Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Some Thank You's...

I'm never going to get this right but I'm at least going to take a shot.  I have so many people to thank over the past month I feel as though I now have a bit of a grasp on things - enough to talk about it for a little while here anyway.  I suppose the good thing is that when I remember someone that I inadvertently leave off this blog, I can always write another one and thank them then.  That's the beauty of this online journal.  It's not my intention to forget someone but I bet I will.  I hope everyone realizes that I'm not running near 100% these days but I do feel as though I have a handle on the situation to some small degree and I know what's going on.  It's getting clearer a little more each day in my mind but I still struggle.  I imagine I will for a long time to come, it’s only been a month.

 I want to start by thanking my best friend Shannon.  She was among the first at my side and jumped into action taking over so many of the decisions on my plate.  I wanted to focus on Christopher, I wanted to formulate and execute a celebration of his life.  That's all I could think about.  I knew I didn't have a lot of time to prepare but nothing else mattered to me. Shannon took over all the rest - from ordering flowers, to setting up limo rides, to food donations and church music assistance - she was the go to person when anyone asked me a question.  I responded without thinking "call Shannon".  Thank you Shan for taking care of everything!  You did an amazing job :-)

My family, my comfort.  They wanted nothing more than to swaddle me and protect me.  I'm the baby of the family and they treat me as such even though I'm forty-six.  For this tragedy to happen to me;  I think they could hardly bare it.  They were distraught and inconsolable.  They still are.  I felt I was in better shape than they were that first week.  Now I can see that I was on auto pilot. I've fallen to pieces more lately than in the beginning.  I couldn't begin to grieve until after the funeral because I had to have my wits about me as best I could for decision making on Christopher's behalf.  How could I pick a church, proper music, a funeral home, a day and time, prayer cards, an urn and sign documents about my son’s remains if I couldn't think a straight thought?  I had to keep it together for a while.  My son deserved it.  My family, however, well... they were shattered.  Christopher was such a vivacious part of the fabric of the Yakel/Stewart clan that nobody could comprehend the tragedy.  They rallied around me though and did anything and everything to help.  They were right there with Shannon working thru the details.

Looking back, I bet my family was sick of all my Facebook posts on Friday's during the football season. (I bet all my Facebook friends dreaded it!) All I blabbed about had to do with Chris.  "GO #69!  You da man!!" I'd say, or some such thing.  I loved those Friday night games and I was excited each Friday morning, to the point I'd post something about it.  Since my family is scattered, some locally and a bunch out of town, I utilized Facebook for sharing.  I'm glad I did. I'm so proud of Chris!  I did the same thing about Jeremy when I had something to say.  Mostly I'd shout out that it was college break time and I was headed to MA. to pick him up.  I loved those trips to bring him home :-)  So, to my family I say I love you and thank you for your deep and eternal care.  I have the best family.

I have a friend, Mike, who helped me every single day, and is still helping me  thru this tragedy.  He spent hours sorting thru pictures and he created the wake card for me.  You probably have one if you were at the wake?  If not, here it is:  
He set up the digital photo frames that ran during the wake (which I now have running continuously in my room), he created a list of every condolence gift that was dropped off at my house, ran countless errands over to school, the funeral home, the church, the store; anything to lighten the burden.  He's creating the thank you cards now... and he made Christopher's college recruiting video for him.  He too is amazing and he needs to be thanked for all he did and continues to do.  Oh, he picks and posts the pictures on this blog after I've finished writing it.  He's a creative genius.

I have this very special hairdresser named Michelle.  Do you need one in the Clifton Park area?  If so call Platinum Hair.  The nicest people work there and Michelle is the sweetest.  I've gone to her for years.  She came in early for three straight days before the shop opened in order to do my hair. And she’s not an early morning person.  She cut and colored it one day and styled it the days of the wake and funeral.  It was quiet in the salon, just us, and no commotion or people looking at me.  I just couldn't take a crowd, not even a small one.  I sent her a text to ask for her help and she went over and above in making me comfortable.  I can't thank you enough Michelle!

Do you know the story of the fishes and the loaves?  The biblical one where there wasn't enough food to feed the crowd but Jesus said not to worry, pass the few baskets of dried fish and bread and let them eat... and when everyone was full there was more food leftover in the baskets than when they started with?  Well, after the funeral we had a lunch gathering at the church.  We had a lot of people.  I mean a real lot - and everyone ate fully... pasta, sandwiches, bread and cheese, fruit, a variety of drinks and snacks and desserts galore.  Many made take home plates in styrofoam containers.  We even sent a bunch of food home with the Shellenback's who were having the football team over after the luncheon because the boys were not ready to leave one another.  Everybody had plenty and when we went to leave?  There were trays and trays leftover!  We could have fed them all again.  We ended up donating the leftovers to the mission in Albany.  How wonderful!  You wouldn't have believed it unless you saw it.  It seemed to multiply!  So thank you to Carrabba's in Latham, Decrescente Distributing, Today's Limousine and Garden Gate Florist for all you did.  From flower arrangements to rides to food and drinks we were covered with donations.  You left us amazed and so appreciative!  Nora Day Hall and Chris Cutitta you were instrumental in coordinating it and we thank you both so much too.  Chris would have thoroughly enjoyed the menu that afternoon; it was full of his favorites.
A girlfriend of mine flew in from Iowa when she heard the news of Chris's passing.  Her name is Colleen.  She was my neighbor in 1996 when we bought our house in Halfmoon.  
We became fast friends because we both had small kids.  Her daughter Julia is Christopher's age and they were pals.  Well... Julia had more say in things but Chris was very accommodating :-)  She was a tad more vocal than he was!  He just wanted to play.  
Colleen's family moved back to Iowa a while ago and we lost touch for some time.  Ironically, we reunited this past summer and visited for two days while they were in town vacationing.  I'm so glad we saw them and that Chris and Julia got reacquainted, if only briefly.  So, Colleen stayed here at the house the weekend of the services.  I liked that.  We stayed up late talking and sharing stories and I think she liked keeping an eye on me.  Colleen is a doctor.  She advised me on taking care of myself physically, mentally and emotionally and she gave me a journal to write in and some healing books - among other things. She checked on all of us, being sure Jeremy was OK and Mike too.  Although she went home the day after the funeral we continue to chat and she continues to check on us.  That's really comforting, thanks Colleen!  I'm definitely coming to see you; I've never been to Iowa.
There are many more people to thank.  I promise I'll get to them.  I haven't even really thanked all of you.  You take the time to read and listen and I appreciate that.  I need to share with you some of the mail I've received... I will soon.  I need to sort thru it again and take pictures of some of the inspirational things I've gotten.  I'm in awe of the kindness and generosity of people.  I'm stunned at some of the things they do.  It inspires me to do more and be a better person to others.

So, for now I'll close and say a great big thank you to everyone who cares about Christopher.  You showed me more love than I could have ever dreamed possible toward my son.  I will never forget and I will pass it on.

Thank you for reading.


  1. Wow, so many wonderful people in your life!! I am so glad you have such a great support system... keep doing what you are doing, and as you know, I think of you often (which is why I comment so much). And what a wonderful person YOU are. Don't forget that :)
    Back to work (I am a teacher) for me tomorrow.. I wish you and pray for a peaceful new year. Xoxo take care Regina!

  2. You never cease to amaze me, each blog I just love to read. Family & friends are so important during this time. My grandmother passed away almost a year ago I could not have got through it without my support of family & friends. My grandmother was a huge Yankees fan so my cousin bought these Yankees lanterns that we lit at her grave and let them fly high in the sky I believe that helped me that day. In your blog about signs I truly believe in that we called my grandmother Deedee well I can't bring myself to delete her as a contact in my cell phone recently I've been feeling sad & everytime I open my contacts to make a call guess what.. it opens up to Deedee! So I know she is telling me it will all be ok. <3

  3. I am so amazed at how much strength, love and beauty you have. I wish i had that amount of strength you have. Everything about you and your wonderful family is so breathtakingly beautiful and every time i read your blogs i feel as though i gain alittle of that from you and i love it and will treasure it. Not a day goes by that I dont think about you and chris! i love the blog and blogs! And i want to thank you for sharing yourself and your wonderful family with me and everyone else

  4. I believe people are put in our path for a reason and that is why you were reunited with Colleen and her family this summer. I also believe it is because you are the kind, caring and loving person you are that you have been surrounded by so much love and support in your time of need. Again I cried and laughed as I read today's story, finding something to take away with me. Thank you again for sharing your story.

  5. Dear Gina,
    I wish I could hug you right now, Thank You. Always In My Thoughts And Prayers, I Love You, Eddie

  6. This is my first comment, but I've been reading since the beginning. I've enjoyed all the stories about Chris, and the photo's and just everything. I give you props everyday since he's passed, cause you've been so Strong through everything. I've been told I'm a strong person too, but I don't know if I have the same strength as you. I'm only 24, and I have a lot of life ahead of me, and with all the loss of young souls it makes me try a million times harder to succeed in life. This tragedy hit closer than I knew at first. I'm a Shen grad of 2006, and I work at Price Chopper, the same store Deanna worked at, and I knew her Father from years ago, when I first started. While I never personally worked with Deanna, a lot of my good friends did, and it's hard to see your friends grieving, but Hugs, stories and memories always have a way of warming your soul. I enjoyed your personal story about College (a few posts back) It reminds me of my early college days, I ended up dropping out, and returning with a different way of school, I learn differently than most, books and words are just that, I learn from doing, so I've been through 2 trade schools, and am now moving across the country to attend a more college based Trade school. My trade is Film, so Los Angeles California is my calling. My parents are happy, and I think dealing with the shock of their youngest leaving the nest. But even though I'm moving, I'm going to continue reading your blog (when I get the chance), cause I while I have a great relationship with my mom, you give me a new perspective on life, and things I want to keep in mind when I start a family, a few years from now. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your stories, I cry and laugh with each one. Stay Strong, you have a great support system.

  7. Your strength amazes me...I have found journaling so helpful when going through stressful times and loss. My thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult time. Chris seemed like an extraordinary young man. You should be very proud!
    XOX Jill

  8. I don't know you, even though I feel as I do and you don't know me, but yet I read this blog every day because I want to make sure you are okay. For me, it is a sense of comfort to read your words and know that you are okay for today, aside from the falling to pieces that is obviously necessary. As a parent I feel an overwhelming bond has been created between you and those of us who read your blog that comment frequently that "although we don't know you"... I hope in the days and months ahead when you can catch your breath that you read some of these comments and know you have distant "friends". I can't speak for all, but can speak for me in saying that.

    I love that you have so many people in your life that have rallied together for you and still do. Know that from those of us at a distance (those who only know you through this blog and in the beginning thru the facebook updates on the RIP Chris Stewart page) that we are here for you too. I cannot visit or send you things in the mail, that would appear stalkerish because I wasn't in your life before, but I seem to be now, connected by this blog.

    It was interesting that you said your friends may have gotten sick of your posts about Chris and his football events. I have "lost" facebook friends because of my facebook posts about my daughter. An avid musician; and outside of school - a full time bagpiper who has accomplished so much and done so much in these past 3 years with her piping that there is a lot to share with out of town friends and family. I tend to let those negative people shy me away from posting comments (I've been accused of bragging when I'm truly just so utterly proud) and then I read something like today's blog and I won't and can't let them change me. Life is too short to be forced to be someone I'm not.

    Denise said it so perfectly above, so I will reiterate what she said so as not to repeat it. I am glad you have had an outpouring of love and support. It's a testament to who you are and how you touched so many lives, and how Chris touched so many lives, people just want to be there and still are there.

    God Bless...

  9. Thanks again Regina for sharing with us.... "we" (your never met friends :) ) are out here reading, supporting, and sending strength your way, every day.

  10. Dear Regina,
    I make sure that it is in my daily routine to read your blog. Your words are truly inspirational and encouraging. You show us that even through unimaginable times, we can still make a difference in the lives of others. Although I do not know you or anyone involved in this tradgedy, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your story with me and the rest of the world. You have been in my thoughts and prayers since this all started. If you or your family ever need anything, just let me know. I was raised to be supportive and helpful to anybody that might need it, no matter what the situation was/ is. I will continue to pray for all involved will definitely keep reading your wonderful stories. God Bless!

  11. It's wonderful to know in a time of need there are many, many people willing to help. It truly makes us feel like we are a community and not separate towns and cities only looking out for themselves. I think what we need is more community action, it's something we don't see every day. There are still many people waiting to help you don't be afraid to ask.