In September 2019, Charlene Sipes was celebrating her ninth birthday. As her mother, who affectionately called her daughter Charlie, explained exclusively to Mamas Uncut, they had just finished her birthday dinner when she asked to ride her bike.
“I walked outside to smoke a cigarette and she decided that she wanted to ride her bike,” Tiffany told Mamas Uncut about that particular day. “We have a little hill that was behind our house, it wasn’t like a humongous hill or anything, it was just like a little, tiny, silly hill.”
As Tiffany continued, that hill behind their house was one that they “rode and walked every single day” as a family. “So it wasn’t anything dangerous or anything that she was unfamiliar with, it was just an everyday thing,” the mom explained.
“Well, she rode her bike up and down a little bit, then she said, ‘Mom, I’m going to go down the hill.’ I said, ‘Okay, be careful.’ And she went down the hill. And when she went down the hill, she was going too fast. And so she tried to go into the grass but when she did that she hit the curb of the road.”
As Charlie’s bike hit the curb, it sent her bike out of control. And because Charlie didn’t let go of the bike, she went with it. “And she fell forward on top of the bike and the brake handle,” Tiffany explained. “Not the handlebar, but the brake handle on the handlebar and it impelled her in her throat.”
Charlie didn’t survive the accident.
Now, one year later, Tiffany is keeping her beautiful daughter’s memory alive by preaching bike safety. As Tiffany told Mamas Uncut because bicycles are a part of childhood, bike safety isn’t something people often take seriously. Aside from putting a helmet on their child’s head and maybe some elbow pads and knee pad depending on how novice of a rider they are, bike safety doesn’t go much further than that.
But as Tiffany explained, there is so much more parents should teach their kids about bike safety.
“I think we need to teach our kids to be calmer in those situations. Because with Charlie, I know what had happened was she overreacted to it and it freaked her out so it scared her. So she didn’t really know what to do at that point. But I think teaching them about how to react, and on top of preparing them how to react, pushing away from a bicycle is another thing that we have to start teaching kids to do. We don’t want them to fall with the bike.”
According to the mom, while a lot of people think that falling with the bike is the best thing for them to do, in all actuality, falling with the bike has caused a lot of bike-related injuries. “With Charlie, she fell with the bike and she was impelled. And a lot of people are impelled by bicycles and a lot of people don’t know that.”
“Pushing away from bikes, using your hood breaks, and just trying to stay as calm as possible in a situation like that is probably the best thing that we can teach our children. I am very big on bicycle safety now. That and grace. A lot of people have given me grace, which has taught me to give grace to other people as well,” Tiffany admitted. “It all has taught me grace, patience, and strength. I think those are the biggest things I’ve learned in the past year.”
And if there is anything Tiffany hopes people take away from her daughter’s story it’s how important grace and kindness are to this world.
“For other parents going through something like this know that you can get through it,” Tiffany told Mamas Uncut as she got choked up. “It’s one day at a time. One moment at a time. And you do it however you need to.”
“A lot of people don’t think about how they react to other people or how they relate to other people in instances like this. A lot of people say, ‘Oh, I know how you feel.’ We have to stop that altogether. Be empathetic, be sympathetic, be however you can without telling people you know how they feel. Because you don’t. Even me, even if I met another mom who lost their child, I still don’t know how they feel because I lost my child in a different way than they did.”
But on top of all of that, the mom wants others to be open-minded, to be able to listen to people and to have patience. As Tiffany explained, “patience is probably the biggest thing for people in this situation.” In fact, allowing herself patience and being extended patience has saved her life.
“Just be there,” Tiffany said. “You never know what someone else is going through or how close to the end of the rope they are. And even just five minutes of support could save their life. It’s really saved my life. I don’t know where I’d be if it wasn’t for the kindness and grace of other people.”
And to make sure that kindness continues to be spread, Tiffany started a project called Charlie’s Arc. “Charlie’s favorite movie was Evan Almighty. She’s a big animal person,” the mom explained. “The project is acts of random kindness.”
From donating a bunch of money to the local school libraries to covering animal adoption fees, helping out the homeless community, and more, Tiffany never wants anyone to experience the hurt and pain Charlie and the rest of her family have had to endure. But most importantly, she wants the world to be kind to one another, because as much as the teaching of bike safety can save a life, so can being kind to your neighbor.
Sara Vallone has been a writer and editor for the last four and a half years. A graduate of Ohio University, she enjoys celebrity news, sports, and articles that enhance people’s lives.