Lee Ann Christ, Brian’s Mom
I was cleaning the engraved bench at Brian’s gravesite the other day and the greenish spots on it weren’t coming off so well. I decided to call the company we got it from and ask their advice, as the weather has left its mark over the years. Once home I opened the large bin housing that kind of information-stark, administrative things from the funeral home, the treatment center, insurance and tax related papers, things that could probably be shredded now after 13 years. I found the number, called them and got an answer to the cleaning question.
Also in the bin were personal things like all the many cards & letters we received and the book of entries of people’s feelings and sentiments. I sat down and started looking through them.
What I didn’t expect to find was myself as an observer, reading about Brian from other’s viewpoints and not necessarily being a part of their memories. I was a reader of his story, not the one protecting and nurturing it.
I think I was able to see their loss, through their eyes, for the first time. I had been through those cards and letters many times in the 13 years since he died of an accidental heroin overdose. My grief had been at the forefront as I read through things. It was painful and so done in a self focused way.
As I slowly read through them this time, each letter shined a light on that person’s relationship with him, their cherished moments and their loss.
It wasn’t about me and I wept for them. It was a small change in my journey.
Other things in the bin were a few pieces of Brian’s clothing, a college tee shirt and a HS Wrestling jacket. I clutched the shirt to my chest as I read the letters. I have other items of his but the small amount of clothing he had, I gave away to his friends or to a homeless shelter he had pointed out to me one day.
Two years ago I finally decided that I would part with his red fleece REI jacket that I also kept and had hanging in our coat closet. He had worn it constantly in the cold weather. It said Brian all over it. I would put it on every once in awhile to feel closer to him, but no one was using it.
I put it in the car with a scarf and gloves in the pockets and looked for someone who needed it. It was a bitterly cold winter and weeks went by and I saw no one. I was determined it was important to actually give it away to someone.
One day driving along I saw a young man walking on the sidewalk across the road in the direction I was driving. It was below 30 degrees & very windy that day. He had on jeans and a short sleeve tee shirt with his arms inside the shirt’s arms to keep warm. I did a quick u-turn and pulled over to his side, hoping he would walk by. When I spotted him I put down the window and asked if he could “use these things”, holding the coat and scarf up to the window. He scrambled to get them and was so thankful & humble. I watched in the mirror as he put them on and walked away, much warmer and a little more protected.
Brian has helped me see other people’s needs much more clearly. It’s not always about me.