I am Charlie’s Uncle Brett, Brendan’s Brother, and proud godfather of Charlie!
I have been wanting to write a post since the foundation was started and have put it off for many reasons. Mostly, it has been fear of what to write and how it will be perceived. I have a history of being a bit long-winded…. but I have so many things I want to share with you, so I’ll muster the courage to do so (one of the many things Charlie has taught us.)
Like all of us, I was lost the day you left and continue that sadness often, mostly when I am reminded of certain things. I also have had many moments to treasure and to be proud of, and I want to share them with you. This is what I choose to focus on every day when I think about you and what I try to focus on in my everyday life too! This letter is to highlight those happy memories and how they have shaped my life since we met.
The day of your funeral was a day I will never forget. You were with us for way too short of a time, way way way way way too short of a time. I feared this day would highlight that reality and be a constant reminder… but for me it wasn’t. The first moment to share came when your dad delivered an unbelievably true and touching eulogy. He spoke of what you taught us. How you filled our lives in the time you were here and what you will remind us of forever. Relationships, Humility, and Courage. Brendan went up and spoke of you in front of a church filled with family and friends during his saddest days and he never wavered. He even teased our beloved Father Brad. He had so much courage and he touched us with his words. He changed my view of that day and the days moving forward. He made me realize it was the time to focus on the positive. I can honestly say from that day on, I have tried to focus more on what matters. Family and friends, being present, and truly caring about those you love regardless of any differences. Since that time, myself and your Aunt Jackie were fortunate to have your cousin Tucker, we decided to focus on what was important…being near family. We decided to make the hard decision to leave Canada and move back to the U.S.; it has been a blessing being near family again! Jobs and material things come and go, I know that now more than ever. This is just one example of how your daily reminders shape our view on what really matters in life.
Another example of how you continue to leave your mark on this world is through your family. Your parents created Charlie’s Corner Foundation to give back (but in my opinion they do far more than just that). They bring people together. There are so many ways to grieve, and it differs per person. I hurt all the time and can only imagine how your Mom and Dad grieve. Your parents have been able to turn their grief into something positive by building relationships with family, friends and the surrounding communities through special events to honor you! It is obvious that this has already been effective. For Jackie, Tucker and I, we get two more special trips back home to Chicagoland to see family and friends each year. So much money has been raised and donated. The foundation is rightfully recognized for that. I am proud of your parents and Grandparents (and Aunts and Uncles, cousins, etc.) on how much they give and the time they donate. Each of your events. (in true Cavanagh/Kiep form) are a ton of FUN! Every time we get to go to the Cavy Classic or Lantern Walk I am amazed… humbled personally by our friends coming from near and far to participate and donate, Canadians too! I’m amazed at how many people care and show their love. I’m amazed again at the strength of your Mom and Dad… It fills my heart and reminds me again to stay present and remember what is most important in life, Relationships! I find myself reaching out to friends and family more often because of it. And relationships have grown all due to your lessons! I encourage all to try to remember this in good and hard times.
Lastly, we have the lesson of humility. This is evident through so many of the stories already mentioned, how lucky we are to be surrounded by so many people that care? And further evident by how humble your mom and dad are. They constantly tell all of us that ‘we (speaking of everyone but themselves) do too much!’ I know you were there to see them be honored as a top donator to Lurie and become Glen Ellyn Park District’s Volunteer of the Year. ‘Ho-Hum’ is there response all the time and not ‘why they do it’. I know that but am just so proud of them. How much time, effort and care goes into every event they do amazes me. It doesn’t stop there; your Grandparents donate and give so much time. Grandma and Grandpa Kiep drive up from Texas never missing a thing. Grandma and Grandpa Cavanagh too are at every event. Both are designing, building, painting, setting up, watching kids, donating and so much more. The strength, kindness, and humbleness of your Grandparents and Parents are a tremendous reminder to us all on how to be the example. A reminder on how to create a legacy and raise such phenomenal people. A humble reminder that how you live your life is what matters. We don’t get to choose when it ends.
Because of you Charlie I choose to focus on the positive. To remember the value of relationships, the importance of humility, and how to be courageous at the toughest times. I miss you every day, especially this time of year. Love you and know we will meet again, especially if I can keep following your lessons. Love you!
– Uncle Brett