Saturday, January 5, 2013

Who inspires me?

I'm still finding it strange each day that one of you tell me I'm inspiring.  So much has happened since November 30th and my life has taken on a whole new direction.  I like that you think I have something to share, don't misunderstand, it's just very odd.  I don't feel like I know all that much but I'm learning that what I do share is genuine. Put yourself in my shoes though... Imagine how you would feel?  This horrible thing happens and your life is sent reeling.  I liked my life prior to this accident.  It wasn't perfect of course but it was pretty damn good.  I'd like it back.  You'd forgo us being new friends for the sake of having your old life back too.  Who wouldn't?  Nobody wants to carry this crap.  But I say these things as if you haven't tried to step into my shoes... of course you have, that's why you reach out to me.  You feel my pain.
You got me to thinking about who inspires me.  Beyond celebrities like Oprah and Joel Osteen whom I know I've mentioned before.  I could list a series of others that you would know and possibly agree with me on I'm sure. I imagine the forty-something moms relate to me best because that's my age.  Seems the teenagers read too though.  I can't grasp why to be honest.  Maybe they don't have a mom?  Maybe their mom is just totally different?  Maybe they like anonymously reading adult thoughts from the privacy and seclusion of their computer?  I will never quite know the reasons why.  Why do men read?  I know my brothers read because they love me and feel comfort in knowing I don't plan to jump off a bridge?  I promise I won't.  I have too much to do - for me, for Chris, for this family, for you!  I have no plans to curl up and check out.

You tell me I'm strong, that I have a strength you don't know you'd have in my shoes.  I say you need to look at the situation and I bet you too would find a reason to fight.  My son was a victim, an innocent party along with Deanna, Matt and Bailey.  If I shut down how can that be good?  How can I honor my son if I never speak about him?  He was fabulous!  You wouldn't know a thing about him other than the tidbits in the media if I didn't ask you into my life.  I'm OK with that.  This is my new life.  Christopher belongs to all of us.  

I bet Bailey doesn't mind sharing him with you either.  She got the best part of him, his heart. She continues to talk about him all the time and repost his tweets and texts.  The kid was a gem. Not perfect mind you, but awesome stock and full of kindness.

But I'm off track here.  My inspiration?  Has to be my mom.  Let me give you the tiniest synopsis of my life.  Picture this if you're looking for someone strong to admire...

In 1973 my father passed away.  He had emphysema.  Yes, he was a smoker which was totally acceptable then of course.  People smoked in the house, at restaurants, at their office desk, in the car etc.  He had smoked for many years.  He died when he was forty seven.  My mom was forty six (same as me right now).  Difference?  I have two kids, she had eleven.  Eleven children and your husband dies... Who could handle that one?  My mother.  Who could begin to imagine how she handled it?  None of us.  She never had a nervous breakdown and I don't think she ever sought counseling.  I bet she felt she didn't have time.  For all I know she went into auto-pilot and remained there.  I was seven, and the youngest, Ann was twenty-four and the oldest.  Nine more in the middle.  Try and carry that.  You think you have trouble remembering to make lunch or pack your back pack?  How about making a minimum of seven lunches each night for the ones still in school.  And the boys?  They ate like three sandwiches, not just one.

Not a single one of us went without.  We had the basics and sometimes more.  We did, in my opinion, miss out on the intimate relationship that a lot of parents have with their kids but that's to be expected with a big crew of needy children.  My mom worked both full time and part time.  She had to, who could afford us???  She worked full time as a secretary for a senator in Albany at the Capitol.
 Mom also was the organist at Our Lady Help of Christians downtown for over sixty years.  She came on as a substitute for their organist and never left.  She played weekend masses, weddings, wakes and funerals.  My mom worked seven days a week.  She never dated either.  She tried once but I bet it was overwhelming for the poor guy.  I only recall her ever having one date.

Maybe I'm so acutely aware of my boy’s personalities because I longed for that relationship with my mom?  I do know that it always bugged me that I had to remind her I only liked grape jelly on my pj&j and that I wouldn't eat a burger if it had ketchup or mustard on it.  She didn't know I slept in my grade school uniform so I didn't have to change in the morning.  I hated to be cold and figured if I slept in my school jumper I could avoid the chill.  She also didn't know - or didn't remember that I hated peas and forked them onto the floor for the dog.  She always knew where I was though - and she kept me safe and made sure I was educated straight thru college.  She even put me into private school so I would be watched more carefully. 

My mom gets props in the inspiration department.  She's eighty-six now and still lives in the house we grew up in.  It's a two family home but we used all of it... that gave us six bedrooms, two bathrooms, two kitchens and two living rooms.  Didn't everyone have that????? I thought they did. All the houses around us were two families. Our friends and neighbors had the same floor plan we did.  It wasn't until I started having play dates that I realized there were other styles of homes.  Some were huge!

Inspiration comes from whoever sparks a feeling in you.  My mom created sparks for me many years ago, she still does.  She held me close when she heard the news of Chris's passing and she whispered in my ear.  I'll keep the conversation to myself.  Suffice it to say a mother’s love runs deep.  She made me feel better.  I know I'm not your mom but if I spark inspiration in you then that's a good thing. Grab it and hang on.  Share it too.  Be someone else's inspiration.

Thank you for reading.


  1. This one brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Your mom is an amazing woman and you followed in her footsteps. I can't imagine 11 kids on my own I have 3 kids (16,13 & 4) which is overwhelming to me at times. I try my best to have special one on one time with each of them but it's difficult with all their activities. Your blog has opened my eyes on alot of things as a mom & that's why you are so inspiring. The fact you allow us into getting to know Chris better makes my heart warm. If I was in your shoes I don't know if I would have your strength and that is so inspiring to me also. I look forward to your next blog.

    PS... Bailey is one lucky girl to have Chris' heart and to have you in her life and vice versa. <3

  3. Hi Regina. It's nice to read another blog entry from you. I even like the little hints of what I feel are a sense of humor or at a minimum brutal honesty with a twist of sarcasm.

    I have said it before, I read your blog and respond because I want you to know you aren't alone, even if I just send a short response to let you know your feelings are read, acknowledged and reflected on. I have also said that I have run into a handful of parents who have lost children, and while I'm not in that group, it doesn't make me any less sympathetic or caring and out of respect for you, and as a mom, I feel compelled to respond and let you know, like those before me and after me that write, we are here for you.

    I have so many different people in my life who are an inspiration to me for so many different reasons. The past few years have brought some truly amazing people into my life and I could write a book about how I met them, how fortunate I am to be in the path to meet them, and how while I look at them as inspirational, I hear the same in return. It's always odd to me because like you said above, I don't feel like I'm anything special, but I hear it a lot lately that supposedly I am. It's a strange feeling.

    I like the different topics/themes you come up with and it's always funny to me how in some small way they correspond with something I'm dealing with. Not always, but more often than not.

    I'm glad you still have your mom in your life to be an inspiration and a very strong support systems for you.

    You and your family are in my prayers tonight, as always, as I go off to sleep.

    God bless...

  4. Mrs. Stewart-
    I would like to answer for you why teenagers read your blog. I mean, I can't and shouldn't speak for anyone else, but I'm pretty sure we are all thinking the same thing. Maybe not though, so these may be my thoughts alone.
    You, your blog, this whole situation inspires me and keeps me reading because it helps me really put everything in perspective. My friends have told me that I'm a "classic" person; my parents have told me I am an old soul, and I believe it. I try not to subscribe to the nonsense that most teenagers do. I just don't find any interest in it. Frankly, the drama, everything... it's exhausting, and not in any productive way. This blog helps me to see through all the crazy things. It shows me that there's so much more to life beyond high school. It gives me strength to know that while my battles are hard too and while I have too many people in heaven right now (I believe) for my age, there's always someone fighting a harder battle... and not only that, but winning. I love to read this because it shows me that in a world that seems so tarnished with evil and tyranny, insanity and hatred, there is love and hope and inspiration, found both in you and your amazing son. I've said it before and I'll say it again. I wish I knew him more than just reading your blog. Don't get me wrong, I love reading, however I wish for your sake especially that you never had a reason to do this.

    You and Bailey especially inspire me. However, my lifelong inspiration has been and always will be my Nana who I've mentioned before. She passed away in August. She taught me to love with no boundaries, to hope with no end, and to see the good in everyone. There are so many things I just can't put into words. It must be a little bit like you.
    Maybe I'll start my own blog. It seems to be healing you nicely.

    God bless and have an amazing day.

    1. beautifully written...and I am sure totally on for many others as well...starting your own blog sounds like a wonderful idea :-) Hugs!

    2. Perfectly said. Each and every word I would have written. It really does put things into perspective. I was always a "classic" teenager as well. I never mingled into the teenage scene. Sometimes I wonder if it's because maybe we had to grow up too soon? In any event though I don't regret it. I just turned 25 in December and it's funny because I have been out of high school for about 7 years now, OMG, lol! Anyway I look around to some of the people I hung out with in high school and their still doing what they did in high school. It's their life not mine so i'm not trying to judge but as Hannah said, your words give inspiration and a very different perspective on what is important in life. I hate thinking that this horrible tragedy is what really made me step back and think twice about things in life but it has. I didn't even know Christopher, I wish I did, but I do feel like I know him a little now and he was so lucky to have a mother like you! I think that is why a lot of people of all ages are drawn to your words because no matter where people are at in their life, there is no possible way to wrap your head around this and not think twice about your own life. As you have said multiple times in your writings, too often people get wrapped up in everyday life and forget to stop and smell the roses. I think it is human nature to do this. I am not criticizing anyone for it. I just wish more people everyday would, just stop, even if for 5 minutes, and just really take in everything. The sunshine, the people around you, the air, the priceless things in life. Just like you, this blog is a comfort to look forward to everyday and reflect. God bless you!

    3. I totally agree Nick. I couldn't have said it better. It's nice to know that my posts come out cohesively! ^^That was exactly what I was trying to articulate. Just putting things in perspective.

  5. AHHH moms are special people aren’t they??? People tell me I am like my mom, that I carry her values. My mom was a loyal individual people tell me I have that too. I am so elated when people tell me I am like my mom. I think of her every day.

    My mom passed away when I was 16….she died in my arms after mother’s day dinner. She was my inspiration I carry a lot of her with me. Did not have her around long but those 16 years were wonderful years let me tell you. I learned so much from her. My mom was a strong person too; don’t know how she did a lot of things either. She still sparks inspiration in me when times get tough I know she is there.

    Thanks for letting me remember those wonderful times with her…she was my best friend, as it sounds you are to your sons too.

  6. why do men follow this blog? I'm not sure but I'm guessing maybe a lot of us could see you being our mom maybe? Wait I'm 37 so don't think thats possible! Do I wish I didn't have to read this and you had your old life back? of course I do. I enjoy learning more and more about Chris each day so it seems there isn't one entry I haven't read. I too have a great mom who is an inspiration. She raised me as a single mom in those teen years I'm sure I wasn't easy to deal with. She remarried and oddly enough lives just around the block from me now. She was diagnosed with MS about 10 years ago and I know each day from then has been a battle for her...but she keeps fighting. This life can be so difficult at times but giving up is just the easy way out! One of my favorite quotes is "tough times don't last but tough people do". Keep fighting and writing as you and our moms are inspiring!

  7. Dear Gina,
    It's been said that a home is only as good as the foundation it has been built upon. I believe your writing pretty much proved that this morning, Thank You for sharing it with us, it was beautiful and heart fealt. Love the pictures, Love You! Always In My Thoughts And Prayers, Eddie

  8. Gina, We are so fortunate to have mom, especially after dad passed when we were so little. She and dad gave us the essentials of what we needed - love, support, sense of responsibility and compassion - to grow to be decent adults and parents. Dad's time with us was way too short, but both he and mom continue to inspire to this day, though in different ways. I look at you and know that so much of their parental essence has become part of on you, which is why you turned into such a great mom, sister and daughter, and why both Chris and Jeremy turned into such fine young men. And, like mom and dad and you, Chris and Jeremy will both continue to inspire people, though in different ways. Love you, Joe

  9. The picture of you and your siblings is the one that drew me to you on facebook. I think I finally figured out which one is Eddie in the picture of all of you as adults...LOL!

    Like everyone, I wish you had your life back from 11/30 as well. But I believe for some reason God has put you in all of our lives which is why you are writing this blog and we are all drawn to it. You ask why do we find you inspiring? I guess as I mom I find it amazing that you are able not only to put one foot in front of the other after such a loss but to speak so eloquently and beautifully in your writings. I am drawn to your blog daily. Each day I laugh and cry and I find myself really trying to not sweat the small things in life but to also appreciate them more. I am really trying to make sure I have meaningful conversations with each of my kids on a daily basis and making sure I continue to make memories with our family. It gets harder to do the older they get because they want to be off with friends and have their own lives, especially once they move out of their teens and into their twenties and out into their own apartments.

    Your mom sounds amazing. I cannot even imagine being a single parent, let alone one to 11 children! I had enough trouble co-parenting four busy kids!! I imagine the reason you are such a strong person is because you had a wonderful role model. I too am lucky enough to have my mom still in my life. I'm 51 and she will soon be 84. I consider every day a bonus especially since my dad passed away 27 years ago. My mom had a stroke at age 60 and her left side was partially paralyzed so it hasn't always been easy for her since then but she has always had her sense of humor and her love to give. The best part has been her love for her grandkids. I am so thankful she has seen my children grow up!

    So as long as you continue to write, I will be reading. Thank you for sharing yourself and Chris with us. Thank you for taking us along on your journey and inspiring us each day.

  10. This one brought tears again! Good tears. Regina, I read every day because I want to be a part of this greater community that provides when the need arises. It makes me feel good to be helpful, even if it is as small as clicking "like" and keeping you all in my prayers daily. It's part of making life worthwhile.

    But I also read every day because I'm learning how different things can really be. As a teenager I suffered my own tragic losses on the road and I allowed it to rule and ruin my life for a long time. I am inspired by your blog because I wish I had chosen the path you have to deal with my loss. Your writing is so full of joy, love and light. And it's so much more powerful than the heartbreak. I'm relieved and hopeful for you, that you are on the path to peace in your heart. I am prayerful and hopeful that the rest of your family, Bailey and Matt, and Deanna's family especially, can also be led in the way of light and peace. Thank you for sharing.

  11. Why do you inspire us? Yes, we can see ourselves in your place, have touched your pain and "curling up and checking out" feels like the only option. You show us another way through. Through sharing your true vulnerability and open self-expression we see that being fully human is ALL of it - the pain of loss, the joy of motherhood, the love. Through your ability to not allow this horrible catastrophe to douse the light - yours and the spirit of Chris - you inspire. I think you call it a "spark". You are that spark in our lives.

    One of my inspirations is my friend Andrew and his wife Kelly. Andrew passed at 45 this summer leaving two young boys and his wife, following a 6-year battle with ALS. Their house was always filled with humor and a love of life, in spite of the illness. Andrew shared with us (my daughter and I) that in moments when we don't think we have what it takes to move on, "inspiration" is something that comes from the outside - like the sun. And like the sun it warms and nourishes and helps us to grow from the inside out until we feel ready to live and give again. Not just a platitude but a way of life for him these past 6 years.

    May you continue to find sources for inspiration in your life in the darkest hours. You have done this for us through your acts of simple honesty and openness. And we will pay it forward.

    God Bless!

  12. p.s. Etymology of Inspire... IN SPIRIT. One definition I have seen is "Divine" influence. In order to inspire we must then be OPEN to Spirit. Open to God. There is nothing to do but to ALLOW Him to work through us. You are doing this! And the influence on our lives is felt. Thank you for allowing yourself to be an instrument of peace!

  13. Regina, I read your blog everyday. You are truly an inspiration to me. I am a nurse who works in a nursing home, I deal with death daily. I do not know if I would be able to function as well as you seem to be.

  14. It's hard to find something pithy to say each day in the wake of your amazing I think it will just sit back and soak it all in. As another puzzle piece about your life and times is set into place through another daily blog entry, it all makes a little more sense. Angels walk among us. Happy Sunday to you and yours.

  15. I read your posts every single day although I don't comment everyday, I think each time I read I shed a few tears. Your blogs are so heartfelt and beautiful- it's really wonderful that you are so open to sharing Chris with us strangers who never had the opportunity to meet him but it's apparent from everything I have read that he was truly amazing. You're such a beautiful inspiration to many like myself I'm 25 years old I'm not a mother but the reason you inspire me is because your situation is something I've never had to go through something I hope to god I never will encounter but if I did I feel like after reading your blogs I would have the strength to move on and make a difference in the world. I think this world could use a few more people like you Mrs. Stewart you are truly a beautiful person & have such strength to write these entries everyday. I enjoy reading and learning more about Chris each day. I have tweeted to Bailey on Twitter have follwed her posts it's obvious she's incredibly strong as well she has the strength most young people don't have and has to go through something no one her age should ever have to go through none the less anyone of any age but life happens beyond our control. My thoughts & prayers are with you everyday.

  16. Your blog is I'm sure your son was and is. I'm a tad older than you are but my youngest is a Jr. in High School. I do believe many of us have tried to put ourselves in your shoes. As I read your blog, something rang very familiar to me. Many years ago, I had my first child, a girl. She was born with many problems and died after 5 days. Although I had no other children at the time I felt I needed to "hold it together" for everyone and was very aware of the fact that it would not be a good thing to curl up and withdraw from life. My biggest concern was that everyone (family, friends, future children)would forget about her existence. I therefore spoke about her short life often. I think what you are doing is with your blog is wonderful. You are giving your son Chris the opportunity to touch many lives in a positive way. You are generously sharing your life and Chris's in a way that will affect many people...many you probably will never even know. Thank you.

  17. I read all your blogs when I have a I don't get to read it every day, so when I do I may have 2 or 3 blogs to read at one time. I always comment because I feel this is a give and take relationship. sometimes, like today, I read yesterday's blog and commented then clicked to read today's blog and I swear it feels like a conversation or we are reading each others thoughts.

    Anyways, I have many people that inspire me in my life for many different reasons. My most beloved person of my life is my grandfather. He's 84 and overall healthy but he can't talk anymore and more times than not he doesn't know what is going on or what day it is, but every time he sees me and knows it's me and he's always happy to see me and I love spending time with him.

  18. Gina,
    I've been thinking of you and reading your blog everyday. I like hearing about Christopher, and I like being able to "check in" on you. <3
    Thank you for sharing your inspiration, your mom. Mrs. Yakel is truly a beautiful person. I love seeing her at family parties, and I have such wonderful memories working with her for Theresa's wedding. =)
    Take care of you,

  19. Hello again. One thing I've learned is traits I've gained from my parents, and traits that have passed through the generations. I believe that while your mom is a very strong woman, you got that trait from her as well. you may not have realized it until just recently, but some traits are dormant until needed. Your very lucky to have your mom through this difficult time though. One year for Christmas dinner My brother and I, at the table while eating, We thought about all the silly things we do, or traits we don't really understand, and sat there figuring out whom we got things from. Like a good example is, I usually don't sit down and eat when I'm home, I'll stand at the counter and eat, and my Grandmother use to do the same thing. It was a very fun dinner, with lots of stories and Laughs. I'm sure if you thought about the little things Chris did and Jeremy does, you'd see maybe one of your siblings, or your husband, yourself, or maybe even your father in them. It's something to think about, and maybe bring some laughs to your dinner table. Until next time. I wish you the best.

  20. You are blessed to have a big family and your mother is still her. I have lost both of my parent and don't have one relative to speak of. I was born an only child and my parents had very small families. A holiday dinner in my house was 4 people. We are a family of 4 and Stan's family all live in Chicago. I have made sure to surround my kids with lots of friends in the neighborhood to make holiday memories for them.
    Continue to keep you in my prayers,

  21. Thank you for this blog. Although I didn't know Chris and Deanna, I, too, have a 17-year-old son, so I can only imagine your pain. I am afraid every time he walks out the front door (and he is my third son, so the fear when one left the house has been going on many, many years). Sometimes the fear of something happening overshadows the everyday joy they bring. Believe it or not, your blog is helping me to "calm down" a bit, relax and enjoy every moment. We pray for your family every day. Thank you for your generosity, and I am sure you will touch many, many lives for many, many years, a wonderful legacy to your son.

  22. Happy 18th Birthday Chris! There is no stronger bond than that of a parent and child. Regina and Mike you did wonderful raising him to be the man he had become. I'm saddened for you that he isn't here to enjoy this day in person. A little tune I find both sad and uplifting at the same time. Find the truths in the words written in red and as this blog has in its title "BELIEVE" by Brooks and Dunn!