Heavy Heart

Over the last few days, I have been pondering the way in which we deliver the devastating news of the death of a loved one. In English, we often preface this word with the phrase…”It is with a heavy heart…”

I’ve been pondering this because it’s not my heart that feels so heavy. It is my body. My body feels like it weighs a ton. Even as I type this, gravity seems to be pulling down on my forearms, my fingers move because they are accustomed to moving, but with a very conscious effort. I wake up in the morning and I wonder how I will get out of bed. My back hurts. My legs hurt. My arms. I lie flat and try to sink a little more into my mattress, try to stretch out my legs a little bit. Rotate my neck and get some of the kinks out.

I get up for a seemingly normal and beautiful day and it makes my shoulders sag to wonder what, exactly, I will do today. Even my breathing feels…heavy. There’s a reason the Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. The sighs are deep and there are no words.

Today I put on my workout clothes, kinda like the ones I was wearing late on Tuesday, April 25th when I first heard that Chris may have disappeared into the Mississippi River. And I started another very abnormal normal day. Got my iced coffee, went down to Lake Harriet. I walked a short stretch and then I just sat for awhile.

And eventually I had to just rest my head on the table because it felt so heavy. My eyelids. Not so much my heart, though.

I’m sure my heart is heavy, too. So I wonder if it’s just that it’s shattered in a million little pieces so I can’t feel the weight. Or sometimes it feels like it is floating on water. I suppose God’s way of helping me get through this. Get through this. Not really the words. I don’t think we ever “get through” something like this.

But today I did a few normal things with my very heavy body and my not so seemingly heavy heart in my new abnormal life. Here is an indication of just how abnormal my life is. I’m sitting on a little sliver of my couch between the box with Chris’s remains with the urn in it and maybe hundreds of cards and gifts that I need to read through because so many people are walking with us in this abnormal normal journey.

Because death is part of living. Later this week we’ll plant a tree with a few of Chris’s ashes and send him a little further on his journey in his biodegradable urn. (I’m sure some of you would like to read more about his “green cremation” here).

I often told Chris someday he would be a preacher. I wasn’t wrong. It’s just that this is not how I pictured it being. His death has brought life to his words in a way that we would have never imagined. Mine, too, it seems. Our new abnormal normal.

Someday I suppose my body will feel lighter and my heart heavier. Such is the way of these things. And then all heavier. And then all lighter. Someday.

I’ve posted these elsewhere, but I post here some poems that Chris wrote that I shared at the funeral yesterday.

Call me love2 Poems

River Citizen



2 thoughts on “Heavy Heart

  1. I never knew Chris, but thanks to your kind generosity, I feel like I know him a little. In Islam when someone dies by drowning or by fire they are considered to be martyrs and go directly to God.
    I think of Chris every day and even feel a little bit guilty for not crying and mourning for all of the other innocent children and people around the world who have or are suffering as much as I have cried about the loss of Chris and the loss you feel as a mother. I think there are many reasons for this.
    First of all, he looks so much like my brother, Tim, who passed away in 2009 and like my son, Malik, who also has long hair and braces as Chris did when he was younger.
    It’s also because I have three sons, the oldest of whom was born in 1999 and not much younger than Chris. He has a brother too, Malik, who is 15. Those two are so close just like Chris and Austin.
    I wish we could get to know every person who left us too soon just as I have come to know Chris through the poems and stories you have shared. It’s hard to really mourn for people you don’t know, especially when they are half a world away. When I saw those poor people suffering from chemical weapons and bombings in Syria, I cried so hard and the images haunted me. I pray for all of them every day. Chris was really close to home for me though.
    Chris and I both graduated from the U of M. I still attend classes for graduate school: Multicultural College Teaching and Learning at the U. In fact, the night he fell into the river, I was in class. It was a very rainy night. I think Chris loved the rain.
    Chris had a passion for racial justice and so do I. My heart does feel heavy each day when I remember Chris, what you as a mother are feeling, and when I read your loving posts.
    I will think of Chris every day. I will pray that the rest of your journey on Earth without him will get better for you every day. I was so happy to actually meet you at the service and to be able to give you a hug and personally convey my condolences.
    I know it would make Chris sad that you are in pain because he loved you so much. Death is not difficult for the one who dies. It is difficult for those of us left behind. When my mother died in 2002, she came to me in a sweet dream two weeks later. We were laughing and she was happy. When I woke up I felt so peaceful and relieved. It was as if God was telling me she was with Him.
    I pray you have only sweet dreams of your precious baby, Chris. He lived a richer and happier life in the 22 years he was here than a lot of people live in 80 years. That makes me happy. I’m glad he got to do so much living and that he enjoyed life and gave so much joy to others. From what I saw at the beautiful service yesterday, he will continue to give joy and inspiration to many. That is a beautiful legacy, Melissa. And YOU had a lot to do with it. Chris left this world better than it was when he arrived. What a blessing.


  2. Eleanor says:

    The last few days, these verses reminded me of Chris’s rich life. These words gave me comfort. I hope they will give you some comfort as well. Peace.

    If They Come in the Night
    Marge Piercy

    I said, I like my life. If I
    have to give it back, if they
    take it from me, let me
    not feel I wasted any, let me
    not feel I forgot to love anyone
    I meant to love, that I forgot
    to give what I held in my hands,
    that I forgot to do some little
    piece of the work that wanted
    to come through.

    Sun and moonshine, starshine,
    the muted light off the waters
    of the bay at night, the white
    light of the fog stealing in,
    the first spears of morning
    touching a face
    I love. We all lose
    everything. We lose
    ourselves. We are lost.

    Only what we manage to do
    lasts, what love sculpts from us;
    but what I count, my rubies, my
    children, are those moments
    wide open when I know clearly
    who I am, who you are, what we
    do, a marigold, an oakleaf, a meteor,
    with all my senses hungry and filled
    at once like a pitcher with light.


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