By Layla Dunlap
Chris passed away from a rare cancer that stemmed from a long battle with Crohn’s disease. We met on May 13, 2007. I think we were both a little unsure of each other at first, but by July that summer we were connected at the hip. I was madly in love with him and he was the man I was going to be with forever, hands down, no question about it. We weren’t that gushy with each other but I think it’s safe to say that he felt the same way.
I am not one who cries often or easily. When the most important person (besides my parents) in my life died I didn’t go through what counselors, therapists, etc. call the “stages of grief.” Instead, I did what was right, I pushed on and talked about Chris’ death with the most positivity I could muster. Only my mama and very close friends would’ve seen or heard how devastated I was after Chris died, and that didn’t happen very often.
A couple of years after Chris’ death, a friend asked me if I ever still thought of Chris. Was she crazy? Hell yes, I still thought about him. It bothered me that someone would think that I could forget him. It made me feel like I came off as a cold person, someone who could easily blow off the memories as easily as they were made. This has stuck with me ever since the visit with my friend. So, here it is, five years after his death and I am speaking out on what it’s like to lose someone that your truly love with every muscle in your body. Someone who made me a better person.
The scientist in me likes numbers. Chris has been gone for five years.
5 years = 260 weeks
260 weeks = 1820 days
1820 days = 43,680 hours and
43,680 hours = 2,620,800 minutes
2,620,800 minutes too long without him. One minute is too long without him. Time is a tricky thing. People say time has a way of making a death easier to cope with. Some days it’s true. Other days, time slaps you in the face, “Wake up! He’s gone.” Chris’ death is my go-to timeline for which I remember significant events, meeting people, vacations,etc. that I was apart of. It is always before or after Chris died. I wish it were a different event that I reference my life around.
Some days it feels as if five years has flown by. I stop and wonder how time has slipped away so suddenly. “What if I forget him, or all the little details,” I wonder, knowing that’s absolutely never going to happen. Other days time drags on and on. I relive every moment that occurred from the time he found out about the cancer until he passed away comfortably in his childhood home. I need to know that it was real and that he will not be coming back. Those days I like being sad, laying in my bed crying my eyes out, going into a deep morbid hole. This sadness is so heart wrenching that after it passes I feel relief and strangely enough, even a little enlightened.
I’ve dreamed of Chris occasionally. In each one Chris has come back to life. Just like that, he is back as if nothing happened. And in each one I am always searching for Sandy, Chris’ mom, to tell her he’s alive. The nights I dream of him I don’t want to wake up. And when I do wake there is the split moment when I think he really is back. When I realize he isn’t I always think to myself, “wouldn’t it be cool if he could come back to life?” And for a second I think that he actually could. Chris would think I had lost my mind if he heard this idea.
Five years later, and I remember more about Chris and our relationship now than I did a couple of years ago. I miss him. He had a way of making everyone around him feel good. He had a great smile and laugh. And watching him in the outdoors, whether it was hiking, kayaking, climbing, or birding, you wanted that same experience because he was having so much fun. He made me feel like I could do anything. I trusted him with my entire being and he made me feel safe. There have been a couple of hikes that I could swear he was on the trail with me. These were beautiful hikes, where he and I would have stopped and talked about how lucky we were to experience these wild places. From now until the day I die I will always think of C. Street leaning over my shoulder, viewing the world through my eyes. This keeps me going many days, especially these two years of grad school. He would be so proud of me. He would give me so many high fives and do a crazy little dance.
If there is one positive thing that I’ve gained from losing this amazing, good-hearted man, it is the family he left behind. I am so incredibly lucky to have Dave, Sandy, Lizzie, Jeff, and Brian in my life. Only we can know what going through that tragic experience was like, and we will have that bond forever. I am glad I have them to lean on and I’m absolutely positive they feel the same way. They are stuck with me and I am stuck with them. Chris would be so happy to know that we have remained close.
My sweet 91 year-old Mamaw and I were talking the other day and she said something that really touched me. We were talking about dying, as she is very forthcoming on the topic, and she said, ‘we don’t know what’s on the other side after we die. There are lots of theories, but no one can really say for sure. But one thing is for sure: how could any place be as beautiful as the world we live in?’ and then quickly added, ‘minus the people.’ Chris would have agreed with her. He enjoyed this earth more than anyone I’ve ever known and lived every day to the absolute fullest.
It feels good to get this out on paper.
What do the next five years hold? Where would Chris and I be if he were still here? One thing is certain: I will still think about Chris every day and share memories with my friends and family. Yes, there will be sad days but the next five years will hold more adventure and happiness for Chris’ family and me in this big beautiful world.
C.Street, always with us!
2014. Glacier County Honey Co. All Rights Reserved to Layla Dunlap.