Weekly Message from T. J.

I Always Will

He was always tinkering with his car. That’s one of the things that he always talked about. This piece is supposed to come in by that time. This friend has a lift so I can get the piece on the car. When he stayed with me and my family in Washington before a long road trip he did some work on his car. It was fun to help him cobble things together however I could. I remember before his road trip I grabbed a jug of windshield wiper fluid from my parents’ garage. He said, “I can’t take all that.” I said, “It was three dollars.” And I still had to make him accept it.

These stories and so many more came flooding back this week when I learned that my good friend Chris died on Saturday. And it just feels horrible. Really horrible. I spend a lot of time with people grieving. Though I understand grief, when it comes, as it always does, no matter what I think I know of it, the feelings of it still surprise me and make me remember what loss feels like.

Whenever I work with someone going through grief, there are a few things I tell them. First, I explain that people in your life will have a kind of timer for your grief. There will be a time after which, subtly or unconsciously, they will feel you should be “over” the event. And I make them a promise that I will never have that expectation. I will always be someone who is fully available to talk about the grief and the loss. Second, I explain that grief is like a wild bear. There are times when it will behave how we think it should. Then there are times when it will do whatever it wants to do. But in either case, we can’t control it and we shouldn’t try.

When Chris moved out of his college apartment, he gifted some things to me, including a lamp that he spray painted to a color I liked before I took it and a bicycle. I rehabbed the bicycle—a real beauty—but it wasn’t the right fit for me. So I let it go to a serious cyclist who was trying to teach his partner the joys of cycling. He was so, so happy to have the bike. And I remember Chris was happy it was in good hands.

Now I miss the bike, too. And the bear of grief wanders the perimeter of my days as unsure as I am of what it will do. The pieces of a life, cobbled together to make it go, come apart now and my heart is most with Chris’s family holding the pieces. But the kindness of a man I had to convince to take wiper fluid lives on. Every morning and every night, the light from the lamp by my bedside reminds me of the simple ways friends care for each other in this life and the not so simple ways that caring goes on even after life.

No one is ever really gone, friends. Their light is with us always. I miss you, buddy. I always will.

Love, T. J.

11 Responses to “Weekly Message from T. J.

  1. My heart goes out to you, T. J. Recently I’ve been listening to Maroon 5’s “Memories” and crying a lot:
    Here’s to the ones that we got
    Cheers to the wish you were here, but you’re not
    ‘Cause the drinks bring back all the memories
    Of everything we’ve been through
    Toast to the ones here today
    Toast to the ones that we lost on the way
    ‘Cause the drinks bring back all the memories
    And the memories bring back memories bring back…you.

  2. My Mother always said “we’re only loaned to each other.” I have also heard that as long as we speak their names, their memory and they are still alive. I often do so or my Grandparents..

  3. I can hardly type through the tears. Thank you for this. You were such a blessing to Chris, and still to me.

  4. My heart is with you, Wendie, and Sara, and Reverend T.J. I am sending you hugs of support during this heartbreaking time…

  5. I miss Chris and his enthusiasm for life and art and food. Thnak you so much for your wise words Reverend T.J.

  6. It’s hard to put into words how much I value you in my life. So wise. So funny. So heartfelt. As much as you value Chris in your life I imagine he valued you in his.
    The bear will roam around forever.

  7. Thank you for writing this and thank you for being a friend to Chris. We all truly appreciate your kind words and miss him dearly.

  8. Thank you so much for writing and sharing this. Most importantly, thank you for being a friend to Chris. We all miss him so much!

  9. Grief will come in waves and at the most unexpected times. Please know that I truly feel your pain. I wish I could reach out and hug all of you!

  10. Thank you for supporting, believing in, seeing Chris’ true spirit, inner divinity, potential, talents & understanding his sensitivity. We are thankful you were in Chris’ life & he in yours. You have been a gift Chris & his family. How blessed that he was also a gift to you. Mahalo nui loa. : )

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