The earth stopped turning on your life that day at 28 years old. For me it was a dichotomy of my world ceasing to turn and also going at lightspeed all around me. It did not seem fathomable that a world without your presence, your light, your friendship-- could continue to rotate as if nothing had changed. You were my very best friend in all God's creation.
(2007, age 21, already married)
I was with you for every birthday you celebrated from turning 18 to turning 28. We got married so very young. I turned 20 just ten days before our wedding. We truly grew up together. Even though you were only eight months older than me, your full beard gave you a more mature look. I remember you came to pick me up at the high school my senior year and you were driving your (dinosaur-aged) red Chrysler convertible. Some of my classmates thought you must be 30! It definitely made me laugh.
(Little toddler Chris, 1987?)
On this day in 1985, your mother brought you into this world. The pregnancy itself had come as a surprise but I think I speak correctly when I say she couldn't have been more thrilled with the gift of you as her baby. She says you were the happiest, sweetest, funniest little boy. She had to go through so much in her years as a single mom to you and your siblings but I don't think anyone would say less than this-- she raised a wonderful young man. Your grandparents and all the amazing youth leaders at Third Baptist were crucial in helping you become the man I fell in love with, too.
(In shape for Marion high school wrestling, weighing 140(!), 2003)
I fell for you. There were a plethora of reasons why. You were kind, inclusive, friendly, committed to the Lord, and of course, I also found you super hot. To this day you remain one of the most unique individuals I've ever met. There was a twinkle of mischief in your eyes almost constantly, yet you didn't use this to make others feel bad. You were creative whether it is your acting, your 3D art projects, or your spelling we are talking about. You were a true romantic and made sure I always knew I was loved. You took care of yourself (body, mind, spirit) and were always ready to jump in and take care of others as well. Personal sacrifice for the sake of loved ones was a way of life. You were slow to anger and quick to forgive. You were humble enough to admit when you were wrong and come to the affected person with genuine repentance.
(Camping/hiking at Ondessonk, 2008)
I'm grateful I had the privilege of being "your person". To this day I can't explain it, but I was the one you wanted to do life with and I am so thankful to God for that. When you proposed you spoke of how you wanted me to be the mother of your children. Since your death I admit I've questioned your judgment on that one, as I feel I have fallen short in that way more often than not. I know deep in my heart, though, that you would know I've been doing the best I can given the situation.
(1988? Age 3?)
Our children have so much of you in them, from their faces to their mannerisms and their wit. It's uncanny to me that a child you only spent a year with or never even met could be so much like you. Abigale is an out-of-the box thinker, hyper, friendly to a fault, and wears the same face and ears as you. Aurora is witty (though her one-liners tend to have a bite) and loves to make people crack up at inappropriate times. She makes the funniest faces in photos just like you did. I can't even count the times I tried to take "a nice picture" with you and the camera was met with a crazy expression.
When I think of you, a smile typically fills my face and laughter fills my heart. Today, however, the day you would have turned 36, it just kind of hurts. I've been crying. You stopped aging in 2014 and I try to imagine how you might have changed in the years that have gone by. Would you be starting to get tiny lines around your mouth from the constant smile? Would your hair be peppered with gray? Would you be going for runs before work and in the best shape ever or would you have softened a little around the middle? Regardless of the changes, I know i would have loved you and been attracted to you all the same.
(2004, both 18, Poplar Camp Beach, Makanda)
You didn't get to be my "forever" but I got to be yours. Our wedding vows were fulfilled; never broken. Thank you Chris, for loving me, imperfect as I was (still am). Thank you for our beautiful girls. I'm not sure why things turned out the way they did but I'm grateful to have had your light and love in my life. And as far as the way you made me feel? That's still with me.
I'm glad you are in a place with no suffering or tears. I'll see you again some day.