost.” —JRR TOLKIEN