When Chris was missing, I asked my friend Brian to check into two things for me. I asked him to check into green options for taking care of Chris if the river had, indeed, taken his life. I also asked him not to tell me anything he found out until such time as I might need it. He did that for me and helped point me in the direction of being able to take care of Chris’s remains in a way that honored his memory and wishes.
I also asked him to help me start planning a ride down the Mississippi River for late summer of 2018, either as a celebration ride with Chris, or as a memorial ride, because Chris was planning to make this trip after graduation and after working for a couple of months with Wilderness Inquiry. If you’ve followed our story, you know that we are now planning a memorial ride.
The last time I rode a bike was about 7 or 8 years ago. I used to ride pretty regularly, but the last time I rode, I had a fairly serious heart problem that I didn’t know about it and I barely made it home. I had ridden from my house in St. Louis Park along the rail lines and over to Cedar Lake, maybe even around Lake Calhoun, as I had done so many times. By the time I got back to the path along the train line, I was so tired I didn’t know if I’d make it home.
I’m also hard-headed, and I was in my early 40s at the time, so I didn’t even think to go to the doctor. I had a heart procedure done (Catheter Ablation) and I have a 95% chance of it not coming back. Though illogical, I have always associated this heart issue with biking and so I hadn’t been on a bike since then.
I am also impulsive. I make decisions quickly and then live with the consequences. Sometimes this turns out really well, sometimes not, and, well, this time I’m starting training to ride a bike down the length of the Mississippi River next year. If you’d like to see more of what is happening, check out the new Christopher Stanley Mississippi River Memorial Ride 2018 page that I just started. There’s not much there yet, but little by little there will be.
The picture at the top of this page is from this morning, my first day riding a bike after all of these years and my first day of training. My friends Brian, Luis and JadIvan invited me to join them this morning. I haven’t gotten a bike yet, but I was able to use Brian’s daughter’s bike.
We went from Downtown Minneapolis, just across from where Chris went into the river, down along the train line, around Cedar Lake and back downtown, about a 10 mile ride. The ride was nice and my heart felt fine…physically.
I guess today is what would be known as “bittersweet.” I could say I was riding for Chris, but that isn’t exactly true. I am riding for myself in memory of Chris, in memory of something he loved so much.
And there were memories. First, I remembered a journal entry that Chris wrote about Cedar Lake and I looked for it the minute I arrived home. And then I discovered another poem about Cedar Lake and I share them with you here:
As so often has happened with Chris and I, our lives intersect on accident. The ride he writes about in this second poem is partly how we started today on the bike ride that starts my training.
As I rode, so many memories came back to me. Days spent at the main beach at Cedar Lake. Taking the boys when they were pretty little to Hidden Beach, not knowing that this was hidden because of drinking and weed and skinny dipping. Biking at the lake. Swimming at the other beach on the west side. I enjoyed my time with my kids so very much.
I have to be honest. I debated whether to use the picture I did for the featured image for this post or this one of Chris’s empty bike. I feel empty in so many ways without Chris.
People talk about the hole a loved one’s death leaves. People I loved have died. And yet Chris’s death leaves a hole not only in my heart but in my whole body. It leaves a hole in my entire life and I really don’t know where this leaves me. This empty bike is just so sad for me.
And yet somehow there is this place within me that understands that I can’t die with Chris. I have to find some way to live my life. There was a brief moment when I was riding by Cedar Lake, when I felt the wind blow through my hair, and I felt Chris sort of holding on to my shoulders and flying above me, laughing and having fun, soaring in the wind. Just a brief moment.
So somehow there are small moments of peace and sunshine in my sorrow. And so I chose to use the picture with some very good friends who walk with me in this journey. And I allow some comfort to enter as I think of the kindness and mercy of so many people in my life. And somehow there is hope in there. Hope of what, I don’t exactly know. But hope for something.
And so I’ll end this post with two more pictures. The first is us after our bike ride. I wore one of Chris’s shirts, as I so often do these day. And the second is another poem that Chris wrote. I imagine Chris’s ashes are starting to make their way to the Gulf of Mexico. So I think of him finding his mermaid as he arrives.