We had my brother’s Celebration of Life June 23rd. Family from all over, from Washington to Indiana to Colorado, came to laugh and cry together and remember Chris. Even his ex-wife and her family came, which meant more to our family than we could ever possibly put into words.
It’s a constant struggle. We miss our brother. Every second of every minute of every day. No matter where I am or what I’m doing, he’s there. When I laugh. When I cry. Whether I’m brushing my teeth or hanging out with friends. He’s there. It never stops hurting. It never will. The pain is a constant reminder that he’s no longer here, that he was too gentle for this world. So much of the time, I get it. I understand. Life can be so cruel that it makes you question what the point of being here is. And then moments like the ones in these photos happen. Where family gets together after years of separation, where old wounds heal and hours are spent just talking about life, where we can laugh over silly memories, laughing until it hurts and we cry not from being sad but just from laughing, where Chris’ and my birth mother meets his son for the first time and sees his father in his smile, in his love of playing in dirt and “fishing” in our tiny pond. And though it can’t heal the heartache, it makes it a little bit easier to bear. We have lost Chris, and nothing can ever replace the void my brother left the night he took his own life. But we continue to live for moments like these. They are the point of being here.
Looking at all the fish in our pond! I was terrified to see Carter, because every time he was here, Chris was with him. I didn’t know how I’d handle it, worried that I’d be a total emotional mess. But Carter was just so excited to see Mom’s pond, and made a beeline for it the second they got there. That effectively broke the ice!
Our birth mom, Heidi, and Carter. “He looks so much like his daddy! His eyes are his mama’s but his smile…that’s all Chris.”
Serious discussions about snacks. And about how we don’t throw rocks.
“Love this little boy. Cherish him. We can no longer hug Chris, but we can hold Carter.”
Feeding the fish.
We started to share memories about Chris. Dad began. “Whenever I’d go geod-hunting, I’d always bring along a bucket of water to rinse hands after digging. It wasn’t 100% clean, but it did the job. The first time I took Chris with me, I explained what the water was for, and told him we’d wash the geods when we got back to the house. Well, we went about our separate ways that day…each digging in a different spot. An hour or so later, I went to washmy hands and found the water to be just a muddy mess. So I called Chris over and asked, ‘What the hell happened to this water??’ Well, I found out Chris had misunderstood and had been cleaning all his geods in this water meant for washing hands. So I dumped it out and told him to NOT use it for his rocks, just his hands.”
“Years ago, when I was little, Mom wrote a card to Dad and signed it ‘With all my love.’ I saw this and cried, thinking that meant that she had used up all her love for Dad and had none left for me. Later on, Chris and Mom would sign cards to each other ‘With all my love,’ and then in parentheses would write ‘don’t tell Nikea.'”
“Well, for starters he was always ‘CJ’ to me. When he started to call himself ‘Chris,’ I refused. I remember how much CJ loved going through my dad’s old Army stuff.”
“I’d always go to McDonalds, and get two apple pies for $1. Such a great deal. And I’d bring back one apple pie for Chris. He came to expect one every time I’d visit. He’d be standing there, waiting for me, wanting his apple pie. I created a monster.”
“He loved to build things. So he had all this wood in our backyard that he would use, just hammering away. We’d always laugh, because you could never quite tell what it was he was building.”
“The Guard came and got all of Chris’ military things. They had been set in a pile for them so they just walked in and grabbed everything and left. When going through Chris’ things, we found two mismatched Army boots. We couldn’t figure out why, but then we realized the Guard must have grabbed the other halves thinking they were one set. So now we have two different Army boots. We thought that was pretty funny.”
“I’m glad I had the time with him I had. He was a great friend I wish he could see all the people that cared about him who he didn’t know were there. He will forever be missed and the world is missing out on such a great person.”
“Fishing.” He’s so much like his daddy. One of Chris’ favorite pasttimes was ice fishing.
Sweet Ginger (or should I say “Sometimes, when she feels like being sweet, sweet Ginger.”)
This picture perfectly sums up our 26+ years of friendship.
Mom Heidi (what we call our birth mom) holding up a shirt that is perfect for a family of four daughters (poor Grandpa). Gretchen is having a very rare serious moment.
Fireflies! Something we all miss!
Jefferson City is known for Arris’ Pizza (their toasted ravioli is spectacular), Schulte’s donuts…and of course Central Dairy Ice Cream.
I’m always amazed by the beauty of my parents’ garden. I had to take some time to capture it…especially since Chris helped to create it as a teenager. He would gripe about having to dig holes and lay rocks, but then later admitted he missed being put to work by Mom.
Love you, Bud.