Glad… in a bittersweet kind of way 

I know I’ve used these blog posts as a way to express my deep grief with Chris being lost in the river and because of his death. And in the midst of this I have some things that I’m very grateful for.

Tom and I loved Chris from the moment he was conceived. He was born on April Fool’s Day. This was a good day for him to be born, not because he was a fool, not by any means, but because he was very funny and he could take a joke (important in my family).

I’m glad Chris was baptized at Mt. Olive and confirmed at Central Lutheran. I’m glad he went on trips with his youth group to Camp Amnicon, Montana, New Orleans and New Jersey.

I spent a lot of time with Chris as he was growing up. We argued sometimes, but mostly we got along really well. I’m glad I was there, at least sometimes when he got in trouble, like for climbing on top of PSI with two friends who know who they are but who I won’t name here. I’m glad I was there for him when he crashed his dad’s Roadmaster and totaled it. I’m glad I decided never to hit my kids and I did my best not to yell at them too much (though Chris said I yelled at him with the tone of my voice even if not the volume). I’m glad Tom and I were able to mostly get along even after we got divorced because the boys were so important to both of us.  I’m glad Chris knew that even if I or his dad got angry with him we would always, always love him, no matter what.

 

We loved swimming, biking, going to museums, reading together, going to movies, laughing, playing, sledding, going to the theater, especially to see Austin in plays. I’m glad Chris, Austin and I were actually in a play together once.

I’m glad we traveled. We loved traveling together. We had so much fun on road trips. We went to visit my Uncle Raymond in Cincinnati, my brother and sister-in-law and family near Milwaukee. We went to Yellowstone with grandma Sharon.

We did college tours. We went on a cruise to Canada with grandma Faye.

Probably our best trip was Christmas two years ago to visit friends in Mexico. He fell in love with the girl who he had given his first kiss to when he was a baby.  He wrote a poem or two about that.

I won’t talk about specifics of Chris’s dating and lovelife, but he had fallen in love and had serious girlfriends. He’d loved and he’d had his heart broken.

I’m glad Chris was such a good musician and got to take lessons from Joy and Stephen and play with a boy band and at church and to jam with friends.

I’m glad Chris and I just hung out for fun sometimes and that he and Austin got together to watch some stuff on Netflix and to play videogames and to watch comedy shows. I’m glad we played games together and talked about books and music and politics and life.

I’m glad Chris and I each got to invite friends and go salsa dancing together. We had so much fun that night.

I’m glad we were together for so many holidays and that we had so march fin and loved being together.

I’m glad Chris and Austin brought their dad to Tapestry for Easter and that we had a lovely time as a family and celebrating together Martha’s birthday with her family and our Tapestry family that day.

Im glad the boys thought it was good to celebrate their birthdays at Perkins so we could bring grandma and their dad along easily, even though this particular day we had terrible service and a long wait and Chris told me not to worry about it.

I’m glad Chris and I could go to protests and compare notes and thoughts. I’m glad Chris found a place in so many groups that worked for justice.

I’m glad Chris worked for Wilderness Adventure and learned to love even more deeply the outdoors and to use his talents with so many people. He loved the Boundary Waters, Voyageurs National Park, leading trips on rivers and lakes around here, and most of all Glacier National Park.

I’m glad he went with orchestra to New York and I’m glad he went to Eagle Bluff in fifth grade. I’m glad he went to the Climate March in New York City with friends and became a vegetarian. It changed his life. I’m glad he went to Colorado with TJ last winter and visited Laura. 

I’m glad Chris was respectful of people. I’m glad he was friendly. I’m glad Chris got to meet so many of my good friends and that he had so many good friends and that I’ve gotten to meet so many of them.

I’m glad Chris wrote so much and that he was so dedicated to his meditation practice as he found so much solace in these practices.

I’m glad Chris was well-loved by his extended family. He was a little too young to know how much, but even so he reaped the benefit of this love. I’m glad we heard his boisterous laugh and saw his gorgeous smile and felt his arms around us so often.

I’m glad I got to see Chris grow into a thoughtful, caring, open, beautiful young man. I’m glad I am given the blessing to be able to share him and his words and his witness with so many.

And I wish I wasn’t writing this. I wish he was still sharing all of these things himself.

Peace.

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Dying to Come Alive

To be honest, the original title of this post was simply going to be “Death.” I suppose it’s not so surprising I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately. But then I came across this poem that Chris wrote and I had to acquiesce to a sliver of hope and honor and respect the hopeful way Chris lived, even in times of his own suffering. 


I have shared with some friends that there are times I feel like I could just let go and die. Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not suicidal, and if you are, please call someone right now or call this number: 1 800-273-8255 y en español: 1-888-628-9454 or check out this site. 

I don’t think Chris feared death, and his poetry would confirm this, but he also didn’t want to die yet. I don’t hear death, either, but as a mom I never wanted to leave Chris and Austin without me. I’m pretty sure almost all parents would agree. I know some of my friends who have or had cancer have fought for life because they always want to be there for their kids. 

And now I feel this different way about death. I long for the day when I die and rise into the fullness of life promised by the Christ who died and conquered death so that we might live. And, of course, I’m here with Austin and I want to be with him as long as possible. Paradoxes. We Lutherans pride ourselves on them. 

And to be honest again, this Lutheran pastor is finding it really hard to read the Bible right now, even though three are words that accompany on my journey. 

Sometimes these words come up in my brain completely out of context, and even when I know they’re oot of context, that is where they sit. 

These are the two lines that have been playing in my head the last couple of days from 1 Corinthians 11:55:

55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”

And I believe that death doesn’t win. Life and light and love and hope and compassion win.  And someday I trust peace and maybe even happiness in some form will come to me again. Sometimes it takes a really, really long time, but this I believe. 

But boy does death sting. It hurts. My body still aches. I sleep but I wake up feeling like there’s a weight holding me down. Maybe that’s where the expression about a heavy heart comes from. Maybe it’s my heavy heart causing my body to be so heavy. 

But I had forgotten about the line that precedes these two: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

I had told Chris on a number of occasions he would be a preacher. He never responded, really. It seems he just left it open as a possibility. Well, I was right about that in the end, wasn’t I, though this is not at all the way I expected him to preach, through his poetry, through my words. Death took Chris’s physical presence from me and from so many that night. But death has been swallowed up in God’s love, in the love and compassion of so many, and in Chris’s words that often lift me in my darkest moments. 

So I continue on this earthly journey as I ponder all of these things in my heart. I wonder now if Jesus’ mother Mary somehow pondered her son’s death, even from the beginning.  

I am out of place and I can’t be anywhere else. I am lost and somehow…will I ever find my way back to my heart?

Peace. 

I found some of Chris’s doodles the other day. He keeps giving me gifts.

And this map of Voyageurs National Park where he would have likely led trips again this summer. 

55 

Roots/Raices 

(Gracias a mi amigo Andres por traducir esta entrada).

I wrote in a previous blog post that the expression “with a heavy heart” doesn’t quite express how I feel these days. In some ways it’s actually hard to even feel my heart. What I do feel, actually, is a body that is so weighted down that I can barely move. So I write this post tonight with a heavy body in hopes that shedding some words may lighten just slightly the weight of the world that I feel in my shoulders. That expression, “the weight of the world,” that one I definitely feel.

En un blog anterior escribí que la frase “con un gran pesar en el corazón” no expresa bien cómo me siento en estos días. En cierto sentido ni siquiera puedo sentir el corazón. Lo que siento, en realidad, es un cuerpo tan agobiado que apenas me puedo mover. Escribo estas líneas esta noche con un cuerpo apesadumbrado, pero con la esperanza de que mis palabras aligeren un poco el peso del mundo que siento sobre mis espaldas. La expresión “el peso del mundo” es la que mejor representa lo que siento en este momento.

My grandma Ruth and grandpa Walter, my mom’s mom and dad and some of my cousins and I around 1979 I’d guess.

Mis abuelos maternos Ruth y Walter y algunos de mis primos y yo alrededor de 1979 creo.

I’ve been thinking about generations and my roots over the last couple of weeks.

He estado pensando en las generaciones y en mis raíces en las últimas semanas.

As I contemplate the last few weeks, I see the story of roots started for me even before I knew it. When we were at the river while Chris was still missing, we were singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” down by the river when I invited people to join me for prayer and singing. One of my good friends jumped up in the song. I was singing and crying and I hadn’t even been aware of my own sense of being lost in the world. And she hugged me tight. Later she told me she had asked for her ancestors to give her strength and too help her help me. And she told me she felt their energy go through her and through me and plant roots into the ground there by the river. And I cried and cried and little by little the anguish was shared and I could stand again.

Al contemplar lo sucedido en las últimas semanas, veo que una historia vinculada con raíces empezó para mí antes de que me diera cuenta. Cuando Chris estaba desaparecido, yo invitaba a la gente a unirse conmigo para cantar y orar junto al río, y un día estábamos cantando el “Aleluya” de Leonard Cohen cuando una buena amiga mía se levantó de un salto y vino y me abrazó con fuerza. Yo estaba en ese momento cantando y llorando y no era consciente todavía de mi propia sensación de estar perdida en el mundo. Mi amiga me contó más tarde que les había pedido a sus ancestros que le dieran fuerzas para poder ayudarme. Y me contó que pudo sentir cómo la energía de sus ancestros había pasado por ella y por mí y había echado raíces ahí en la vera del río. Y yo lloraba y lloraba, pero por el hecho de que poco a poco fui pudiendo compartir la angustia, logré ponerme nuevamente de pie.

And my radical invitation into community continued that day and continues with Pastor Marlene Hegelmo of All Nations Church in Minneapolis and member of the Ho Chunk Nation who has invited me into community ever since she learned of Chris’s disappearance into the Mississippi River. She and other leaders from Anishinabe, Lakota/Dakota and Crow nations have helped me to begin to understand, no, not understand, feel my connection to the Creator, God’s creation and to my relatives, as I’ve heard them often say.

La invitación radical a ser parte de una comunidad continuó aquel día y continúa con la pastora Marlene Hegelmo de la Iglesia de Todas las Naciones en Minneapolis y miembro de la nación de Ho Chunk, quien me invitó a ser parte de su comunidad desde el momento mismo en que se enteró de la desaparición de Chris en el río Mississippi. Ella y otros/as líderes de las naciones de Anishinable, Lakota/Dakota y Crow me han ayudado a comprender, bueno, no a comprender, sino a sentir mi conexión con el creador, con la creación de Dios y con mis parientes, como les he escuchado decir tan a menudo.

I’ve almost completely lost track of time now, but in the last couple of weeks or so Marlene invited me to a pipe ceremony because a friend and leader was visiting from Seattle. She had invited Sharon Day, the Water Walker who has walked the length of the Mississippi and will walk the length of the Missouri River this summer, and a few other people. We were also joined by an indigenous leader from India and some people with her.

He perdido casi por completo la noción del tiempo ahora, pero hace un par de semanas Marlene me invitó a una ceremonia de la pipa porque un amigo y líder estaba de visita desde Seattle. Había invitado también a Sharon Day, la caminante del agua que ha caminado por toda la longitud del Mississippi y que planea caminar por toda la longitud del río Missouri este verano, y a algunas otras personas. También nos acompañaron una líder indígena de la India y algunas personas que vinieron con ella.

The people present shared why we were there and what was weighing us down. As we shared, I was trying to hold it together and not cry to much, but as the Healer began to sing in her native language, I could feel the tears flow, seemingly without ceasing. There was no controlling them. There rarely ever is now. 

Las personas presentes fuimos compartiendo qué nos causaba pesadumbre, y a medida que lo hacíamos, yo trataba de guardar la compostura y no llorar demasiado, pero cuando la Sanadora empezó a cantar en su lengua nativa, yo sentí que las lágrimas comenzaron a correr por mis mejillas aparentemente sin cesar. Ya no podía controlarlas. Rara vez puedo mis lágrimas ahora.

But as she sang and I cried and as the sage smoke surrounded us, I began to see or sense or feel roots grow out of me and begin to reach into the earth upon which I was sitting. 

Pero a medida que ella cantaba y yo lloraba y el humo de la salvia nos envolvía, empecé a ver, a percibir o a sentir que unas raíces salían de mí y se plantaban en el suelo en el que estaba sentada.

And some things began to be clearer for me. I had been thinking of generations in my family and the great losses we have suffered. My oldest uncle, Uncle Dick, and his dog were killed by a train while he was driving his pickup truck. He left behind his wife and two young children, my cousins. This happened before I was born. And my aunt’s oldest son, my cousin Gary, was killed in a car accident when he was in his twenties, probably not much older than Chris, though I was about 12 at the time and he lived in the south so I only have a few memories of him. 

Y comencé a ver ciertas cosas con más claridad. He estado pensando en las generaciones de mi familia y en las grandes pérdidas que hemos sufrido. Mi tío de más edad, el tío Dick, y su perro murieron arrollados por un tren mientras manejaba su camioneta. Dejó solos a su esposa y dos hijos pequeños, mis primos. Esto sucedió antes de que yo naciera. Y el hijo mayor de mi tía, mi primo Gary, murió en un accidente de auto a los veintipico, cuando probablemente no era mucho mayor que Chris. Yo tenía entonces 12 años y él vivía en el sur, así que tengo muy pocos recuerdos de él.

And sometimes I wonder if this is some kind of a generational curse. I don’t want to sound morbid or anything or creepy, but really, how is that possible? (This is something I’m mulling over in my brain sometimes. I have no satisfactory answer right now). And I know there have always been unanswered questions about both of these happenings. And now I know my grandma and my aunt’s deep pain and sorrow. 

A veces me pregunto si no se trata de la maldición de una generación. No quiero que esto suene mórbido ni perturbador, pero realmente me pregunto cómo es posible. (Esto es algo que me da vueltas en el cerebro y para lo que no tengo una respuesta satisfactoria todavía.) Sé que siempre hubo preguntas sin respuestas sobre esos dos casos. Y ahora puedo imaginarme el enorme dolor y la tristeza de mi abuela y de mi tía.

And we talk about both my uncle and my cousin, but both of these events and people have always seemed so far removed from me. But they haven’t been. Ever. I understand that buried deep in the roots of my family’s tree is this deep, deep generational sorrow.

Si bien estoy hablando de mi tío y mi primo, estos dos eventos y estas dos personas siempre me habían parecido alejados de mí. Pero en realidad no lo han estado. Nunca. Entiendo que en lo profundo de las raíces del árbol genealógico de mi familia siempre ha estado escondida esta profunda tristeza generacional.

People keep telling me how strong I am. And I have stopped trying to argue that I’m not. It doesn’t matter. But any strength I do have, as I’ve said often, comes from God and from the support of family and friends. And now I see, too, that much of this strength comes from the roots of my family that I have always mostly taken for granted.

La gente sigue diciéndome que soy muy fuerte. Ya me cansé de negarlo. No importa. Pero la fuerza que pueda tener, como he dicho muchas veces, se la debo a Dios y al apoyo de mi familia y de mis amigos. Y ahora veo también que mucha de esta fuerza viene de las raíces de mi familia a las que hasta ahora no había dado demasiada importancia.

I suppose this is part of the separation so many of us have from our creation and thus from our own histories and or stories that are rooted in each other’s stories.

 

And the deepest roots I have are in Christ. My confirmation Bible verse was John 15:5: I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 

Y mis raíces más profundas están en Cristo. Mi versículo bíblico de la confirmación fue Juan 15:5: “Yo soy la vid, y ustedes son las ramas. El que permanece unido a mí, y yo unido a él, da mucho fruto; pues sin mí no pueden ustedes hacer nada.”

These are my roots, at least on my mom’s side. I’ll talk more about my dad’s side, too, another day.

Estas son mis raíces, por lo menos  por el lado de mi mamá. Voy a hablar más del lado de mi papá otro día.

I hadn’t really realized how much my cousin and my uncle have been a part of my life even though they weren’t present. I guess it goes back to my last post. We have all felt this hole left by both of their absence. I was kinda surprised when my aunts and uncles and cousins came to the prayer vigil when Chris first went missing, and even more surprised by their anguish and tears. We are, after all, German and Norwegian on that side so I don’t remember seeing tears before. But of course I did, at my cousin Gary’s funeral. And I now remember crying so very much then, too. And I can feel their tears when my Uncle Dick died, those tears that are still so close to the surface. I wish Chris would have understood just how much he was loved, especially by his great aunts and uncles that he saw only three or four times a year.

Realmente no me había percatado hasta ahora de cómo mi primo y mi tío han sido parte de mi vida aunque no estuvieran presentes. Supongo que esto tiene que ser con mi post anterior. Todos hemos sentido el vacío que los dos dejaron con su ausencia. Me sorprendí un poco cuando mis tías y tíos y primos vinieron a la vigilia justo después de la desaparición de Chris y aún más me sorprendieron su angustia y sus lágrimas. Después de todo, somos de ascendencia alemana y noruega por ese lado, así que no recuerdo haber visto lágrimas antes. Pero por supuesto que vi lágrimas en el funeral de mi primo Gary. Y ahora recuerdo cuánto lloré yo en aquella oportunidad. Cómo me gustaría que Chris hubiera comprendido cuán amado era, especialmente por sus tíos abuelos y tías abuelas a quien sólo veía tres o cuatro veces por año.

And as I feel those roots digging deeper and honoring more and understanding better my past, I feel some of the weight dissipate from my weary shoulders.

A medida que siento que esas raíces se hacen más hondas, y a medida que honro y entiendo mejor mi pasado, siento también que el peso que llevo sobre mis espaldas se hace un poco más liviano.

Because this isn’t a weight I bear alone. It’s not mine alone, even when sometimes it feels that way. It’s a weight that is shared by all who are rooted with me in this creation, in this family, in this Creator God.

Porque no es un peso con el que tengo que cargar sola. No es solamente mío, aunque a veces lo sienta así. Es un peso que comparto con todos aquellos y todas aquellas que tienen raíces conmigo en esta creación, en esta familia, en este Dios creador.

I know many of our relatives will always remember Chris, and there are some that are too young to remember much. His absence will always be a hole in our family. And yet his spirit will always be remembered.

Sé que hay muchos de nuestros familiares que siempre recordarán a Chris, y hay algunos que son ahora demasiado jóvenes como para recordar demasiado. Su ausencia siempre será un vacío en nuestra familia. Y no obstante, su espíritu siempre será recordado.

One of many cousin pictures with a special appearance by Maia.

Una de mis muchas fotos de primos y primas con una aparición especial de Maia.

 

 

 

 

Cousins and second cousins. I notice in so many pictures Chris is hugging as many people as he can. I miss his hugs. Primos/as y primos/as segundos/as. Veo en tantas fotos que Chris abraza a tantas personas como puede. Extraño sus abrazos.

 

And as always, I share one of Chris’s poems, once again from his collection “Old Growth Forest.”

Como siempre, voy a compartir uno de los poemas de Chris, otra vez uno de su colección “El Viejo Bosque.”

(4)Finding Wild

Day ten. Today I climbed up a tree.
Some say we are not apes
but if you look deep enough,
through skin, muscle, bone cell,
how can you deny it?

The will, primal urge to get high
obvious as the skyscrapers looming above
block out the sun like ugly giants.

And if I scratch your back, I expect
to find you scratching mine, my spine
needs the claw to cut deep and raw.

I climbed the tree to see the view
over the canopy of this old growth forest,
and it never ends in my sight
until the emerald green shelf meets water
but today it won’t rain.

I climbed up the tree and here I am
naturally lifted high above the land
tonight my dreams will really be memories
to remember why we had to come down
to lose our homes, our trees,
and to find our lost longing to be free.

Chris Stanley

(4) Encontrando lo salvaje

Día diez. Hoy me trepé a un árbol.
Algunos dicen que no somos monos
pero si te fijas con suficiente profundidad
a través de la piel, los músculos y las células óseas,
¿cómo puedes negarlo?

 

 

La voluntad, deseo primordial de elevarse
obvio como los rascacielos que intimidan arriba
bloqueando el sol como horribles gigantes.

Y si rasco tu espalda, espero
encontrarte rascando la mía, mi columna
necesita la garra que corte de manera profunda y cruda.

Trepé al árbol para ver la vista
por encima de las copas del viejo bosque,
y no puedo ver dónde termina
hasta que la plataforma verde esmeralda se encuentra con el agua
pero hoy no va a llover.

Trepé al árbol y aquí estoy
naturalmente elevado por encima de la tierra
esta noche mis sueños serán realmente memorias
para recordar por qué tuvimos que bajar
para perder nuestros hogares, nuestros árboles,
y encontrar nuestro anhelo perdido de ser libres.

Chris Stanley

Peace. Paz.

Holes

FB_IMG_1497402632879My mom was born with a hole in her heart. A literal one. The oxygen couldn’t flow through properly. She was lucky in some ways. She lived on a farm and the doctor told her just to rest if she grew tired. There was no cure for this when she was born. It would have been expected that she would have died from it at some point.

Finally, when she was in her twenties, a doctor at the University of Minnesota, I think, started doing open heart surgeries. Even 50+ years ago she couldn’t get the surgery for some time because she didn’t have insurance. That hole in her heart was repaired and her heart is still healthy.

But of course, when Chris was lost in the river and then was found dead 10 days later, there was created a hole in my heart that will never be fully repaired. To be honest, at this point in time I have trouble seeing how it is ever repaired. As a pastor, I’ve walked with parents on their journey as they lost their child or children. I’ve seen them struggle and I’ve seen them keep going. I know it’s possible. And at the same time, I don’t really see how it will be possible.

So I’ve been thinking of holes. Lots of holes. And I wonder what will happen with this huge hole in my heart and in my life and in my being. Right now, I think it is mostly being filled with tears. It’s funny. I cry often, so often, in fact, that I know I am crying and don’t know at the same time. People usually offer me a kleenex or something to wipe my tears, but it seems to make no difference to me if the tears flow and flow.

But I remembered the picture of the hole at the top of this post. That’s from a wall in Jerusalem that I toured a number of years ago now. I remember looking up and seeing the light come into the hole, and I had a strong urge to see what you would see through the hole. I held my camera high into the air and this is what my camera saw through the hole:

FB_IMG_1497403216932

Here is what I wrote about it when I posted it: Screenshot_20170613-201329

So now I think about holes a lot and I wonder what will fill this void. I know a lot of people try to fill the aching of this missing part of themselves with drugs or alcohol or work. And sometimes the hole fills with anger and doubt. And I can totally understand why these things happen.

And I pray and hope that these are not the things that I use to try to fill this huge, gaping hole in my life. I have been blessed by the people around me to take the time I need to wander through the haze of a life with this huge hole. You know, we definitely need longer times at home with our children when they are born or adopted. And what I’m discovering now is how absurd it is that we expect people to go back to work within days of a loved one dying. We don’t allow ourselves or others the opportunity to wander for awhile and sit with the huge hole and contemplate. We expect ourselves and others to get back to it. Maybe it feels helpful, and there is something to a routine, I suppose. But more often, I think we would be better served by allowing a time for grief and tears to fill that hole.

I will share a few more things here.

First, I will share what I pray the hole will be filled with. It is a picture I found on Chris’s Instagram. I have no idea where it’s from or why he took it. But somehow in all of this, I hope this is what fills me:Screenshot_20170608-204024

And I will share a few pictures of holes that I’ve taken over the last few years and the captions will explain why I find them hopeful.

Holes 1This is a picture from The ice caves at Lake Superior about 2 years ago. We had so much fun that day as a family and it was a new and unique experience for all three of us. 

Holes 6This is from the bean in Chicago. Chris has loved Chicago his whole life.  He almost decided to go to School there but decided to stay in Minnesota. We went there often and we had so much fun each time. 

Holes 4

I took this the other night after a long day when I was so incredibly sad. “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.”

And here I’ll share one of Chris’s poems. It strikes me because he talks about different perspectives, and I suppose seeing some ray of hope in the hole of despair helps us change our perspective. I’m not often there yet, but I have seen it with other people who have lost someone so very precious to them.

(5)Thick and Thin

Day twenty. Somehow the forest
appears to be thicker and thinner
at the same time. In my eye
it looks the same but in my brain
I see so many things, all happening
at the same time.

When I move through the brush
I move with ease, almost
without noticing obstacles in my path,
almost like the forest is opening for me.

When I stop, stand still, breathe,
my body is flooded with energy,
from the trees who are deliberate
and delight in their budding flowers,
the insects and bird pollinators
fleeting and singing newly invented songs,
fungus and bacteria beneath my feet
individually so insignificant but
their numbers are so vast,
in one handful of dirt are more diverse species
than trees in this endless forest.

The river of water, one route tracing
the circle of life through all of these bodies.

(From “Old Growth Forest, Chris Stanley)

And finally, I went to visit Chris’s tree again this evening. It looks better, although there seem to be some insects feasting on some of the leaves. 20170613_193410But I gathered this bouquet of wild flowers/weeds to send to the river. As I stood there and cried, there was a strong breeze, and I heard (Mostly) Madrigals singing “Breathe On Me, Breath of God.” And I don’t always feel it or know it, but I have faith that God is breathing on me, and that Chris rests in the loving arms of this God who breathes life into us.

I know my friends and family are suffering, too. I see it in your eyes and I hear it in your voices. And I know you want to be strong for me and for Austin. And I invite you into this place that is empty. I invite you to cry tears with me and to mourn the loss of our beautiful Chris. And I invite you into a faith that hope will fill, well not fill, but join that emptiness, to form something that we have yet to discover. Chris is at peace and will always be in my heart and in the heart of those who knew him and loved him and now in the hearts of those who are meeting him through our words.

Peace.

 

 

Millenials

I’ve heard lots of people from my generation and above complain about the so-called millenials. I’ve never understood that as most of my interactions with this generation have been what I’d expect from young people, and often times I’m quite impressed, and sometimes surprised by them. Chris used to say that my generation messed things up a lot so we’ve made too many laws governing young people because of our bad behavior. Probably true in sombre ways. 

As I write this post, you will find pictures of Chris and his friends doing doing young people things interspersed, though my story is more about me and some lovely young strangers I encountered today. 

I’ve been putting off canceling Chris’s cell phone service. It’s another of those steps that illustrates the finality of Chris’s death. When he was younger, sometimes he would take too long to answer me and I would remind him the only reason he had a phone was so I could get in touch with him. This changed, of course, as an adult, but he was always reasonably quick to respond to me. And I always gave him his space, too, because I remember my college days and my days in Mexico when sometimes my family didn’t hear from me for a month. Chris and I never went that long, but I definitely gave him space. 

So today I was at the Mall of America for lunch with some good friends and I decided to go into Sprint to see what I needed to do to cancel Chris’s line and to see if there is any way to recover his photos since his phone was presumably lost in the river. 

I almost made it through without crying. Sort of. Well, I made it through a couple of sentences. Well, the thing is this young woman asked if I needed a hug. A long time ago now, what seems like an eternity ago, I started accepting pretty much every offer of help or comfort that people offer. For one thing, it often takes a lot more energy to say no than to say yes. And for another, I really can’t go through this alone. Well, I suppose I could, but we Lutherans like to talk about mutual consolation, providing comfort to each other, and I’ve understood what a blessing this is now more than ever. 

And then on the way home I stopped for my vice, a Diet Coke from McDonald’s on my way home. I will insert here that Chris really didn’t like McDonald’s for many, many reasons. 

Anyway, I went through the drive-thru. I paid and then had to wait a little until the cars ahead moved. I was just kind of distracted and the young man working there asked me,

“What’s wrong? You look tired or depressed or something.” I’ve never met this young man in my life. 

I stumbled to find the words, but usually if someone really asks, I only know to push these words out of my mouth, “My son died last month.”

And he stumbled through some words and told me his grandfather who practically raised him died a couple of weeks ago. And he began to weep. Just like I’ve been weeping. 

We spoke a couple more minutes and I found out he’s basically alone now. And he apologized for crying and I told him about the Sprint store and he told me he hasn’t cancelled his grandfather’s service, either, because he can listen to his voice message. Chris doesn’t have a voice message. 

And we both wept. 

And his name is Ahmed  and he just turned 23. And I was going to go home but I went to get a little gift for him and invite him to lunch someday but he had just left by the time I returned. I’ll see him again. I still have the gift for him. And I have in my heart the beautiful gift he gave me today. 

And then there are the kids who have walked through life with Chris and taught him to care and to seek justice and to advocate and to better know when to speak and when to listen. 

And the friends who have stayed by Austin’s side through these really challenging times, too. 

And I thought about mentioning some of Chris’s friends who’ve been there since Tom’s stroke and now since Chris was lost and then found, but the list would be long and I would forget someone. 

These young people are a blessing. You young people are a blessing. I cherish you. 

Finally, here are some notes Chris had in a small kind of journal he must have carried around. I’m not sure if they’re his words or someone else’s. The last picture is what was on the last page he wrote on in this book. 


Peace

 Meandering…

We saw a whale in Los Cabos in March. Chris would have loved to see one. I think now he’s swimming with them.

I’m posting today for the first time from my phone. I just walked around Lake Harriet for the thousandth time, maybe, and I felt like it was an accomplishment of some sort.

I’ve walked around this lake for years, usually as fast as I can because usually I’m doing it for exercise.

But today, I was not in a hurry at all. I was… satisfied?…I actually got back out of bed. I was out of bed and did some things this morning, but then I got back in bed for awhile. Details… Details…

And I’ve probably lost at least 15 pounds since Chris disappeared so…

But my mind was meandering.

I was thinking about the 23rd Psalm. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”

Yes. Walking. Barely. But walking. And it’s certainly a valley. And not running, though I wish I could. You know, get “through this.” Get to the “other side.” But no. Just walking. Slowly.

“I will fear no evil…” Yes. I pretty much fear nothing. Except for leaving Austin alone. I have this irrational thought he should meet someone and settle down and start a family so if something happens to me he won’t be alone. Yeah. I know that’s completely irrational. He doesn’t read my blog so I can write this because he needs to live his life as he sees fit, just like Chris did and just like I have done.

“For thou art with me…” I believe this to be true. I sometimes feel this is true. I have faith this is true. But sometimes…

So that’s why I ask others to pray for me, because even though faith is internal, we really need the external, the Word of God and other believers, and even sometimes words from friends who don’t believe or don’t know if they believe to help us see that God is with us in these deep, dark valleys.

And even John 3:16. God sent God’s son to die. I’ve always heard that, believed that. But now I see the even deeper love. Most parents would die for their children or in place of them. So trusting in that love tonight.

And I’m sitting here alone but not lonely. I’ve learned how to be alone sometimes. I feel like I can be alone or with people and it kinda doesn’t matter, though it does.

And I’m wearing one of Chris’s shirts and I can tell you it’s a poor substitute for him being here, but it’s a teeny tiny comfort.

And the death certificate likely won’t come for another couple of weeks or even a month because of the autopsy and I guess they have to wait for results. And that weighs heavily upon me. It’s a another step in my healing process that I have no control over.

And I wonder if I’ll meander for forty days or forty years. And Austin, too. And I guess we are in the wilderness for as long as it takes. And that is hard for me to take.

So no poetry from Chris today. But I’m going to share some pictures I’ve taken that to me signify solitary. No judgments on that word. Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it’s pretty tough. Do you have pictures of solitary you would like to share?

Who took 3 years to feel fully comfortable with us because of how she was treated before we got her.

Solitary in many ways because of her Alzheimer’s

We were together but now he’s somewhere else.

In a really good and joyful place. Sometimes solitary is a blessing.

Missing Chris and being comforted by Gracie.

Well, I’m not alone. I have Austin and my family and Tom’s family who walk with us in this grief. And we have our friends. And we even have people we have yet to meet.

But I really miss Chris.

And I’m thankful for you.

Peace.

Mini-Me/Mini-yo

Minime 3(Gracias a mi amiga Sandra por esta traduccion y a mi amiga Lil por la traduccion del poema al final).

I usually have ideas of things I want to write about going through my head for days before I actually write them. Some of them I write pretty quick after thinking about them and others take me awhile. Some take time because a different idea pushes its way forward and others have to wait.

Por lo general, tengo ideas pasando por mi cabeza de lo que quiero escribir durante días antes de escribirlas. Escribo algunos muy rápido después de pensar en ellos y otros me llevan un rato. Algunos toman tiempo porque una idea diferente avanza y otros tienen que esperar.

This one is taking time because it’s so incredibly painful. And beautiful.

Éste está tomando tiempo porque es tan increíblemente doloroso. Y hermoso.

All through his life, people have commented on how much Chris and I look alike. Some time I’ll post a picture of my dad around Chris’s age and you’ll see where we get our similar looks. I went for Parent-Teacher conferences one time and his high school science teacher looked at me and said, “You must be Chris’s mom.”

A lo largo de su vida, la gente ha comentado cuánto Chris y yo nos parecemos. Alguna vez voy a publicar una foto de mi papá alrededor de la edad de Chris y verán de dónde viene nuestro parecido. Fui para una conferencia de padres y maestros una vez y su profesor de ciencias de secundaria me miró y dijo: “Usted debe ser la mamá de Chris.”

Chris and Austin used to joke and say that Austin was my favorite because he was the baby. But they are both my favorites. They are so different and both such beautiful people in their own uniqueness.

Chris y Austin solían bromear y decir que Austin era mi favorito porque era el bebé. Pero los dos son mis favoritos. Son tan diferentes y tan hermosos en su propia singularidad.

But Chris is kind of a Mini-Me. You’ll forgive me if I don’t make this reference really accurately because I know it comes from an Austin Powers movie, but I haven’t actually watched the movies. But I think the concept fits Chris and I.

Pero Chris es un Mini-Yo. Sé que esto viene de una película de Austin Powers, pero no he visto las películas, así que perdónenme si no hago esta referencia correctamente. Pero creo que el concepto nos queda a Chris y a mí.

Not only did we look alike, but our personalities are…were…so much alike. I don’t really know whether to use present or past tense for this post. I guess it would be both, but I don’t know how to write that way.

No sólo nos parecemos, sino que nuestras personalidades son … eran … tan semejantes. No sé si utilizar el presente o el pasado para este escrito. Supongo que serían ambos, pero no sé cómo escribir de esa manera.

Chris and I are both extroverts and involved in so many groups and activities. People often love us or find us very annoying because we are both passionate and opinionated and we both speak our minds. We care deeply about justice, though Chris had to learn this. But learn it he did.

Chris y yo somos extrovertidos e involucrados en tantos grupos y actividades. La gente o nos ama o les fastidiamos porque ambos somos apasionados y tenemos muchas opiniones y ambos decimos lo que creemos. Nos importa mucho la justicia, aunque Chris tuvo que aprender esto. Pero lo aprendió de verdad.

We both care deeply about immigration, the environment, economic justice, LGBTQ rights, equality, housing, racism, though the order of where we focused our efforts was a little different. We would call or text and ask if the other was going to be at a certain march or demonstration.

Ambos nos preocupamos mucho por la inmigración, el medio ambiente, la justicia económica, los derechos de las personas LGBTQ, la igualdad, la vivienda, el racismo, aunque enfocábamos nuestros esfuerzos de forma diferente. Llamábamos o nos mandábamos mensajitos para preguntamos si íbamos a estar en una cierta marcha o demostración.

But mostly we just loved each other so deeply, and as Chris got older we were able to enjoy the places where we were so similar, the passion and deep caring for other people and for our family.

Pero sobre todo nos amábamos tan profundamente, y cuando Chris creció, pudimos disfrutar en lo que éramos tan parecidos, la pasión y el profundo amor por otras personas y por nuestra familia.

I suppose there will be a time when I will mourn what Chris might have done and who he might have become. But for right now I mourn the every-dayness of our relationship. We were starting this new phase where we could call each other up and say, “I’m going salsa dancing. Do you want to join me?” And we and our friends might hang out together. And things like that. And though we might see each other 3 or 4 times a month, or sometimes more, I can’t get over the fact that I miss his being, his soul, his presence every single minute of every single day.

Supongo que llegará el momento en que voy a llorar por lo que Chris podría haber hecho y lo que podría haber llegado a ser. Pero por el momento lloro por lo cotidiano de nuestra relación. Estábamos empezando esta nueva fase donde podíamos llamarnos y decir: “Voy a ir a bailar salsa. ¿Quieres ir conmigo?” Y nosotros y nuestros amigos podríamos pasar un rato juntos. Y cosas así. Y aunque nos veíamos 3 o 4 veces al mes, o a veces más, no puedo superar el hecho de que extraño su ser, su alma, su presencia cada minuto de cada día.

 

Salsa

And so, I also feel so incredibly blessed to have shared so much joy with Chris. With just us together. With Chris. With Tom. With our friends. I feel so deeply we were blessed with so much joy for 22 years, even in his semi-rebellious middle school years.

También me siento tan increíblemente bendecida por haber compartido tanta alegría con Chris. Sólo él y yo. Con Chris. Con Tom. Con nuestros amigos. Fuimos bendecidos con tanta alegría durante 22 años, incluso en sus años medio rebeldes de la escuela intermedia.

We got to do so many things together, both big and small. The week before he went missing, I saw him twice, once at Easter and once to give him my car for lunch with Austin and their beloved friend and piano/guitar/boy band teacher Joy. Chris and Austin brought their dad to our Easter service with Tapestry. I communed Tom. Chris was radiant. We were all at peace and in joy and in love.

Pudimos hacer tantas cosas juntos, tanto grandes como pequeñas. La semana antes de que desapareció, lo vi dos veces, una vez en Pascua y una vez para darle mi coche para almorzar con Austin y Joy, su amada amiga y profesora de piano/guitarra/grupo musical de chicos. Chris y Austin llevaron a su padre a nuestro servicio de Pascua con Tapestry. Le di la comunión a Tom. Chris estaba radiante. Estábamos todos en paz, en gozo y en amor.

And so I will forever be so incredibly grateful for my Mini-me and for the time we had together. And I will forever miss him.

Y por lo tanto siempre estaré tan increíblemente agradecida por mi Mini-yo y por el tiempo que tuvimos juntos. Y lo voy a extrañar para siempre.

MiniMe1 Collage


Also, here is a poem from the poetry book Chris dedicated to me. We were a part of each other.

También aquí está un poema del libro de poesia que Chris me dedicó. Éramos parte el uno del otro.

UNA PARTE DE MI

Cuando el enfoque está dirigido a personas que no son amadas,
¿Cómo se crean lazos?
Ellos han estado buscando compañía
Sin embargo han regresado perdedores
Nadie reciprocó su interés.

Habrá el sentimiento de amistad desvanecido
Años después de que cada quien tomara caminos separados.
Enviados con adioses amorosos
Con esperanza de volver a encontrar
A ese que una vez conociste.

¿Te niegas formar nuevas relaciones con otros?
¿Quién te ha hecho tal injusticia que causase
Que sus acciones hablen mal en representación de todos los extraños?
¿Me creerías si te dijese que ellos te extrañan con todo el corazón
Y ojos secos?

¿Te falta el don necesario para poderte comunicar con otros,
De darle al mundo una pista, aunque sea una pequeña?
A mi vista una pequeña señal refleja luz a través de una cortina

En ti me veo a mí mismo.
Me haces preguntarme de dónde saco tanta energía
Para conocer nuevos personajes, todos enigmáticos.
Y me pregunto cómo parte de mí encaja tan bien
Con parte de ellos.

En un todo cada grano es parte fundamental
De la estructura,
Tan crucial. Esto es decir que cada uno es una necesidad.
Qué diferente sería nuestro hogar
Si tú faltases.
Por eso te amo. 

 

Peace. Paz.