CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — A flood of social media posts helped give a Plaza Midwood family a reason to smile through tears, on the day of the funeral celebrating the painfully short life of toddler Henry Caldwell.
“For a minute we couldn’t look at it, it was too overwhelming,” said Gray Caldwell, Henry’s dad. “But then it became overwhelmingly heartwarming.”
On the morning of Henry’s memorial service, family, friends, and even complete strangers posted photos of themselves at the table eating waffles, using #WafflesForHenry.
Henry’s recommended daily allowance of smiles often came from a chocolate chip waffle.
The child was just 17 months old when he died unexpectedly in his sleep on January 8. The cause of his death has not been determined.
“And we still don’t know,” his father told Queen City News. “They’re doing an autopsy to try to find out—I think it’s gonna be a number of months before we hear anything. But suddenly it was sudden and unexpected.”
Henry’s aunt, Lauren Harnett, helped organize the effort to post photos featuring waffles on the day of her nephew’s celebration of life.
“And I thought, ‘What if we could flood them with this brightness first thing in the morning. And maybe even just for a moment, the love could overpower the sadness,” said Harnett.
The #WafflesForHenry pics were on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even LinkedIn.
“It was like, ‘Oh, that’s a happy memory.’ And that felt like such a uniquely ‘Henry’ way to support us,” Harnett says.
“I think he loved his family first and waffles second,” his dad explained, showing us the box from the freezer. “But these are the magic waffles that Henry fell in love with.”
And let’s just say he rarely “leggo” of his breakfast waffle until he devoured every bite, even if he had to take it to daycare.
“He always had a little extra bit of waffle that he saved and brought with him into the classroom. You know he was too happy with the waffle, they didn’t want to take it away from him,” said Gray.
Whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner, we crave “comfort food” that takes us back to a special moment, place, or time.
At Cast Iron Waffles in the Ballantyne area, customers crave feelings of nostalgia, as much as the food itself.
“Comfort food brings people together. It’s a time to take a moment out of your day to enjoy a simple pleasure,” owner Krista Duggan said.
But when folks circled the wagons to show support online, #WafflesforHenry gave the family a different picture of “comfort food,” as they cope with the loss that’s truly beyond words. Every picture gave them solace as they cling to the sweetest of memories.
For example, the future foodie was often dabbling in the play kitchen at his grandparents’ house.
“So Henry would sit right here,” his father recalls. “Didn’t matter what room you were in, you knew Henry was at the kitchen because he would just yank this open and pull all the shelves out.”
“He would pop this open and just carry these around, chew on them,” he added, opening a box of toy plastic waffles. “Henry was often thinking about waffles.”
“That’s been really crucial for us. To try to take it – not even, day-by-day– but minute by minute. And feeling that and seeing ‘Waffles for Henry’ was really special,” Henry’s dad says of the grieving process.
There’s one prized freezer waffle left in the carton…. Perhaps more prized now than ever.
“But here it is the magic Henry chocolate chip waffle,” said Gray Caldwell.
His son’s beaming smile will be forever frozen in their minds.
“He was just so fun-loving. We knew so much about Henry in such a short time because he had such a strong personality.”