Thursday, January 10, 2013

Chris' celebration

Wow, what a birthday celebration we held for Chris.  What an amazing day!

It started pretty rocky, I was feeling low just waking up.  My heart was heavy and my eyes were tearful.  I had such mixed emotions about Chris missing his eighteenth birthday.  I so desperately wanted him here and it saddened me to think I'd spend the day without him.

I wished so much that I could have gone into his room early in the morning to shake his arm gently and say happy birthday, instead I stroked my hand over the smooth marble of his SHEN green urn. Not nearly what I wanted to do but I'm thankful Chris was in his room on his special day.

There was a mass at Corpus Christi early Wednesday morning and it was offered in Chris's honor. That was very special.  I liked hearing his name mentioned with loving care by the priest.  I spoke with several people afterwards who offered condolences and stories which were soothing.  I find people so compassionate.  They say the kindest words to me.

In the evening we held a Chinese lantern liftoff on the SHEN football field; eighteen glowing mini hot air balloons dotting the sky like golden stars.  
I had had a brief chat with Chris in the early afternoon when I went out to feed the birds in the yard... the wind was blowing just a bit too much for my comfort.  I knew the lanterns would do best in calm weather so I spoke out loud to Chris; "cut the nonsense, you know this won't work in the wind!"
Ever the jokester, he did not eliminate the blowing, although in my opinion it wasn't terribly chilly. Everyone's attempts to light the lanterns fell short.  The flame wouldn't stay lit long enough to light the fuel cells.  As might be the case with Chris, looking for that one more football play, he caused us to huddle together - in eighteen small groups on the field!  He wasn't helping us along to make this even go as smoothly as I had created in my mind.  Here I'm assuming it would go smooth as silk and all eighteen lanterns would be released at once.  
 Nope... as we all huddled in our groups blocking the wind to light the flames, each one was ready to go at a different time.  Chris stretched this celebration out.  Each lantern in its own time so there was a steady stream of lights to watch. He even got one caught in the treetop and we all held our breath until the flame went out.  The Superintendent, Dr. Robinson wondered how he'd explain the charred tree had Chris opted to do more than tease us. Luckily the flame faded, but the lantern was still left dangling!  OK, so he didn't do it exactly to my specifications but to his instead.  It worked.  I can be adaptable!  I sent up my personal prayers and happy birthday wishes to my son and I'll bet so did many of the others on the field.  It was wonderful.
The gathering continued at Buffalo Wild Wings with a large party of friends and family, not to mention the football team and coaches.  The poor staff couldn't put the food out fast enough!  Here's hoping everyone got at least one wing... football players are hungry even in the off season!  

SHEN athletics had a STEWART 69 jersey made in Chris's honor and gave it to the manager at the restaurant.  They're going to hang it on the wall!  When you go to Buffalo Wild Wings be sure to look up and find it resting in its new spot.  How exciting in my opinion :-)  When would I ever think my son’s football jersey would adorn a local restaurant?  Ahhh, that would be… Never!

Chris's eighteenth birthday turned out to be really fabulous, much better end than start for me.  I'm glad for all the inspirational words given to me and for having the time to visit and spend time together.  The evening never would have happened had Chris been here.  This would not have been the celebration it was.  I'm so happy it turned out so well and I thank everyone for sharing time together and with me to make Christopher's birthday a special one to remember.

Thank you for reading.


  1. Thought of you all day. Glad the day turned out to be a "good day"!

  2. Regina. I'm so happy that your day ended better than it started. Celebrating Chris birthday with the team was awesome. I'm sure that meant a lot to his teammates and coaches. You share Chris with all of us and we want to be there for you. You are a kind strong loving person. A person we all admire for your strength and courage.

  3. I am so happy that your day ended up so special. Chris was loved and admired by so many that he touched and even to those who didn't know him. Thank you for sharing Chris with us all.

  4. What a beautiful and unique way to celebrate! We can't wait to see Christopher's jersey hanging up. Thank you for letting us celebrate with you. I work with your brother-in-law Gary (he is my favorite VP there) and that is really my connection to you all as we moved here in July from San Diego. I'm very grateful for how you make us feel a part of your life and family and we pray for you all the time. May you continue to have strength and comfort on this new journey. All our love and prayers,
    The Paige Family

    1. P.S. Did you happen to go to Kmart last weekend to return something? I was behind you with my daughter and niece and you commented on the sparkle in their hair...if it WAS you, I could kick myself for us not giving you a big hug and saying "Hi!"

  5. The birthday celebration sounds amazing. I wondered yesterday what amazingly creative things you would be doing to celebrate his birthday. How beautiful.

    The latern being stuck in the tree reminds me of the balloon they released at the Memorial that did not take flight, it floated along the football field, making me thing Chris was there, letting everyone know he'd be hanging around, mostly to comfort those who were sad, and letting them know his presence will be here for a long time to come. From what I'm reading, that's his personality and he's holding true to that!

    I knew you would be surrounded by many yesterday and I'm glad you celebrated for Chris. How beautiful!

    God bless...

  6. Regina and Family - I am so glad Chris's birthday turned out to be a great day. I am so excited that you celebrated as I believe it helps in the healing process!

  7. Dear Gina,
    It is with a smile and a happy heart for you that I type this reply today. I am so thankful that your day, Christopher's Birthday, brought happiness and a beautiful celebration. Thank You for sharing this precious moment with us. I pray it brought the same joy to the rest of the family and friends, especially Bailey. Looking forward to seeing you at the game this evening. GO SHEN! GO SHAKER! It should be a very good game! Alwys In My Thoughts And Prayers, Love You, Eddie

  8. Regina,

    I'm glad the day turned out to be a good one for you and that you had the celebration for Chris' birthday. I'm sure he was right beside you joining in the festivities. I thought about you, your family and Chris all day. Enjoy the games tonight, I think it's awesome what the two schools are doing. My son was planning to go but isn't feeling well. So we'll be routing for Shaker from our house...I've mentioned before, Connor, is the youngest of four and a senior at SHS! As always, thank you for sharing another beautiful story with us.

  9. I have been following your story since my sister in Colonie shared the initial news report of the accident. I have been praying for you all since then. We are the same age, both come from large families and I have a son just a year older than Chris so I can relate to a lot of your stories of raising your children.
    I wanted to share with you what happened as I read your blog yesterday about Chris's birthday. I read the paragraph where you asked readers to sing happy birthday and I thought it couldn't hurt to add my wishes to others so I sang to him for you. Then I continued reading and as I scrolled further down the page I noticed a photo of Chris with Bailey where Chris was wearing a West Virginia University shirt. I realize that signs are what you interpret them to be, but that shirt blew me away. I haven't seen you post anything at all about a connection with Chris and WVU, but that is where my daughter goes to school so to me, it felt like a little thank you nod from Chris. So I wanted to share that with you because I think he heard everyone that you asked to sing to him and you really made his day.
    Thank you for sharing your blog - I'm sorry I never knew your son, but rest assured he is still making a difference in people's lives. God Bless You!

  10. I had a smile on my face today reading this what a greay celebration! In a previous post I told u about the lanterns we lit at my grandmothers grave last year it made me feel better we had about 30 of those lanterns we were afraid people would call the police thinking they were UFO's or something lol. I have never been to Buffalo Wild Wings but would like to go just so I can see Chris' jersey what an honor!!

  11. Regina - Your heart must be smiling and I bet Chris is so proud of what you did for his birthday celebration. Capturing such beautiful moments with his friends (and now they are yours) and being able to reflect on the day I'm sure will bring comfort for years ahead.

    Thank you for sharing Chris and thank you for sharing YOU!
    Xo Lela

  12. We enjoyed guessing where his birthday lanterns would end up. So happy we could be there. Thank you for writing.

  13. It seems Chris' birthday was beautiful. I love the lantern picture and the picture of you and Bailey with the football jersey. Glad to see you both smiling.