Monday, December 16, 2013

Those Anniversaries You Don't Want to Celebrate

If I had known

If I had known, 
that this day would be the last -
I would have held him a little longer
I would have caressed his stubbly cheek
Stroked his smooth-as-a-baby's-bottom
shaved head
And kissed his dear, sweet face, 
one more time.

If I had known, 
that this day would be the last -
I would have given him 
all those letters and poems 
I wrote over the years,
the journal I kept of his life,
As I had planned to do that day, 
but forgot,
And told him again,
I love you, 
one more time.

If I had known, 
that this day would be the last -
I would have encouraged him more,
Nagged him less, 
prayed harder,
Spent more time with him
Celebrated his accomplishments,
Even if they were tattoos
I didn’t quite understand -
I would have hugged him a little harder
And a little longer
When we said goodbye

If I had known, 
that this day would be the last -
I would have invited more of his friends
To his surprise 30th birthday party
Spent less time in the kitchen
More time listening
Less time talking
More time with him, 
Made sure that he knew
Without a doubt
That his momma loved him

If I had only known

written December 4, 2013

It's rough, what I wrote above on what would have been Chris' 38th birthday.  I'm not even going to try to revise and edit, as I can barely see at the moment.  I meant to post that day, but was unable to do so, for a number of reasons.

Chris' 30th birthday quilt -12/04/2005.  He loved it. When he died
his step-daughter, Emily, claimed it.  I was ok with that. :)
Eight years ago today, in the early hours of December 16, I received the phone call from my daughter in law, that my son had shot himself.  My husband and I rushed to Emanuel ICU.  I know I screamed, stomped my feet, sobbed hysterically.  I asked to see the wound.  It was incredibly tiny, and I didn't understand how he could possibly have managed to do so much damage with such a tiny hole.  We were told that there was no brain activity at all.  He was a donor; on life support until his organs could be harvested. No one else was there, and after an hour or so (I don't remember the time, just that it crawled by incredibly slowly - in my memory, it was dark for weeks) Shari and the kids arrived.  Later, we drove home in shock, and crazily, we both got ready to go to work. 

Jessica and Kailyn were awake, getting ready for school. I think that's when I called my dad and my sister, but time is all mixed up. I don't know what I was thinking . . . except that I wasn't thinking. David left, I probably drove the girls to school, and I drove myself to work. The first person I saw at work was my friend Deb, who held me as I cried. Moments later, our principal came in, and insisted that I needed to leave.  "Go to your son!" she told me, practically pushing me out the door.   

I drove home (fortunately just a mile) and called my sister again, who came to pick me up and drove me back to the hospital. I think we picked up Kelli, my niece, on the way. 

Round two of the longest, most tortuous day I've ever known, as I watched the people who loved my son come to tell him goodbye. He was kept alive all that day in order to bring the gift of hope to many others, through his beautiful blue eyes, his warm and generous heart, his fully functioning kidneys, and numerous other parts and pieces of him.  I'm proud of him, for being a donor, even while I'm still an emotional mess from him choosing to leave this world as he did.

Suicide - the emotional roller coaster it sends you on is truly inconceivable.  And, it's the worst of the worst of those "clubs you never want to join" to be tangled up with. Only those who have lost someone they love through suicide can fathom what it does to your insides.  When it's your child, the guilt overwhelms you, despite everyone's insistence that it isn't/wasn't your fault.
Chris - proudly with his new instant family -
 Shari, Kenny, Emily and Arik
Christmas 1996 
I have a love-hate relationship with December, that's probably never going to completely leave me. But, today, after I post this incredibly selfish blog, I'm planning to spend time with my son, wallowing in my grief.  I'll dig through the boxes of photos, cards, letters, poems, report cards, and get out his baby book.  I'll sob, and probably pray, and I know I'll laugh too, because he was a very funny guy. My goal, as always, is an attempt to "get it out of my system" so I can celebrate the season with my family. Because I have a fabulous husband, two precious and loving daughters, wonderful family and friends, who care deeply about me. That knowledge is what keeps me putting one foot in front of the other, trudging through December, year after year. 


  1. No one could ever have the right words to day to you, Sandi. As a mother, my heart breaks for you.

  2. There are no words. I know it's hard to do what you're doing, but that poem. Oh, that poem. It breaks my heart but it also fills me with love for you, Sandi. My Chris died in summer, in August, the other side of your December grief. But we are joined by the bond of our lost children. Thank you for sharing this deeply felt post. I am honored by the trust you have placed in me, sharing it with me.

  3. Your poem reaches the heart of every mother. Most of us know someone who has lost a child in this way. The pain is so deep.
    Thank you for sharing your son's story. We need to know this in order to know you.

  4. Words fail me and would not be adequate. Grieving never stops, never fades. God keep you, Sandi.

  5. A beautiful poem from the heart. God bless.

  6. Oh Sandi, I am so touched by your beautiful poem. I feel so much the same way. The last time I saw Julie was just before her birthday. We celebrated it on Easter. I echo every word you wrote. If only…

    I love you. I'm so sorry. I am grateful I am not alone in my journey, but darn it, I wish you did not have to go on this journey, and I wish I didn't either.

    Chris is so handsome.

  7. Oh, Sandi. This is incredibly beautiful. As a member of this terrible club, I feel every one of your words, and I share the bittersweet bond. Chris was a gorgeous man, and I have no doubt at all that he knew how much you loved him. I have no doubt he knows that still. Thank you for sharing this.

  8. Dear Sandi, many weeks have passed since you posted this love song to your son, Chris. It is a anguished cry from a mother who deeply grieves the loss of her son. Always there will be this grief and always there will be Chris loving you. I hope that the memories you have of his very being comfort you now and through the rest of your life. Peace.

  9. Oh my goodness Sandi, I have only just read this. I cannot imagine how you all coped - or how you still do. My thoughts (and tears) are flowing across the pond to you.


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