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.
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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.


 


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