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December 14, 2017 will mark five years without loved ones for families of children and educators killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The Newtown Bee will share remembrances of victims of 12/14 throughout the fall, written by family members or with the assistance of staff at The Newtown Bee. Not all families care to share, and we respect that. This week, JoAnn and Joel Bacon share their tribute to Charlotte.
Charlotte Helen Bacon was born February 22, 2006, in Hunterdon County, N.J. It was the day we became a family of four, the day our son became an older brother, the day we added a daughter to our family. It was the day that made every day complete thereafter.
When Charlotte died, every day became incomplete. We were denied raising a daughter, learning about who she would become, and supporting her during her failures and successes. Her brother was forced to live as an only child. He lost his constant companion, most reliable ally, and the only person with a shared history. Charlotte’s four grandparents outlived her and witnessed their own children become a shadow of who they were. They grieve their granddaughter and they grieve for their own children whom they sometimes do not recognize. She was the baby of the family on both sides, and her aunts, uncles, and cousins miss doting on her and hearing her amusing stories. Our family’s view of the world, our community, and our place in it is forever changed. The trauma of Charlotte’s death will seep down to each generation of our family hereafter. The impact is immeasurable. Our lives and family are forever altered. How do you heal an unfillable void that is bigger than your entire universe?
Charlotte was adored. She inspired us to be bold and made us love more. She was independent, candid, determined, and had a way of holding her ground with adults. We like to describe her as bold. We were proud parents and secretly laughed at her boldness, which was sometimes borderline rudeness. Charlotte was known for her mischief and she could create spectacular messes. She liked working in the garden with her mom, begging her daddy for a tickle or an “uppy,” imitating her older brother who she adored, and cuddling with the family dog. She had the sophisticated palette of an adult and a stick of butter was not safe around Charlotte, so we accommodated with the rule of limitless butter when out to dinner. Charlotte loved being outdoors, climbing rocks, and exploring. We once found our fearless daughter scaling across the top bar of the playground set with not an ounce of concern in her body. Charlotte loved our lunch dates at Swanky Franks mostly because “Swanky” was in its name. She liked picnics and reading books together at the Peter Rabbit house when the weather was warm. She was a regular at the C.H. Booth Library and often checked out the same rotation of books. Charlotte was fearless in the water. By age four, she would line up with the big kids at Treadwell pool to jump off the diving board, determined to show anyone who questioned that she was too small or too young. Charlotte was effervescent, funny, clever, curious, sweet and sassy. Our home was safe, happy, loud and full of energy, laughter, love, and a lot of little messes that bothered none of us. Words will never be adequate when sharing our love for our daughter.
We were a family of four and we thought we were untouchable. We sent our daughter to school on a December morning, and an hour later our beautiful little girl was gone and the quiet, simple life that we enjoyed vaporized. We have struggled with unwanted attention and advice, and have felt the sting of judgment, comparisons, and unrealistic expectations. Expectations that promote embracing forgiveness, religion, positivity, or gratitude as the way to return to happiness and joy. Or that the only worthy and healthy way to grieve is by finding meaning, being a change agent, or having a triumph over tragedy narrative. You are lauded brave and inspirational if you follow this model and something other if you do not. Grieving as defined by these standards feeds the comfort and safety of others. It allows them to make tidy what is messy. But regardless how it is polished, there is nothing tidy about murder or grief. The months following the tragedy, we felt caught up in a pep rally with morale boosting events and talk of strength, resilience, and healing that continues today. All these notions were foreign to us and were severely incongruent to the reality within our home, where our wails left us so weak we could only whimper. We had never felt so misunderstood, alone, and forgotten. We began to think that there was no place for our grief, sorrow, or the truth outside of our home. The truth is there is no way we can reconcile the murder of our daughter. There is no comfort to be found or given, and no peace or forgiveness will erase the truth. Our daughter died a violent death and what remains is questions without answers, confusion, and incalculable pain. We wake up to this truth every morning and live it every day. The best we can do is integrate our loss, our pain, and live with purpose and love.
The family and friends that make up our support system have been constant and committed. They restored our trust when we thought there was no trust left. They stayed through the tears and were there when we learned to embrace the laughter. We are forever grateful to the individuals and groups that listened, respected our boundaries, laid down their assumptions and egos, and adapted to better support our family’s needs. It is because of them that we that we realize Charlotte is still alive in all of our hearts, that we embrace her life and not just her death. Charlotte is still adored. She continues to inspire us to be bold. We continue to be, and always will be, her parents. We embrace her legacy.
The Charlotte Helen Bacon Foundation was created to celebrate Charlotte’s life and deliver the legacy she started. As her parents, we are committed to fulfilling our daughter’s dreams and aspirations by helping others attain theirs. Our programs, initiatives, and partnerships all must pass the test “Is it good enough for Charlotte?” In addition, to protect Charlotte’s life story and share her bold and loving spirit, we co-authored and published the children’s book, Good Dogs, Great Listeners — The Story of Charlotte, Lily, and the Litter. This is not our work, but Charlotte’s. It is through her love and our love for her, that Charlotte continues to touch lives and leave her fingerprint on this world.
“Her absence was like the sky, spread over everything” ~ C.S. Lewis
Find out more at charlottehelenbaconfoundation.org; gooddogsgreatlisteners.com. View the video created last summer at