A Final Conversation with Chris
A gift my brain gave me in a recent ART session. I hope to share it with you.
As some of you know, I began a journey into ART- Accelerated Resolution Therapy for PTSD / Trauma. I’m tackling some traumatic events in my life -to help alleviate panic and anxiety attacks when the memory of those events are triggered.
The first one was about events in 2013 that I don’t discuss publicly. I carried that trauma for over 10 years and in less than hour it was completely resolved.
The second session - yesterday - was processing through the sudden tragic death of my brother in 2017 in a horrific accident involving two semi’s on a two lane stretch of highway in the dark of a pre-Easter weekend Colorado night. It was planned - but it just happened to work out that this session fell the day before his birthday & it didn’t even dawn on me until later after the session.
Here is where I would normally have a tendency to describe the traumatic event that unfolded - but I’m not here to do that today. I realize that when I do that, it’s an attempt to further process my own trauma by dragging you into it with me. I’m not here to do that today.
I’m here today to instead share with you a healing gift I experienced in the ART session yesterday morning. I won’t take you through the entire process, but part of the reprocessing - attaching new feelings to old experiences - to end suffering and pain of those memories - is to recreate the memory as the Director of your own life movie and have it play out in any way you choose. It does not have to be realistic at all. And your brain normally brings up what it needs.
The brain doesn’t know the difference between what’s real now, what happened in the past or something created from your own imagination - or experiences them all the same - as if they are happening now. That’s why, for example, that a mailman concerned about packages being on my porch without my knowledge will knock loudly at my door and my brain launches the fiercest panic attack I’ve had in years. It’s not a fear of the present. It triggers the memory of another knock at the door that preceded a police detective delivering the most unimaginable news about the death of my brother. And while logically that it is the mailman delivering my packages, the protective part of my brain - panics because it’s reliving the nightmare of April 2017 - even if I may not even be consciously aware of it since I’m just too busy trying to breathe. I wonder if this is some wonky protective mechanism of my brain giving me an acute event to keep me busy to protect me from the memory while it quickly processes through it and tucks it away.
Anyway, when I discovered ART and was asked what things I’d like to resolve - I responded: I want to be able to respond to someone knocking at my door like any normal person would - calm, breathing, smiling, gracious, … oh, and … immediately - not half an hour later after I’ve regained composure. It really is ridiculous!
When I’ve retold that day back in 2017, it always starts with hearing that knock on the door and thinking, “I must be watching too many true crime dramas and documentaries, that sounds like police at my door!” Little did I know ….
But now, instead I choose to remember the gift my brain gave me yesterday during the session that helped me rewire my brain from trauma to peace when it comes to the death of my brother. The writer in me took what happened in that segment of my session and expanded and came up with this.
There is a light tapping on the door to my soul with a gentle whisper from my brother on the other side of it. “Hey, Mel! I need to come in and talk to you about something. It’s important.”
I allow him in & we find ourselves in a brightly lit waiting room with bright colored modern yet comfortable furniture and accessories. He’s dressed in his starched way past stiff jeans, western shirt, new boots and his cowboy hat. I don’t see him like this often - I normally see him when he’s been working hard, dirty and smelly.
Me: Wow! Don’t you look like a cowboy angel all clean and dressed up like that! What’s that cologne you’re wearing?
Chris: It’s called Heaven.
Me: What is this place?
Chris: I’m not sure. Heaven’s waiting room, maybe?
Me: Your cologne has its own waiting room?
Chris: I just say that because I think Dad’s here. Look, Sis. I need you to listen to me. I have news.
Me: Ok. So serious! I am listening. Wait … Dad is here with us?
Chris: I died last night. There’s this whole big thing about how and people are going to lie to you about motivation behind it. But that part of the story is not important and it no longer needs or deserves your energy or focus. What’s important here is that I died. I won’t be home for Easter or to celebrate kiddo’s birthday. So, be sure to give her a big hug for me & make sure she knows I’m sorry and I’d be there if I could.
Me: You left?
Chris: I died.
Me: Yes. I get that but you left me alone- you promised me you’d stay and be here for mom. We joked that between the two of us maybe we could amount the equivalent of one normal person showing up for mom in her life. You broke your promise! How can I be enough to do this on my own. First Dad - took me five years to recover from that and now you?
Chris: I’m sorry I broke my promise - but you need to promise me something. You need to do whatever you have to do to keep moving forward- don’t crawl under a rock and disappear for five years like you did when dad died. Mom needs you.
Me: I promise. I can’t do that to myself again anyway.
Chris: You’re enough. You need to know and believe that. You don’t need me to somehow make a whole person. We were wrong. We are enough in our own person. I know you tire of hearing this from people, but now you’re gonna hear it from me and I hope it lands differently for you this time. You are the strongest person I know. Your ADHD is not only a gift, it can be a strength if you let it.
Me: Enough? Strong? How? When I’m so alone?
Chris: You’re not alone. You have some good friends who will step up for you. And if they don’t, I have a friend or two that I know will step up for you as well. Speaking of, remember that I may have a lot of people and most call me their best friend - but I know who my true real friends are… and so will you. They are the ones who also respect and love my family and watch out for them because they know how important you are to me.
*Chris starts tearing up.
And please feel free to stand your ground with those who don’t: The ones who would rob me, publicly criticize your choice of inclusions in my obituary, harass you and others the day of my memorial service in their outrage over my obituary, ransack my apartment,steal from me, lie to you to try and steal from me, descend like vultures wanting pieces of what’s left of me - the things I leave behind. And those that are so low they try to stand on my name because it’s the only way they can elevate themselves and it still doesn’t elevate them from the pits they’ve dug for themselves. The warnings I gave about certain people that I sounded when I was alive are still warnings now that I’m dead. So remember those names.
But please have peace and know that I know who my friends are and who aren’t. I always have. And you will, too.
Me: Did you suffer? Are you in pain?
Chris: No. It truly was in a blink of an eye. So don’t try to imagine my last moments - just know my last thoughts were of those I’d truly loved and I carry that love with me into death.
Me: I don’t like this.
Chris: I wouldn’t expect that you would.
Me: I know we seem like opposites - but we are a lot alike you and I. Our love of and connection through music. Our eye for design and photography. The only difference between us is you are so much bolder in your gifts. I got too comfortable being invisible in your shadow.
Chris: I always saw you. I always wanted others to see you. You are so smart and talented. I always tell people that. But now… it’s your time to be bold.
Chris: You can start with my memorial video. Please don’t diminish my life to a boring slide show of random photos set to elevator music that doesn’t celebrate my story. You’re the only person who can do this and do it right! I want people to see and recognize me in my own tribute. Is that too much to ask?
Me: Not at all.
Chris: I love you, Sis. I’m sorry for all the times you needed my presence and attention and I just wasn’t there for it.
Me: I’m sorry for losing patience with you and the tough calls I made to protect my and my family from your addiction .. that cost us time.
Chris: You had to do it. I told someone once that I wish I had the strength to protect myself from my addictions the way you protect yourself and your family from my addictions. We’re good on that. I promise.
Me: Any regrets?
Chris: Strange, I don’t feel any regrets. But I feel like I should have one. I kept hearing Rob Thomas had another album coming out with a tribute to the 80’s and I regret not being here for it.
Me: Well, I will play it loud when he finally releases it and raise my glass to you when I do.
Chris: I hope I get to be there for that. Somehow I know I will - but no idea how I know that.
Me: Any last words?
Chris: *screams aaaaaaaaaaah F*%@!!!!
*Chris starts laughing
Chris: Too soon?
Me: You asshole! Not what were your last words! I could have guessed that! Any last words for me?
Chris: Be bold. You have a special purpose that requires you to be bold. You don’t require the comfortable safety or anonymity of my shadow.
Remember it’s not dad’s or even my shoes you have to try and fill. You have your own shoes, your own legacy.
Enjoy lemonade pie on my birthday. Maybe even a shot of good bourbon. Why stop there - have a glass! 🥃
Having the best is not entitlement if you worked your ass off for it. It’s ok to enjoy your life & the things you choose to have in it.
Just don’t accept substandard substitutes like illegal substances or people who just want to use you or borrow power from proximity. Feel free to use them back. It’s the only currency they know and they will think you are the best friend they’ve ever had.
Always know who your real friends are. And none of the rest of the crap other people do even has to register on your radar.
Never turn your back on good music … especially Rob Thomas.
And … I love you. I’m sorry I had to leave.
Dad and I are both proud of you. Timelines are irrelevant to me now. I see you in the future. A future worthy of you … and the great things you do to serve others. Know we are cheering you on!
It’s time for me to go now.
Tell Mom, I love her and I’m sorry for all the things I didn’t get a chance to apologize for. When you get sad around Easter, just imagine me and dad with big floppy ears and a cotton tail trying to be a source of joy and laughter for you instead of profound sadness of a holiday with the unfortunate timing of falling around the times of our deaths.
And one last thing: There is no marking of territory where I am concerned. Just like you taught me when we were kids: The only territory that matters is family. If someone treads on my family and loved ones, they tread on me. They tread on you.
Find your voice and then roar. Make people listen. It’s important.