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.