Where I'm From 06/29/2011
 
I saw this on Sweetney's blog and it charmed me so much that I wanted to try it myself.

I am from the center of a mountain bowl along the Arkansas River valley, from lush green trees and red clay dust, from dizzying heights and narrow winding roads.

I am from handmade polyester pants in contrasting colors, from Mello Yello and Hasbro Toys.

I am from the house on the corner with the crabapple tree in the front yard and the yellow roses in the back that smell like love and honey and my grandfather's hands.

I am from Columbines and Indian Paintbrush, from Fairy Slippers and Glacier Lillies. I am from towering pines and flickering aspens and gently waving willows. From boisterous afternoon thunderstorms that flash and crack and shake the windows only to be chased away by the big, bad sun.

I am from vacations spent in cabins by babbling brooks, from hot summers and freezing winters, from Murphys and Licks and Schlafs and Hendersons. I am from circus performers and fishermen and writers and artists.

I am from the Father. Son, and Holy ghost, communion wafers, and the Apostles' Creed. I'm from the Sunday choir and the seven sacraments.

I am from Huckleberry Finn and Augie Doggie, from Tom T. Hall and Roger Miller, from Laverne and Shirley, Fantasy Island, and The Love Boat.

I am from follow your bliss and find your passion and bloom where you are planted. From Ayn Rand and Albert Schweitzer. From Shakespeare and Socrates.

I am from Ireland and Sweden, Germany and England. From Corned beef and cabbage and hand-rolled pasta, and vinegar pie.

I am from rule breakers, crazies, philanthropists, and politicians.

I am from family albums, family trees, family gatherings. I am from love and pain and secrets and regret. I am from fresh baked cookies in the old wood-burning stove in my father's garage, from lions in the hedges, from late nights in my brother's room listening to George Thorogood and the Destroyers. I am from wild games of kick the can, from running until my legs burned under the bright moon through untamed fields, and from locking the doors and windows only when the prison alarms sounded.

 
Loss 06/29/2011
 
I've started and erased this blog entry so many times. I'm not one who often has trouble putting into writing what is in my mind but....well, I'm stumped.

On Friday, June 17th, the world lost an amazing little 7-year-old boy named Christopher. He drowned in a pool. And it seems ridiculous to sum up what happened to him in 5 words. It should take longer. It should require more words. I should not be able to summarize the end of a child's life in such a way and yet...there it is.

And maybe it is right that so few words be spent talking about how we lost him. It leaves more for telling you about him and that's really what matters.

Christopher was a classmate of my son Dax. The day I met Christopher he was dressed as the Big Bad Wolf to do a book report. He stood out. Not just because he was the most adorable Big Bad Wolf EVER but just because there was just something about him.

Here's just a little of what I know about Christopher. He wanted to be a fireman and "a police". He loved Star Wars and following rules but he hated belts. He was INCREDIBLY smart and a great singer. He played "cannonball" on the blacktop with Dax. He loved playing video games. He was a great big brother to his sister. He meant a lot to a LOT of people. There were over 600 of us at his funeral on Monday. Not a dry eye in the house. He was deeply, intensely loved by his parents who continue to absolutely amaze me each day that they continue to breathe in and out and put one foot in front of the other and EXIST in a world where there no longer is a Christopher.

I find myself wanting to tell everyone about this family. I want you to know about them. I want you to remember Christopher. Because without his ongoing physical presence I want there to always and forever be thoughts of him. I want him present in every heart I encounter. I want you to cry, too. I want you to weep over the unthinkable tragedy that a healthy, vibrant boy has died. Because part of me thinks that every piece of this insurmountable sorrow that the rest of us feel we might be lifting just a tiny bit off of those who have been hardest hit by this.

I feel guilty, too. I feel guilty for my own sorrow. It's not mine to own. People tell me they are sorry for me and I selfishly appreciate it because my heart really is hurting. It's hurting in the universal way that I hope everyone would hurt when they hear about such a horrible thing and it's hurting because I knew this particular child and it's hurting because my son is hurting. But this didn't happen to me so I feel guilty with every comforting word directed at me.

My son. Oh, my little one. This is his first dealing with death. He's only six. I don't think that, up until he saw his friend's body lying in a casket, he really understood the permanence of this loss. And, yes, he did see Christopher's body. And, yes, it did freak him out. We felt we should shelter him from it but he insisted on seeing and, really, how long can you hide death from a child? I explained to him before we went to say our goodbyes to Christopher and to share his parents' grief that his friend might look "weird" to him. As we paused in front of the casket I rested my hand on Dax's chest. I could feel his little heart pounding. I nudged him a bit when Christopher's parents were ready to speak to us. He got a hug from Christopher's dad who told Dax that his son really liked him.  He got an even bigger hug from Christopher's mom who whispered  some sweet words to my little boy. Then he burst into sobs.
Picture

I took him to the back of the church and held him until he calmed down and then we went out front to watch them bring the casket out to the waiting firetruck for Christopher's last ride to his final resting place. Dax stood next to one of his best friends whose dad was one of the firemen in attendance. They were so impressed with all the fanfare. They stared in admiration as the firemen saluted. They asked numerous times about the helicopters flying above. They spoke a little bit about what they had seen in the casket, quietly and reverently. And I worried, just a little, about how they could never un-see what they had seen and what that would mean for them.

That night my worries kicked into full gear as I found Dax standing in front of the mirror, toothbrush in hand, crying. He said he couldn't stop thinking about Christopher. When pressed he admitted that he was afraid he would dream about what Christopher looked like in his casket.  I said that the reason his friend looked "weird" when he saw him at the funeral is because all the amazing things that made Christopher who he was are no longer in that body. It's just an empty shell now. No more thoughts, love, breath, soul.....all the things that make a body ALIVE were gone. That what he was seeing was like seeing an empty house or an empty box. I told him that, when he is seeing Christopher in his mind as he saw him today he should just replace that vision with one of his friend alive and healthy, as he was the last day of school. It must have worked because he fell asleep fairly quickly and slept through the night.

As for me, I am consumed with thoughts about Christopher and his family and death and loss and how to be the best parent I can be to the two small miracles who've been gifted to me. And you, if you've made it through this incredibly long and sad entry, perhaps are also thinking of these things. So maybe we can leave this with just agreeing that we will not leave any words of love and encouragement go unsaid. We will promise to live lives filled with joy and action and meaning. We will commit to teaching our little ones about all the things that made Christopher so special: bravery, kindness, imagination, joy. And, hopefully, we will teach them that sorrow sometimes comes in great heaps when we least expect it but that, on the other side, there is still life. Beautiful, meaningful life.