Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A very different Christmas

I'm starting my Christmas morning in a very different way.  Not the way I had planned nor the way I would like.  Not that I don't like you - please understand - and I’m glad you’re here keeping me company so I don’t feel alone by replying to my blog but I want to start it the way I used to in Christmases past. Grabbing my video camera and taping the boys as they come down the stairs to a sea of presents.  I want to sit on the floor doling out gifts one at a time to each of my sons, sipping a cup of coffee as I scrunch up wrapping paper and stuff it into a huge garbage bag. I want my legs to fall asleep from sitting on them too long till they get pins and needles.  I'm going to have to dig out all my old VHS tapes to relive those moments.  Thank God for videos.

Today quite possibly, you and I are starting our Christmas Day together.  That's nice.  It's different for both of us. Merry Christmas, sincerely.   Maybe you'll get to me later though, because it is a busy day and there's a lot to do.  I know.  I remember.  It's OK.  I used to stay put on this day and make a huge spread of food for whoever stopped by.

Not this year.  This year I'm going out.  I'm going to Bailey's house to spend it with them, just like I know Chris would have.  He loved it there.  

At our house I know we would have adjusted our schedule with family to accommodate everyone.  I would have wanted to see Bailey and the Wind's would have wanted to see Chris.  Maybe the Wind's would have come up for dinner?  I will never know.  But one thing is for sure, we will all be thinking of Chris and he will be right there with us.
I've been wondering why this is happening to me.  Why did God choose my son? Why do I get to carry this?  Why did it happen in December, on my brother Joe's birthday no less?  How many years will I be alive to remember it? Probably forty or more if I follow in my mom’s footsteps.  She's eighty six and doing great.  God must know I can do it.  He has a lot of trust in me.  I won't let him down.  I'll find a way to see the good.  I have already - but I know there's more.  Now I need long term projects and things that inspire me.  I have some ideas...

I don't feel extraordinary, I feel regular, like everyone else.  But God embodied me with something special on December 1st when he brought Chris home.  He gave me some kind of coping skills, some new ability to be strong.  I know this.  Maybe he gave me Chris's strength.  He was a weightlifter and a lineman.  
Seems I've been placed on the front line now.  I hurt desperately at times but thankfully I am able to get thru it.  How can we have faith if we don't keep trying?  If we don't keep swinging and punching our way forward then we're giving up.  That's unacceptable.  I pray I'll always be able to get past the painful moments and not linger there too long. God hasn't left me wallowing.  I'm certain there are many more wonderful opportunities that will open to me and I'm sure if I keep my eyes open I'll see them.  You will too.
I know many of you have heard about the twenty six random acts of kindness - that we should do something kind in honor of the students and staff lost in Newtown, CT. I ask you to do twenty eight. Add Chris and Deanna if you would.  And if you want to do more than do so... In fact just keep doing it.  That would be wonderful!  I only got to my first random act the other day - paying for the guy behind me at the drive thru at McDonald's.  It wasn't even my idea but my friend’s suggestion who was in the car with me.  It felt good just the same.  I'll continue.

I hope you have a wonderful day with your family and friends.  Please take time to pay attention and enjoy the moments.  Don't sweat the mess all over living room floor.  If by chance you're reading this early would you please toast Christopher out loud at dinner tonight?  If you're getting to this later I ask that you just pause a sec and let Chris know you're thinking of him.  That would make me feel good.  Merry Christmas :-)

God bless and thank you for reading I appreciate it.


  1. Dearest Regina and Family ~
    Blessed Christmas and know that you are in our thoughts and prayers. We will definitely remember Chris and Deanna today in our celebrations. Thank you so very much for sharing your journey so personally and so beautifully. The Lord shines through you and we pray you feel His loving arms of peace and comfort more and more every day.
    Love and blessings,
    The Paige Family

  2. Your son will be remembered in our home along with Deanna and the many others who have been called home from our communities as of recent.
    Merry Christmas- May peace be with you and yours.

  3. Good Morning. Please know that Chris and Deanna will be toasted and thought of at our home today and we will continue to ask God to grant you more strength and more peace with each passing moment. It's so nice that you will be spending part of your Christmas with The Wind Family. I am sure that coming together will bring some comfort. God Bless you all today. Merry Christmas.

  4. regina i will keep you in my prayers today. i will do as you ask. your son will never be forgotten. i have a friend who lost her only daughter in a really bad car accident 7 ywars ago she was only 18 yrs old. i have a butterfly on my christmas tree in memory of her cuz she liked butterflies. i will have to get a football orinament for chris and i will place it on my tree every yr. ur son will never be forgotten.

  5. Dear Gina,
    Merry Christmas, and Thank You for the most beautiful presents you continue to give all of us, your feelings and memories of Christopher. It's been very difficult trying to reply, I keep finding myself trying to find the perfect words to say, words that will heal and not hurt. Are there any? Yesterday I tried to reply several times, but just couldn't. I couldn't find the right words. This morning is no different than yesterday, but like you said, we have to keep swinging and moving forward. Please know that there is never a moment in the day that I am not thinking of you, Christopher, Mike, Jer, Bailey, Deanna, Matt, all the families and friends. My prayers are with you all, especially today.
    I am so glad you are going to Baileys today. I know Christopher will be with you! Your writings continue to amaze and inspire me as they do everyone else. As I said it before, and will say it again, I am honored and proud to be your brother and the uncle of Christopher and Jeremy, all my nieces and nephews, all my brothers and sisters. Love You Gina! May God Bless You and Everyone today and everyday. With All My Love, Eddie

  6. Merry Christmas Regina. Such beautiful words again today. Not sure how you do it. Yesterday I stopped myself while wrapping XMAS presents, because here I was worrying about how many gifts I had for each of my boys, but am so thankful that I have them here with me. I thought of you and all of the children in CT and I know that my boys will appreciate everything they get no matter "how many" presents it is. Please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers especially today.

  7. Merry Christmas Regina....You, the Rivers family, and the families of the 26 in CT will be in my thoughts and prayers today. The question of why me God, is always asked, always answered with why not you....seems a harsh answer but the answer nonetheless. You will handle this in whatever way is necessary for you to make it through. You will change, you will find the strength you need...it is evident in everything you write. I wish for you peace; someday, somehow it will be yours. Bless you, have the best Christmas you can. Kathi

  8. Regina From our Family to yours, Merry Christmas. I said a prayer for you and the River family to help you all through this Holiday season without Chris and Deanna. I also said a Prayer for the Newtown Conn families as they go through this. I hope you do have a nice, peaceful day and my daughter and I will make a toast at dinner tonight, well at least I will, my daughter is only 16, so maybe with her soda. :) Thinking of you and your family always. enjoy your dinner with the Winds. Merry Christmas


  9. Mrs Stewart
    You're right, this is a year of firsts. For you and for me. Never have I cried on Christmas morning like I just did reading your blog. Tonight at my table I will make a toast to Chris and Deanna. Also to Bailey and Matt for all of the healing they still have to go through. I have started my 26 acts and YES, I will definitely add two more. May you find comfort knowing Chris will be with you at Bailey's house today. Merry Christmas and God Bless.

  10. Blew a kiss to Chris and Deanna. They never cease to be on my mind.

  11. Dear Regina:

    I too, have followed your blog every morning. Your courage inspires and touches everyone who reads your heartfelt words. Thank you for being so brave. Thank you for reminding us to love harder and to be kinder. To be more thankful and to never take anything for granted.

    I do want to say, that I don't think you are "regular." You are truly, a very beautiful soul. Having known Chris, I now know where the love and light he radiated out into the world every day, came from. It surely came from your incredible heart and shiny spirit and the very best parts of all those who knew and loved him so much.

    The other day I was talking to a friend who also follows this blog and she said, "Regina keeps love alive." I could not agree more.

    I want to share that every Christmas Eve I venture out to put a lighted candle on my mother's grave. Mom loved the lights at Christmas time. Before she passed, she once said that instead of flowers or a wreath, she always wanted us to remember her with a lighted candle. Well... last night I made the visit. But this year I brought two extra candles. One for Chris and one for Deanna. I just wanted you to know that, this Christmas morning all three candles are still burning brightly, sending love and light out into the world in remembrance.

    May God's peace and grace be with you and yours today.

    You are always in my thoughts and prayers.


  12. Last night after Christmas Eve dinner we made snowflakes in honor of the CT children and one for Chris and one for Deanna. They were all hung outside on the evergreen. We lit a candle and prayed for the families. We will never forget.

  13. Good morning and Merry Christmas! I have been nothing short of amazed and blessed as I have read your blogs each day. Your courage and ability to share your raw feelings with us--strangers--is humbling.

    I wanted to let you know that you and your family are not alone this morning...or any morning! You and your family have an extended family so large that it is incomprehensible. I hope that you find the strength to watch the videos...to find joy in the years past.

    I don't pretend to know you or your family. I never had the pleasure to meet Chris. I do not know what you are feeling. But what I DO know is that Chris is with you. In your best of times or in the worst of times...he is with you.

    I just wanted to say good morning and Merry Christmas!

  14. It touched my heart to see you with the Wind & Hardy families at church last night. I hope you felt the love we were all sending your way. I spoke briefly with Bailey & Matt. It was an honor to meet them as we are friends with the Rivers. Seeing you all & reading your blog selfishly helps me...it lets me know that you are ok...at least for that moment. Everyday I pray through my tears for all the families to get through this tragedy. Deanna & Chris will always be remembered in our house. Merry Christmas.

  15. Dear Regina, I didn't know your son but as a shen 07 grad I feel unbelievably heartbroken over your son and Deanna. I read your blog religiously on my walk to work in Manhattan everyday and have gotten family members to do the same. I think about you and your family everyday and your strength and blog have truly changed my perception of what is most important in life. Please know my family is with you in support. Your strength through this is unparalleled. Thank you for blessing us with this blog and allowing us the highest honor of getting to know your son. Merry Christmas!!!!

  16. Regina I wanna wish you and your family a Merry Christmas, you will always be in are thoughts. And as for Chris, even though I don't know him he was in my thoughts this morning as for you to Regina, I said a prayer wishing him a Merry Christmas:) I know as today is hear I believe he is with you and his family along with the winds. Gone but never forgotten!! "Merry Christmas"

  17. Merry Christmas!!!! Your family, the Wind family, the Rivers family, the Hardy family and the 26 families in CT have weighed heavily on my mind this holiday season. Our family too has experienced great loss some close to Christmas. I love reading your blog and find inspiration in all you write.
    Thank you and Merry Christmas. Well wishes for a Happy New Year.

  18. We will be toasting chris and Deanna at our table today. I hope you find some peace today knowing the community is behind you May God bless you with strength and as I've said in previous posts you are an inspiration and makes us all take what's right in front of us not for granted

  19. As said above, your family, the Wind family, the Rivers family, the Hardy family, the 26 families in CT, the Dutcher family, the families of the Webster first responders, the Denier family are all in our prayers today.

    I think it's amazing that you are spending Christmas with Bailey's family. I believe in my heart that you will all help each other through such very deep loss of the people who were in your lives for different reasons and it is times like these that spending it together helps the healing. It's wonderful that you so obviously supported Chris and Bailey's relationship and you are there for her now, as much as she and her family are there for you.

    I think whatever way you chose to spend today will be the right way, because you are the only one who knows what will make you happy. I hope that each day forward you have the comfort that those who know you, and don't know you are praying for you.

    I leave you with this prayer: Lord God, source and destiny of our lives, in Your loving providence You gave us Chris to grow in wisdom, age, and grace. Now You have called Chris to Yourself. We grieve over the loss of one so young and struggle to understand Your purpose. Draw Chris to Yourself and give Chris full stature in Christ. May Chris stand with all the angels and saints, who know Your love and praise Your saving will. Amen.

  20. Regina,
    I've been thinking of Chris all day today especially! I BELIEVE God has given you Chris's strength and you are now a teacher to all those reading your words penned here on your blog. You are teaching us all to be better people, and to have strength and courage when sometimes you just feel like curling up and shutting out the world. You could have done that, but thankfully you haven't! You are such a gift to us and those around you. Chris was one lucky boy and it obviously shows what kind of a mother you are by all your stories bringing Chris back to life for those who weren't fortunate enough to know him. God Bless you and your family!
    Laurie Ness Barrett

  21. Well Regina, I guess I was one of those that didn't get to your Blog till now (730pm)...yes today was a very long day and with a 6&3 yr old, we've been going ALL DAY! I just found the time to read the blog but you are NEVER too far from my mind and heart as well as your son. I hope many great memories were shared and remembered and that it got you through the day.

  22. I commend your strength...I thought of Chris and Deanna many times today...as well as victims of Sandy Hook and the firemen in Webster, NY. I wondered why God does what he does sometimes. I'm sure this is not why but I know you make a difference in many people's lives right now. And I know that youI will helpfind people who unfortunaely share your circumstances in the future. You are a good woman and clearly a wonderful mom. Try, if you can, to feel blessed today for having your son for 17 years. I know it doesn't heal the pain but look for the signs of your angel. I am saddened thatsome folks may not have had a whole 17 years with their child. You are strong...and just like your son would have done...you make a difference in this world. Keep on keepin' on, if you can. God bless your family and a thank you to you, and your son for helping mine grow together. I will toast Chris and Deanna on New Year's Eve and always remember them.

  23. Thinking of all of you today and sending many prayers your way. I hope the many memories of Christmases past helped to comfort you today. Chris will not be forgotten. Each day as I read your blog I see him in my teenage boys.

    Your blog is a daily inspiration and reminder to me of all that I have to be thankful for in my life. Thank you for sharing yourself, your emotions and your story with us. I am truly grateful to you for putting yourself out there. I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas. I'm sure your angel Chris is smiling down upon you.

  24. Regina,
    It's late into Christmas day, a little past 9. A few hours more and we move into December 26th. I know the day was not the same for anyone within our family. We all thought about Chris, you, Mike, Jeremy and though we did find cause to celebrate the birth of Christ, as we always do, part of the joy and happiness was absent because Chris was not here with us, in person, to share in the day, as he has been the past years. The missing was especially tough today, but Chris was always in mind, as he still is. Rather than toast Chris at dinner, I suggested to family that we celebrate him at dessert, and I kept two bites of chocolate cake just for him, which I knew he enjoyed.

    As I thought about your words today, I considered all of the questions you asked, including your question and concern about why this happened with Chris on my birthday. December 1st was a day of happiness before, and it still is, and will be. And it's not just my day. You may not recall, but December 1st is also Grandma Yakel's birthday, since 1882. It was her day long before mine. When I came along, I shared in that day with her. And something that I have thought about my birthday for quite some time is that it's not so much my special day as it is mom and dad's, because they're the one that gave me life. So, on my birthday, I say thanks to them for having me, and making me who I am. The way I see it, Grandma Yakel and I now have another member of the family to join us in a day of thanks on December 1st. Christopher is thankful to you and Mike for giving him life and helping to make him who he is. On every December 1st, in particular, he is with you, and giving you his love. I will be thinking of Chris every day, but on my birthday, he will be ever more present. On that day, in addition to thanking mom and dad, I'll also be thinking of, and thanking you and Mike, for giving us Chris. That makes my birthday a happy day and give it even more meaning that it had before. Love you, Joe

  25. My name is Linda I read your blogs everyday I look forward to reading them. You are such a strong person I am a mother of one a daughter she is 19 she is my world I can't imagine what you are going through.I look at the pictures of Chris and i can tell he was a sweetheart I am sure you have a forever Angel. I was reading one of your blogs and the next day I held my daughters hand she looked at me a little strange but that's ok everyday I give her a hug and tell her I love her I did that before but more know. Alot of children have died this year and I ask God why I believe God has a plan for everyone you must keep your faith. I just looked at Chris picture and said a prayer. Please know you are making a difference everyday you write your blog Thank you and God Bless.

  26. Dear Mrs. Stewart,
    My nephew, Dan played football with Chris. He is an underclassman at Shen and honestly liked and looked up to your son. He admired Chris on and off the field. I spent Christmas eve with Dan and we talked a lot about Chris. My nephew recalled many happy times but also spoke of the tremendous loss he feels since Chris's passing. Your son and your family were part of our Christmas this year. Your presence was there, in our hearts and minds. I have never met you and I'm sorry that I never had the pleasure of meeting your son. You touch my heart everyday and you and your family are in my thoughts and my prayers.

  27. Merry Christmas to you and yours Regina. Your Chris was so special, you are right Jesus brought him home to celebrate his birth. You once again astonish me with your faith. I for one cannot wait to see how you continue to honor Chris' memory. God be close to you and your family through this holiday season. May God Bless You All!

  28. Good Morning - it is 9:00AM Dec 26 and I am sipping coffee and catching up on your blogs, surveying the post Dec 25 mess in my kitchen, avoiding cleaning it. The dogs water bowl is empty, I can't see my kitchen table because it is covered in empty shirt boxes and gift bags, some tissue paper and yesterdays newspaper. My 17 yr old HS senior is still getting her beauty sleep. My 18yr old college freshman is lounging on the couch flipping between Sponge Bob and the History channel. I am so blessed.

    I do not know you, but through your writing I feel as though I do - you have such a gift. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings with all of us. You write from the heart, and you do it so eloquently.

    Last weekend my son DJ'd the "Dive for Bailey" event at RPI and I also attended. He was so happy to be a part of that event and I was so touched by seeing the outpouring of the diving community - so many young people coming together, getting up so early on a Sunday morning, there was so much love there.

    Your families have forever touched my life and the lives of so many in the 518 area. Yesterday morning my kids and I thought of your families and those in Sandy Hook. We were thankful we were sitting together on Christmas morning. I cried when I read your statement about handing out gifts to your sons with a garbage bag at your side; a simple moment that we all take for granted. It is the simplest things in life that mean the most, and that concept is lost on so many.

    Again, thank you for pouring your heart out every day in this blog. May God Bless you in the upcoming year as you continue your journey of healing. Know that Chris is never far - he is with you every day. It is clear he is with you as you write. May your memories of Chris put a smile on your face even when you feel like you may break into a million pieces. Know that you are loved.

  29. It's not Christmas Day anymore, but nearly 11 on the 26th. I really tried to stay away from the computer yesterday and be present to my family, so I'm catching up. I was blessed to have all five of my children home for Christmas this year and I can tell you it meant so much in light of all the tragedies lately. This morning,I sat amongst the dirty dishes, stacks of boxes and wrapping, and got two of my sons organized to head back to their homes. Those goodbye hugs lasted much longer than usual as I was reluctant to let them go. Your blog has been where I start my day and your family, the Rivers, and all those who have lost loved ones were on our minds throughout the day yesterday. Your beautiful personal words have made me realize what's really important. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for reminding me about priorities and I pray that you have days filled more with beautiful memories and less with sadness and pain as time goes on. Chris was certainly graced by God to be given to your family. I didn't know him personally but I wish I had--he sounds like a wonderful young man. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts here. It's a moment of my day that I look forward to.

  30. Merry Christmas. It was a whirlwind here. I didn't take any videos and I didn't take many pictures. I wanted to be able to just be with my kids and enjoy everything. We had a great day. I hope you were able to find some peace and enjoy yourself and those around you. Please know I think of you often and pray for your strength.