Dear Christina

Dear Christina,

It’s been two years now since you’ve been gone. There have been countless times when I’ve wanted to text or email you, so many times when I’ve thought to myself that it’s been too long and we should have a sleepover soon. Then it all comes crashing back that you’re not hanging out in your apartment watching anime and you’re not only a phone call away.

There are times when I’m at peace with your death because we were able to talk about it so much and because I was able to say goodbye. We don’t have any unfinished business.

Then there are times when I remember how much you suffered, not just during those last two months, but from the moment of your accident onward. I still struggle to understand why it had to happen. People do stupid things every single day and walk away without a scratch. Why did your bad decision have such catastrophic results?

Every so often I’ll Google your name to see what comes up. Right after you passed, there were tons of blogs and articles written about you and how you chose to end your suffering. A lot of people who didn’t have a clue who you were thought they were qualified to judge not only you, but all of us left behind for “letting” you go through with it. I can’t tell you how much their words hurt. They actually thought that none of us cared enough to let you know that you were never a burden or that we never tried to stop you. They knew absolutely nothing about your life other than what they read in a poorly written “article” that skewed the truth to make everything sound so much more dramatic than it really was. Yet they thought it was OK to call you names, to criticize you and your family, without thinking that maybe your loved ones would read those words and they would cause even more pain.

Sometimes those people made me feel like I didn’t have the right to grieve for you. I mean, after all, you chose to die, right? As if that somehow negates the fact that you’re gone and not coming back.

I’ve grown stronger since then. I realize that those people don’t matter. Their opinions don’t count. I am justified in my grief and it’s OK to miss you and feel sad.

I wish that I could talk to you. So much has happened since you left and I feel incomplete without my best friend. I know you’re OK and I know you’re with my mom and Shavon and everyone, and that does give me a tiny bit of comfort, but I’m selfish and I want you here. I want things back the way they used to be.

You left a lot of requests behind, and I hope I’ve made you proud. I admit that I’ve only read your goodbye letter once, the day you died, because I just can’t handle to read it any more than that. I took your words to heart, though, and I’m trying my best to follow your advice.

I miss you.

lylas,
Er

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21 thoughts on “Dear Christina

  1. I have no idea how I stumbled upon your blog – gotta love the internet – however I’ve been doing a little back reading trying to get a feel for you. One thing I feel is a lot of loss. I lost my father in ’85 (last words to him: I hate you!). I’ve since figured out he knew I really didn’t hate him and that his pick, pick, picking had driven me over the edge and “past my words”. He was like that. Loved that man. My mom received her “death sentence” in March of ’04 (the 26th, the day after her birthday). Pancreatic cancer. The doctors opened her up to remove her pancreas in the hope she could live as a diabetic the rest of her life and closed her back up. It was 15 minutes in the waiting room to hear the words “stage 4, no chance, take her home”. I did. Less than 6 weeks later (May ’04) she was gone. I’ve also lost 2 brothers and a sister. There are 3 of us left.

    My whole point is this: the pain does lessen with time but the good memories just get warmer. I actually picked up the phone yesterday and dialed my phone number (from when I lived with my mom). My husband asked me who I was calling when I looked at the phone and said “No, that number is NOT disconnected.” I said, my mom … and then “nevermind”. I needed advice on soup making. My mom was a good cook. This happens at least once a year.

    That said I still can’t watch that stupid Folger’s commercial where the son comes home from college and makes the effing coffee and the “whole” family wakes up and is so surprised. This time of year my husband moves a box of Kleenex onto the coffee table in the living room and politely pretends I’m not sobbing during stupid commercials.

    I wish you the best and sorry for taking up all of you comment space. (PS: Your mom was awesome. I hope my kids feels the same way someday.)

    • Thanks so much for your comment! I’m sorry to hear about all of your losses – and I completely understand needing the box of tissues on the table. My husband also politely pretends not to notice me sobbing to myself during stupid commercials.

      I’m glad to know I’m not the only who “forgets” that these people aren’t around anymore. So many times I’ll see something my mom would like, or I think of something I want to discuss with her, and then I remember that I can’t. It all happens instantaneously, like I think of calling her at exactly the same time I remember that I can’t.

      The pain has definitely lessened with time. A lot of people who know me in real life would probably be shocked to read most of what I’ve written because I hide it well. It’s easy to write about it and it helps me deal with everything going on inside.

      • You’re a sweet young lady – thanks for the reply, I really didn’t expect one. I’ve bookmarked you and will check back as time allows. It took me ten years to deal with the fact that my dad actually knew I really didn’t hate him and I wasted a lot of time beating myself up for nothing. I don’t do that anymore.

        And you’ll never stop “forgetting”. Just so you know. And that’s a very good thing.

  2. Oh Erin, that has to be so hard. Seeing lylas just pulled at me because some of my best friends and I used to sign notes that way. And they truly have become sisters, they are family.

    I understand the judgment from others. I don’t get it often, but as someone who terminated a pregnancy after a terminal diagnosis, the fear of it is always there. Will I be accepted in baby loss/grief groups when we chose to end Noah’s pregnancy early, rather than waiting for that magic 40 week mark for his death. It doesn’t make it easier. We still miss him and wish desperately that things could have been different. Taking what little control we have over death at the end doesn’t make death any less horrible. It just adds another layer. Big hugs to you.

  3. Big hugs Erin! There are no words in the world that I could say or type that would take away the pain but just know you have great angels watching over you. Yes time heals wounds but the memories are what can open the wound up again. But those good memories are what is needed to be able to get up in the morning and face the world. Just always keep them close to your heart and breathe.

  4. I never met Christina. I discovered her blog this April, when someone linked it in a “right to die” discussion in an unrelated forum. I proceeded to read a blog entry or two every day, browse through her art gallery on flickr and then finally, her book. Then I, too, made the mistake of googling and read some of the disgusting comments people had left after her death. I’m certain that the vast majority of them didn’t read her blog or looked at her art, but only read the slanted nonsense some newspapers had put online.

    I never knew her, yet based on what she wrote and what the people closest to her wrote about Christina, I can only imagine that she was a complicated woman with a beautiful, creative mind and a big heart. A far cry from the lovestruck teenager who killed herself over a lost love that some media outlets made her out to be.

    Erin, you just have to keep in mind that many people are quick to judge without having all the facts. More often than not it’s due to ignorance and not malice. That’s even more true when it comes to highly emotional issues deeply entangled in ethics and faith, such as suicide. They evoke strong reactions and people are quick to sum up the life of someone they didn’t know. The anonymity of the internet brings out the worst in them. Don’t let it get to you. They didn’t know her and they don’t know you.

    When I read her blog it was with a heavy heart, knowing how it all turned out for her. With regret at not discovering it sooner, when she was still alive. I would have liked to tell her that her art mattered and that it still does, that her words made a difference and that they still do. They certainly had an impact on me and I live at the other end of the earth. I think she never realized just how many people – literally all over the world – she influenced in a positive way through her art and writing in those years after her accident and even now, beyond her death. In this regard she made more of a difference in a few short years than many people do in a full life time. She had to fight every day to stay alive another day and I don’t think anyone could have spent those days in a more meaningful way than she did – raising awareness about the issues she believed in and spending time with her loved ones.

    She made it clear several times in her blog that she only managed to bear this life that was unacceptable to her for so long because of you. You were her sister by choice. Most people are lucky if someone like that comes around once in their lifetime. I don’t think you could have done more for her than you did and that is something to be proud of. Few people would have been able to bear a friend’s suffering and share some of that burden for so long. When it came to saying goodbye, your respected her wishes and there is no greater act of love than to let someone go.

    Everyone who has a friend like you can count themselves blessed. Keep her close and share that kind of love with others, that is the best way to honor her memory.

    I wish you all the best,
    Tim

    • Tim, thank you so much for your comment and your kind words. I, too, dislike the fact that you only found Christina after her passing, but I’m glad you found her nonetheless. One of her biggest goals was to reach people and spread awareness, and I think she has succeeded and then some.

      I know now not to pay attention to what strangers on the internet post in the comments section on news sites – they have no firsthand knowledge of the story and are just responding to whatever was written in the article (no matter how false it may be). But, the first few months after her passing were hard enough without a bunch of ignorant opinions as well!

      In any case, I’m glad you have enjoyed her writing and artwork. I know she would be very happy that people are actually buying her book and reading about her story.

      Erin

      • As someone who builds web communities I know that negative people are more vocal than those who take away something positive from the shared experiences of another human being. People are quick to bash and slow to praise. This often leads to the skewered perception that the world is full of douchebags, when in reality, most people who are inspired by others just move on quietly.

        I believe her blog is approaching 300k visits now, that’s a great many people who have learned of her and the issues she raised repeatedly, like the need for an SCI cure or taking personal responsibility for advanced directives and a living will. Who knows? Maybe someone is not in a wheelchair right now because reading about her made them more careful about water safety issues. This alone validates all the work she put into it and I can imagine that, given how hard it was to read some of the entries, it was much harder to write them.

        I’ve found her blog to be a welcome kick in the butt – it really puts ones own problems into perspective. Suddenly those daily trials and tribulations don’t seem so overwhelming after all. Being young and healthy is a gift we take for granted when we should feel grateful for it and make good use of the time that is given to us. Christina reminded me of this, and for that I am thankful.

        I noticed that her own web site is already offline, which is a shame since it connected all of her online playgrounds quite well. The precursor of her life paralyzed blog, a myspace blog, seems to have disappeared as well when they redesigned their site a few months ago. It’s the nature of the internet that things disappear over time when no one is left to maintain them.

        If you guys (her family) ever want to put that site back online and need some assistance, feel free to drop me a mail. Her voice deserves to be heard.

        Tim

  5. Even though I was never able to meet Christina, her story has truly touched my heart. From her blog, books and from you she was an amazing and talented woman that did not deserve the life she had. I have no idea how hard it must have been for her and you as well. I hope her story and legacy live on forever.

  6. Beautiful, loving, wonderful letter. I clicked back and read through some of Christina’s blog and her book. I think she has accomplished – and will continue to accomplish – what she hoped to in completing her project. Thank you for keeping your friend in the collective consciousness for us all to learn from.

  7. Erin, this is such a powerful piece. The first time you posted on Yeah Write, I enjoyed your writing, so I went back in your blog archives and read some of your old entries. I read about Christina there, and then searched out her blog. I’m sorry for the loss of your best friend, and I’m sorry that she’s not here to read your beautiful letter. Thank you for sharing your journey.

  8. Wow. What a powerful letter. I went back and read some of Christina’s posts, and now I’m in tears, so I’m out of words. But this post made me feel…a lot.

    • One of her requests was that we continue to share her story and spread the word about SCI and right-to-die issues, so that’s what I’m trying to do. Sorry for all the feelings 😦

  9. It was painful to read this. I know sometimes writing about it eases the pain. Some articles are not worth reading, the writers fail to think about the people, the departed left behind. I think it’s very cruel.

  10. No matter how someone died, you never forget them. It doesn’t matter the circumstances, a life was a life. Those that are left behind should be allowed to grieve. People can be such jerks sometimes. Don’t pay any attention to them.

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