I didn’t think I’d write tonight, but the tears continue to fall and the pressure on my chest and in my body overwhelms. I find that the words I write here help me understand what I’m feeling and allow me to release some of the weight as I release the words.
There are certain tragedies that have already occurred in our family that we have all learned to live with in somber sense though they are hard to accept and understand. I have written some about them before.
My mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about 8 years ago now and we moved her into a memory care unit last October. The decline was gradual at first and seems to have gotten more extreme over the last two or three years. One part of the reason Chris was studying neurobiology was because of his grandma. He sent me a video about it from a class a few months ago and told me to let him know if there was anything I didn’t understand. Grandma took care of the kids for a few years when she retired.
I couldn’t visit my mom from the time Chris was lost until a week or so after the funeral. That was three weeks and that’s a long time for my mom. I have been visiting since then, but my visits have been fairly short and I don’t really know what to say, especially when she asks about “the boys.”
Through South Dakota on our trip to Yellowstone. Maybe around 2007?
She remembered her three grandsons for the longest time. She always talked about how kind Brandon was and that he’d give her hugs and how smart Austin was and funny and she would always talk about how she loved it when Chris would come over to visit and have a big smile (if you knew Chris, you know this smile) and say, “Hi grandma!” And she would be so happy and proud.
Mom and I doing our own version of the Science March in April of this year, just a few days before Chris was lost and when she still kind of remembered the boys.
The first couple of times I visited after the funeral she asked how the boys were. I told her Chris graduated from the U, her alma mater. And she was happy and proud. Just two months later and she maybe asks about the boys but it’s a question out of habit and I mumble some kind of answer.
I visited yesterday and it was the first time she didn’t recognize me the entire visit. She was asking me when her daughter would visit and looked confused when I told her I’m her daughter. She told me how kind her daughter was and that she helps people.
And today was Tom’s birthday. I’ve written and spoken quite a bit over the years about his stroke and how our family has walked through this devastating time.
These pictures are from Chris’s Instagram in the days after his dad’s stroke.
I think part of the reason we were so happy as a family is that we’d learned to live pretty well with our new reality and Tom had done better than we probably expected.
But he does have a brain injury, and this was a very large part of Chris’s motivation for choosing his specific major, of course.
I will say a couple of things about this. Tom was always very mechanically minded. He could fix pretty much anything, and can probably still fix a lot of things, though he can’t use his dominant hand, so that would look different.
Chris totaled his dad’s Roadmaster on Tom’s birthday when he was a pretty new driver at 16. Tom repaired it. Amazing to me.
Today he was showing us these drawings of machines he designed and drew to help him walk and ride. From what I understand, be may be working with someone to build them. He now says “thank you” a lot and he talks a lot but we can’t understand him exactly, but his mind allowed him to draw this machine with his left hand.
And again, I’m not exactly sure about this, but it seems his mind also functions quite a bit in the present. Tom waa devastated when he heard Chris was lost in the river. And his grief has been deep. But he seems to live much more in the present than I’m able to do and so the intensity of the loss seems less when he’s not being reminded of Chris’s death in the moment.
This is hard to explain and only my sense of things right now. I hope he gets relief in that way.
But today these things make me feel very alone in my grief, and I grieve these losses again, or still, too. And I know Austin is devastated and it’s too hard for us to talk about together right now. And I know so many others grieve with me. And family and my friends and Chris’s friends and complete strangers reach out to me daily. And I am so grateful.
But today I grieve deeply and today I feel alone in my grief, even though I know I’m not.
And today I paid less on my phone bill because I don’t have to pay for Chris’s phone anymore, though I still have his number and picture on my phone. And I’m making baked beans for Tapestry tomorrow, even though that was really hard, too, because Chris really liked my baked beans, as long as I made sure to remove any stones. And I used herbs I had just bought for him to try from Penzey’s to make the baked beans.
And I’m so tired of being sad. I’m tired of crying. I feel like I’m complaining and like I should be doing things. But I can’t seem to yet. And so patience is forced upon me. And I continue to be thankful for those who are able to walk with me in this. And I maybe even pray a little for peace. Peace for me and for Austin and for all those who mourn Chris’s loss and for those who mourn loss in their lives, too.
And I’ll share this poem from the book of poetry Chris dedicated to me. I have the only copy. I searched and searched and couldn’t find it and then it revealed itself to me a couple of days ago. I had just overlooked it. I am so incredibly grateful for this book.