Category Archives: Remembering

Letter to Chris

Dearest Chris,

As of yesterday, it has been three years since that fateful day when my cell phone rang and I answered, and you said “Come home, Marg.  Come home NOW.”

I left my groceries on the checkout counter and rushed home.  One last kiss and you were gone.

I wasn’t sad then.  I felt oddly congratulatory.  As if you had escaped.  You surely found freedom.  Freedom from pain, from the physical limitations which your illnesses imposed upon you.

You were Chris, bigger than life and always wise and funny and “up” for us.  Right to the end.

I couldn’t grieve for you.  You were off on a whole new adventure, a new realm.  It was we who found ourselves poorer for your passing, our lives less brilliant and comforting.  Our ration of love depleted.

It’s hard to believe sometimes that three years have passed, and in other ways, it seems like a lifetime ago.

I will always think lovingly of you.  How your greatest pleasure was taking care of people, whether it was our children and grandchildren, or the tenants at Mathew Court, or the kids who worked as painters for you.

It used to annoy me that you would dig into the garbage bin to collect and give refundable bottles to the homeless.  But I was someow proud, too, of that and of how you came with me to help at the Sisters of Atonement, making and serving hot dinners.  Or spreading butter and the nun’s special blend of fish or stale cheese slices or peanut butter on bread for lunch time sandwiches in the big soup kitchen.

I never sit in a church pew without remembering how you took my hand in yours and held it on your thigh.  If I close my eyes I can still feel the smooth fabric of your slacks, the warmth of your body heat.

Whenever we went out, you always made sure we had fun.  You could really dance.  Before your arteries shut down, before your legs went, you danced up a storm.  Jive, waltz, polka; it made no difference.  You were graceful and strong.

You loved NFL football and world history and crime TV.  You loved us.  You loved me.

And that’s a gift that I will always be grateful for.  A gift that I will take to my grave, regardless of where my journey may take me now.

And for that great love, I thank you.  More than I can ever say.

Love always,

Marg.

A caregiver’s Remembrance Day.

chris Deb at Jamie's wedding 2

There are no parades.  No uniformed men and women marching in the sleet or rain.  No pounding of feet to the rhythm of pipes and drums.

There is only silence as I lay a bouquet at the graveside, or later as my hands linger on rosary beads, knees bend to pray at the bedside where I once calmed and bathed and comforted Chris.

 It is Chris’ birthday, A time he celebrated with family and friends, Poochie on his lap, the kids teasing him about being an old man now, his friends laughing with him, his hazel eyes taking everything in.  Salad on the plates, roast in the oven, children and grandchildren milling about. He always insisted there be more than enough food, a hangup from a childhood spent in a Displaced Persons Camp where there was never ever enough.

Today I struggle with waterless faucets at the graveside, cutting my finger with the box cutter I have brought to cut the red roses and white lilies down to size for the vases the cemetery provides. My tears mingle with the rain.

I am soaking wet and it feels good to be sodden and alone as if it is a physical expression of my grief.

And ahead looms the thirteenth, the anniversary of his passing. It is not a day the nation will mourn with me, the day I kissed him one last time and stood helpless as he suffocated in cardiac arrest.  Watched the agency worker drag him to the floor.  Perform CPR.  Shout at Chris to breathe.

As I place the flowers in the insert, I push the memory of his dying aside, try to concentrate on us in the late ’80s slow dancing in the White Eagle Hall on New Year’s Eve.  He always held me too tight, so I felt slightly off balance on the dance floor. It was pleasant emotionally.  Physically discomfiting.

But it was nothing to how off-kilter my life is without him.

I drive home from the cemetery the stereo blasting his favourite jive song:  Give me that old time Rock ‘n roll. He could really cut up a dance floor.

Later, restless and weary, I drive through the dark and the downpour, past the house we once lived in.  I am torn with guilt by the fact that I still pulsate with life, that life resonates through me even now that he is gone.

My favorite Garth Brooks song: The Dance is playing. I remember being at the Queen E. Theatre in Vancouver.  It was 1990, I think.  Brooks was the opening act for the Judds that year and Chris and I first heard this song at their concert. No one even knew who Garth Brooks was, but he was a star that night.  He brought the house down. Made the Judds seem like an afterthought.

I drive by our old house, memories rolling through my head like frames in an old home movie. Rain splatters against the windshield; the heavens weep with me.

There are days when to be honest I feel slightly uncomfortable about always having a dead man in my head.  One who glares disapproval or smiles tenderly or protests violently against his inability to reach out and hold me, grab me and shake me, take my hand, sit beside me, kiss me.  Be my resolve.  When he furiously fights the fact that he is now merely a shadow, a mere memory of love shared.

I have to move on.

But he will always be a part of my every day.

Because every day has become Remembrance Day.