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.