“Hello poppet,” Reg Thompson began his letter to daughter Charlie.
“I just needed to tell you something. I’m going to write down everything we ever did. I’m going to tell the world that I have the most beautiful, fantastic daughter who ever lived.”
“You will live forever.”
Never in a million years had Reg Thompson imagined losing his daughter. From the moment she was born, lively, loving Charlotte and her dad had shared a very unique and inseparable bond.
"I have the most beautiful, fantastic daughter who ever lived"
“Please God,” he used to think whenever Charlie would tell him to ‘make a wish’.
“Keep her safe. Don’t let anything to happen to her.”
Heartbreakingly, Charlotte died in a freak railway accident on December 3, 2005. She was only 13.
On any other Saturday, Charlotte would have been helping Reg’s brother out at his wholesale deli business, where she was a favourite with the other staff who nicknamed her “Charlie Muscles” thanks to her her ability to carry two, five-liter tubs of olives in either hand.”
Keep her safe. Don't let anything happen to her.
But this Saturday, she was excited to be going Christmas shopping her best friend, Livvy.
Reg kissed his daughter goodbye before he set off for work in the early hours the morning.
“I love you, Daddy” Charlie had said, still half asleep.
Charlie, and good pal Liv were both tragically killed in a railway accident
Charlotte and Liv had planned to catch the 10.42am train to Cambridge from Elsenham station.
Reg began to worry when he called Charlotte almost an hour later, to see how she was getting on.
A little later came the shocking news. The girls had crossed the tracks to reach their platform and had been hit an express train. Both had died instantly.
Now, 13 years after her death, Reg — a teacher from Essex — has written the second of two books in Charlotte’s precious memory.
It’s called Write Charlie and has been compiled with the help of hundreds of strangers, inspired by her life and Reg’s loss.
It all began in 2006, when a local IT company offered to set up a website in Charlotte’s memory.
All proceeds of Write Charlie will be helping bereaved families across the UK
Reg had already been asking friends and family to write Charlotte’s name and pose for a photo, whenever they traveled somewhere special. Now, they had a special platform to post the pictures and show the world where Charlotte had made her mark.
Inspired, people from all around the globe began writing Charlie’s name and sending Reg their photographs. They began to arrive in their hundreds.
“I remember saying that if we got enough photographs, we’d publish a book for charity,” smiles Reg.
Write Charlie: In the snow
Now, he’s done just that, with Write, Charlie featuring photographs from more than 80 countries across all five continents. A particular favourite being on the Falkland Islands, with Charlie’s name written on the white sand of the South Atlantic.
“There are two penguins staring at her name like two elderly women gossiping over a fence. It makes me laugh and cry at the same time,” says Reg, who feels sure it would have made Charlie laugh, too.
Charlie's name written in the white sand of the Falkland Islands
Charlotte had a heart of gold and always strived to help others — from making her Mum Hillary breakfast in bed on Sunday mornings, to assisting her green fingered grandma in the garden.
She made the world a better place.
At her school sports day, her favourite teacher Mrs Dunn asked Charlotte to help the children who weren’t confident to run on their own.
“Charlie held their hands as they ran around the track. They always came last even though she could’ve won if she wanted to.”
“She made the world a better place,” smiles Reg, who with wife Hillary visits Charlotte’s grave every Saturday.
Reg and Charlotte shared an inseperable bond
“I couldn’t bear the thought of having a traditional headstone made for her, so we got her name engraved on a stone that was found on the west coast of Scotland.
“It’s about the size of a child’s pillow. I imagine her lying with her head up against it, just sleeping.”
As a way of coping with the pain of losing her, he turned to pen and paper to channel his grief, writing his daughter beautiful letters expressing how much he loved and missed her.
Dear Charlie is a collection of letters written by Reg to his beloved daughter
“I began writing to her about my pain, of everyday family life and of the beautiful memories we shared together,” said Reg, who compiled and published the letters in his first book, Dear Charlie.
The book is a tribute to our lost daughter.
Every penny of profit from his latest book, Write Charlie will help other families who have been devastated by the loss of someone they love – with the proceeds going to charity, Child Bereavement, which provides the counselling and support the need to rebuild their lives.
“The book is a tribute to our lost daughter, a celebration of the human spirit, a demonstration of trying to create something positive out of adversity and a means to raise money for a very worthwhile charity” says Reg.
Charlie would've loved the books written by her dad
“Charlie made everyone’s lives better.”
If there’s one Reg knows, it’s that Charlie would love the books and be so proud of her dad for writing them. Through them, he can see her smiling and laughing still.
“It proves to us all,” he says, “that memories last a lifetime.”
- Both of Reg Thompson’s books are available on Amazon