Remembering Charlie and Braden Powell

For the past two years, all over the country, and in Puyallup, Wash. no less, the news has been captivated by the tragic story of one family — the Powell’s. Though you might already be familiar with the case: Two years ago, Susan Cox Powell went missing on the night her husband took their two children, Charlie and Braden, camping at 12:30 am. Josh Powell has since been a person of interest in his wife’s disappearance and possible murder.

Two years ago after accusations began, Josh moved his boys up to Puyallup where Susan grew up and his father lives, who has recently been arrested on voyeurism and child pornography charges. He lost custody of his children, after a year-long battle with Susan’s parents, last week. As well, the judge ordered Josh to undergo a psycho-sexual evaluation — one that could pin him for good in the case of Susan’s disappearance.

On Super Bowl Sunday, a social worker arrived at Josh’s house on the outskirts of Puyallup for a supervised visit between Josh and Charlie and Braden. But when she arrived, Josh locked her out of the house. Less than 25 minutes later, the house exploded into flames.

I remember the smoke because I went running on Sunday after taking my nephew Ryder to the park at the top of my parent’s hill near Carson Elementary School. I figured the smoke was from a building but didn’t really think twice about is as the trailer park nearby often starts bon fires of sorts that cause the same kind of smoke. A half hour later my sister told us it was Josh Powell’s house — she heard from a friend who is a Pierce County Sheriff. 

Josh, Charlie and Braden Powell were declared dead at the scene — Josh of the smoke and fumes of the fire, Charlie and Braden either of that or of a hatchet that was found to have hit the boys on their heads several times just before the fire was started by their father.

The last week has been a blur of news about developments in the Powell family case. One thing is known: Josh Powell maliciously planned to kill himself and his sons in a fire.

Today is the funeral service of Charlie and Braden Powell.

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I first got this text message from my dad who rode to the service in Tacoma.

Mom and I turned on the news.

A reporter at the front of the church talked about the many people coming into the building to celebrate Charlie and Braden’s lives. Then he talked about the large number of motorcycle riders who formed a sort of block line to keep cameras and news from getting too close to the service. The bikers came to show their support, and to protect Charlie and Braden’s funeral service from being exploited by cameras and from the nonsensical protestors who were expected to show. Those Harley riders… they’ve got mean moustaches but man do they have big hearts.

My dad is one of those Harley riders there. I was proud to know he was there for our family.

Picture from dad's phone at the memorial service for Charlie and Braden Powell.

Pastor Dean Curry of Life Center Church starts talking. He mentions the tragic events that have led to this day. He reads from Matthew 19 and talks about celebrating Charlie and Braden as innocent lives.

“None of us know how many moments we are going to get. We want to be thankful for the moments we have…”

Pastor Tim Atkins of Faith Bible Church, where Charlie and Braden’s grandparents attend, shares a word before he prays for the opening of the service. He talks about how Charlie and Braden want to hold hands while they pray because that’s what they do at Pastor Tim’s house.

I cry again as the those who are gathered at the church hold hands while they join in Pastor Tim’s prayer. 

“We have great need and you have great supply…”

Pastor Tim prays for trust and comfort. I resonate with his prayer. 

He asks for joy and support. I ask, too. 

A children’s choir sings “Amazing Grace.”

“T’was that grace taught my heart to fear and grace thy fears relieved. How precious that grace appear the hour I first believed…”

I’ve always loved that song. It’s words seem a perfect fit for so many circumstances. Possibly more true than ever for this circumstance. 

“My chains are gone, I’ve been sent free. My God, my Savior has ransomed me. And like a flood, His mercy rains. Unending love. Amazing grace.”

The news camera pans over the auditorium. It’s filled with friends and family and strangers — some with their eyes closed in prayer or silence, some with their head in their hands, some singing along.

The song finishes and a slideshow of the boys takes over. Braden’s face is precious. Charlie’s smile melts your heart.

I’ve never heard their laughter, but I bet it was just as sweet. 

There’s a picture of the boys with their grandparents outside their home in Graham. The boys have purple balloons they are just about to let go of in memory of their mother.

Remembering Charlie and Braden Powell | Lindsey Talerico-Hedren

Gifts in memory of Charlie and Braden Powell outside Carson Elementary School where Charlie was a first-grade student.

Yesterday, Colin and I visited a friend’s kindergarten class at Carson Elementary where Charlie was a first-grader. It was “purple day” in honor of Charlie and Braden. Purple was Susan’s favorite color, I was told. Colin and I tied little purple bracelets around the small wrists in the class, a sign of their support for the family’s loss. Purple bows also tie every tree down our parkway, in both directions from the school until the main road.

Charlie’s kindergarten teacher (from last year) shares memories of Charlie as a student. Memorable lessons, clever remarks, silly expressions and young talents were talked about.

He sounds beautifully sweet. 

“We will miss him, but he will not be forgotten.”

Next, two representatives from the South Hill YMCA talk about Braden. A woman mentions Braden’s favorite thing was to tell the staff at the YMCA, “Chase me. Get me.”

It reminds me of  what Ryder is always saying to me at the park, “Aunt Gingzee, get me!” 

Remembering Charlie and Braden Powell | Lindsey Talerico-Hedren

Notes to Charlie from his classmates.

“Braden’s spirit lives on in the hearts of those who love him.”

A family friend reads a quote — “Where can I turn for peace? …Where can I turn?…Who can understand?…Gentle the peace and hand….of Jesus Christ.” He reads a CS Lewis quote next that was beautifully stated. The family friend talks about the still, small voice of Jesus who directs us in times of loss and lost-ness.

Mr. and Mrs. Cox, Susan’s parents, take to the podium. Mr. Cox’s voice is slow, I can only imagine, with pain and loss. He says just a few short words.

I can’t imagine what they must be feeling — the hell they’ve endured for two years now, and likely for the rest of their lives without their daughter and now their grandsons. 

The service concludes and family members exit first.

And just like that, the news channel moves to it’s next subject. A sad reality. 

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*I published this post because Charlie and Braden’s story has absolutely touched me in ways I can’t explain, except with tears and sadness. I have no personal gain from journaling these feelings except to share with you my heart’s feelings for Charlie and Braden.

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  • Debbie

    Charlie and Braden are with the mother they love so much! Susan is holding them and they are all smiling. We don’t know what God has in store for us, but He knows and it was time for Charlie and Braden to go home to the safety of their mother’s arms and they are all in the arms of Jesus. The boys and Susan are safe and at peace now.

    Please thank your father for riding his Harley to protect the peace of the boys’ family.

    My love to you, dear Lindsey,

    Debbie

  • I too have been grieving this week for the Powell family. I didn’t know them personally, but I do have friends who live near their home, and others who work at Carson Elementary, and all are having a difficult time. It’s a terrible thing.

    In December I was playing guitar in the entrance of the Fred Meyer on 176th and Meridian. My wife and our young adults were with me, singing Christmas carols, and thanking people who were making donations into the Salvation Army kettle we were assigned to. Suddenly my wife, who had been watching the news, pointed out Josh Powell walking by, heading into Costco. But he walked by quickly and wouldn’t make eye contact with us. “He looks depressed and alone,” she noted.

    I read with interest and sadness that Powell returned recently to that same Fred Meyer, where he bought the gas cans he used to set his children ablaze.

    I’ve spent a lot of time wondering how one family can get so messed up. But then I also spend a lot of time wondering why I’m so messed up. Thank God for His grace and mercy! When He looks at us, He should see us all as Josh Powells. Instead He sees us as bright and innocent as His own Son!

  • I said “heading into Costco.” I apparently have Costco on the brain! I meant “heading into Fred Meyer.”

    Lindsey, I hope you are enjoying your new life down under!

  • It’s a huge tragedy, really… the entire situation has not left my mind no matter how many miles away I am. I’ve been Skyping with my parents often and they’ve said the news is not reporting anything new to the case. My heart breaks for those boys.

    The Fred Meyer and Bank of America branch Josh Powell visited the day before his madness broke loose is just a mile or so from my parents house. It is an odd thing when you see your store and town on national news. I remember a few days after the fire I was in Target catching up on some gossip magazines while waiting in the check out line. People Magazine already had a full blown story on the fire — “his house in Puyallup, Wa.”. Wish this wasn’t the way Puyallup was put on the map, ya know?

    Thanks for your encouraging words. It would do us all well to keep those words in mind.

    PS: Down under is fascinating. More blogs to come on this very subject.

  • So glad you’re doing well, Lindsey!

  • nicole

    🙁 thanks for blogging this. It’s good to think about the motorcycle guys that were there to help protect the funeral from weirdos… and how the community came together in so many ways. The community and CrimeStoppers buying the plot, etc. etc.

    Thank your father for doing that.

    I couldn’t bring myself to go. Absolutely heartbreaking. Prayers for the grandparents on the mothers side.

  • Thanks for your thoughts, friend. Being here so far away from it all now, I almost have this odd desire to tell people about it. In the middle of our small talk about the weather and weekend plans, I want to say — Did you know that two precious, innocent little boys were killed by their father in my hometown?! It’s totally weird that I would want to do that, I know. I think it stems from wishing their life story could’ve been longer.