Crystal child. I’d never heard the term before. I don’t mean this kind, interesting as it is. Let me backtrack, just a little.
Chris had an amazing psychiatrist. I credit him with giving us our son back, and fully believe that without him, we’d have lost Chris three years earlier than we did. Frank and I still go to see him. It’s a connection neither he nor we wish to break. Losing Chris was devastating for him, too. They weren’t just patient/doctor; they were friends.
With Chris’ birthday coming, we wanted to get together. In the course of our discussion, he said that, in his opinion, there was nothing so gut-wrenching as losing a child. End of story. But losing a crystal child comes with an added category of grief–knowing not just we but the larger world is denied what he would have given it.
A crystal child is brilliant, multifaceted, and fragile. That was Chris. The stuff locked away in that head of his, that he tried so hard to put out into the world? Gone. Talk to his professors, high school teachers, middle school, elementary. Talk to colleagues, friends, gym acquaintances. Brilliant doesn’t quite cut it. He was able to help others connect with concepts they thought beyond them. He tutored a lot in college, and he loved it. But there was so much in him he couldn’t share. Not that he didn’t try! He talked about things people didn’t quite grasp. Some simply weren’t interested. To have a brain full of knowledge to share and no one to share it with weighed on him, I know. It made him feel disconnected from his peers, and was one of the reasons he always felt apart. When he got going with someone who did understand and was interested? Holy jeez, sparks would fly out of his eyes, ears. His happiness, then, was breathtaking.
A professor recently told me that when he saw Chris coming, he’d put away whatever he was doing because he knew he was in for several hours of discussion. I’m certain there were times the man really didn’t have hours to spend with Chris, but he did, because he knew it was going to leave him feeling excited about…something. It made him remember, he said, what it was like to be twenty-something and enthusiastic about his chosen field of study. He also said Chris was light years beyond what he could get his head around, even after all his years teaching.
When we lost Chris, we lost a beloved son. He was goofy and sweet, gave amazing hugs. And he loved. So much. His smile was legendary. Cocky little bastard. He was never going to be easy. He could be infuriating, self-centered and, yes, a little arrogant. There’s that multifaceted thing–can’t point to one characteristic that didn’t reflect/deflect another. He might have always needed more than those who love him sometimes had to give. But that’s only a small portion of what HE had to give.
I’m his mother. Of course I knew he was “special.” In so many ways, Chris was the strongest person I’ll ever know. All he endured, how hard he strove to overcome every physical and mental obstacle that came at him–few could have faced all he did and come out the other side in one piece. His fragility is of a more subtle kind, a deadlier kind. The kind that hides within all the apparent toughness and strikes hard where it finds a crack.
Today is Christofer’s birthday. He should have been twenty-six. We’re never going to know what he’d have given the world. Good, bad, or otherwise. But I do know that our loss isn’t just ours, even if no one else ever does.