Wednesday, August 29, 2007

From Belarus with love

I received the following message from Chris' friend Yuri, whom he met while studying in Belarus in '95-'96. [Thanks to Yuri for providing the photo!]
Yuri, Natka and Chris - Rock 'n Roll Forever!

It was just yesterday when I was happy telling everyone this wonderful story about an old friend of mine with whom I had lost contact, and who had managed to locate my email address and send me a message. He had many people here in Belarus, my fellow-students, who do remember him, and I'm sure they will also be sad at the news.

Everyone here in Belarus remembers Chris as a very nice and friendly guy who was constantly interested in what was happening in our country. For some time, he represented all Canadians here and by looking at him and interacting with him, I created my own image of Canada and Canadians. As a native speaker of English, he helped us a lot in our studies and took an active part in our student activities.

I particularly remember those days when I planned to play an unplugged guitar session for a group of my colleague students at Chris's farewell party but couldn't handle the English-language lyrics of some of the rock classics. Chris helped me out with this. He was patiently listening to Bob Dylan and Eagles trying to hear what they sing and wrote the lyrics on paper so that I could learn them and sing. I also remember his stories about Canada, about ice hockey teams and London and Toronto music night clubs.

Several times he invited me to visit him in Canada, but I couldn't manage for financial reasons at that time. I've traveled all over the world since then but never visited Chris because I didn't have his contact info and the letters sent to his old address bounced back to me for some reason. This time I was hoping that I could invite him to visit our part of the world. Chris will always be in my heart as a great friend and a very nice person. I'll miss him...

Monday, August 27, 2007

Gift of sight

Today I received a letter that filled my eyes with tears of gratitude. It was a thank you letter from the Eye Bank of Canada, notifying me that Chris' donated corneas have restored the gift of sight to two individuals in Ontario. "Your husband's legacy has given light where once there was darkness and hope where once there was despair."

Chris and I were both long-time advocates of organ donation awareness. As many of you know, Chris received a kidney in 1994 from a deceased donor whose grieving family gave him that treasured and generous gift. Now Chris himself has in turn become a donor, giving the gift of his 20/20 vision.

In honour of Chris, please consider organ donation and - most importantly - talk to your family about your wishes.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Death out of the closet

One of the times that I miss Chris the most is on Saturday mornings when we used to read the Globe & Mail together over brunch. We each had our own order in which we read the different sections and orchestrated an unwritten choreography of passing along read sections and sharing tidbits we knew would be of interest to the other as we turned the pages.

It is only in the past couple of weeks that I have begun to have any interest in current events and am able to muster the attention span required to read a weekend paper cover-to-cover as we used to do. I often read articles that would have been of interest to Chris and stop myself from my usual "listen to this..." when I realize that he is not beside me, nose buried in the Review section and savouring his first cup of free trade Peruvian.

This morning's G&M had an interesting story entitled The Modern Way of Mourning which discusses changes in North American mourning - from private to public - as embodied in things such as roadside memorials for accident victims and Facebook tributes. I too am a participant in this change by creating this blog in memory of Chris where friends and family can share stories and grief. I must admit that I am still conflicted by this decision to "let it all hang out".

Our 20th century WASP culture has been very private about grief and death. Like money, politics and religion, it was not something discussed in "polite" society. I took a sociology course at college entitled Death Out of the Closet - a fascinating study on the cultural and sociological history of death and grief in Western society. One of our assignments included writing our own obituary and we even had a field trip to a funeral home. The teacher helped us to understand society's fears and misconceptions about the rituals of death - no mean feat for a group of adolescents who planned to live forever!

I guess we all have a line that we draw, past which we do not feel comfortable. That line is obviously different for everyone. There are things that I do not and will not share in this blog - memories and emotions that are mine alone to carry. I have looked at other widow(er)/grief/bereavement blogs in the past month. Some are startlingly naked in their disclosure; others have been abandoned with the passing of time. All are fascinating. The face of grief changes constantly…

Monday, August 20, 2007

Into the light

This hauntingly beautiful quote was posted by Elizabeth, a fellow Russian studies classmate of Chris'. It is from Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, one of Chris' favourite books by one of his favourite authors.

". . . his whole heart blazed up and turned towards some kind of light, and he wanted to live and live, to go on and on along some path, towards the new, beckoning light, and to hurry, hurry, right now, at once!"

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Four funerals & a wedding

My aunt Gypsie and my cousin Peg came to town for Chris' memorial service and when we met up at the visitation my aunt shook her head with disbelief and sadness, saying "We have to stop meeting like this." I wryly responded that it was a macabre case of four funerals and a wedding.

Over the past two years, I've lost my father (April 2005), my mother (June 2006), one of my uncles (July 2006), and now my husband (July 2007). All those funerals were thankfully interspersed with happy times, including our wedding last September. But it is hard for me to really grasp the loss of so many close family members in such a short time... hard to comprehend the weight and accumulated impact of so much grief.

As a childless only child who is now an adult orphan and a widow, I have a deep sense of aloneness that is now much sharper than it ever was when I was simply an only child. It is a difficult thing to explain to those who are not only children. I do have extended family scattered far and wide across Canada, the US, and Barbados. I also have the support and shared comfort of Chris' family nearby as well as many wonderful and dear friends near and far. However this new aloneness is something that I will need to understand and explore to ultimately accept as part of my new identity. Time...

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Wedding website

Several people have recently asked me for a reminder of the link for our wedding website. I'm going to keep it online for the foreseeable future so everyone can enjoy the pictures and memories of that wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime day.

Jason's library blog tribute to Chris

Jason, a former TA student of Chris' at library school, has put together a warm and thoughtful tribute to Chris on his blog: Head Tale (Yet Another Librarian's Blog).

Brigitte's memories of Chris

This lovely message was sent to me by Brigitte, a friend and former colleague of Chris', who asked me to share it with others by posting it on the blog.


Sandra: I have read all of your postings and have been deeply touched by them, by your profound love of Chris. I knew that is how it was for the two of you. This must be a very (extremely) painful time. Your ability to express your emotions is remarkable; clear and lucid. Knowing Chris, this is probably one aspect of you he really loved and enjoyed.

When I think of Chris, I often remember joining the Office of Learning Technologies in 2000. He worked there as a student for the summer. I recall conversations at the photocopier; Chris being interested in new people joining the team. I found him an interesting and different individual. He had an interesting mind.

At first, he was only there during the summer but eventually joined the team. We slowly became friends, exchanging ideas about the world, books, music, sharing opinions about what was going on in the office. He explained his condition to me and I began appreciating how he was dealing with it. We talked about it once in a while. I was curious about the processes around it and he was open about answering my questions. He knew I wanted to understand, to learn. He was good at explaining what was happening with his body and the balance of fluids that had to be kept. It made me realize the complications of fine bio-chemical imbalances most of us never have to think about, of the critical function of each organ.

About three years ago, he gave me his five-disk CD player, saying he couldn’t use it anymore (he had bought a multi-bank compact disk system – I think that is the name). He said he was looking for a ‘good home’ for the other one because it was a family gift to him. I have thought of Chris every single time I have put music on.

Whenever I found something was difficult, I reminded myself it couldn’t be as hard as what he was going through with his health. He was a model for me in that sense, being so placid about it, taking life one day at a time. Yes, time… I’m sure it has a very different feel and dimension for you, Sandra, at the moment. Thank you for sharing your loss, at least the part of it you are able to express.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Home alone

Today is the closing day for the house that Chris and I bought back in June. I got the call from the lawyer a little while ago that the house is ours... mine, and the keys are ready to be picked up.

Today was supposed to be an exhilaratingly happy and exciting day. Instead, it is a sad day and my heart is very heavy. I'm not rushing over to pick up the keys. I will of course, but it's not something I'm looking forward to. My heart didn't leap with joy when the call came in, it simply sighed a heavy sigh of emptiness. Chris isn't here with me jumping in glee like we did when we got the call that our offer was accepted.

My heart, like our new house, is empty and quiet.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Bon voyage

After we got back from Barbados in April, Chris and I talked about doing some "real" travelling. That trip was a real watershed moment for Chris, trusting in the skill and services of a faraway dialysis clinic where he literally put his life in the hands of the staff. He was very pleased with the service at Island Dialysis in Barbados and even wrote a cover story about his experiences for his home dialysis unit's newsletter!

Here are some of the places we talked about visiting: Iceland (of course!), Scotland, Ireland, Italy, Sweden, Finland, Japan, and New Zealand. These are some of the places that Chris had already travelled to over the years: Belarus, Russia, Denmark, Germany, Poland, Lithuania; Canada: Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, Nova Scotia; USA: Michigan, New York (state), and Pennsylvania.

I have been reading the travel journal that he faithfully kept when he went to study in Belarus in 1995-96. It is a wonderful keepsake that captures his day-to-day adventures as well as his reflections about everything from being far from home and family to Communist doctrine! As I read (actually more like decipher his minuscule chicken scratch!) the pages, I can hear his voice in my mind as if he were reading the journal out loud. I will treasure this journal as long as I live. Bon voyage my love... au revoir.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Organ donation awareness

September 23 will be my first wedding anniversary. Sadly I will not be in Toronto with Chris indulging at gourmet restaurants and slumbering on luxury linens.

Instead, a group of us including Chris' family and some close friends will be walking as a team on that day in memory of Chris in the annual Be a Lifesaver Walk for Organ Donation Awareness campaign. Last year, Chris, his mom Janis, her dog Jeeter, and I walked for the first time. We had a great time, met some really nice people, and enjoyed a BBQ as well!

I urge you to consider organ donation and - most importantly - talk with your family about your wishes. Many people do not realize that their family's decision will be the final one regardless of what is indicated on their donor card or driver's license.

Please consider making a donation to team Carpe Diem Chris in memory of him and the incredible gift of life that organ donation can offer to the thousands of families still waiting.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Shine on my love

Music was one the of the most important things in Chris' life and I worried about picking just the right music for his memorial service. I invited two of his closest friends over to our apartment to help me choose pieces from his vast and eclectic collection. That evening was mostly spent talking - sharing our loss, our laughter, and our love for Chris.

In the end, the music played at Chris' service was really chosen by Chris himself. The summer we first starting going out, he prepared a compilation CD for me but also wrote up "liner notes" to accompany it. The notes included a paragraph or so on each selection, why he loved it and why he chose it for me. The notes also included the lyrics to each song.

Two of the pieces I chose for his memorial service were on that CD: Siciliana, Sonata BWV 1031 2nd Movement, by J.S. Bach and Across the Universe, by the Beatles. The third piece, Shine by Daniel Lanois, was a close runner-up for our first dance at our wedding. I chose to play it at Chris' memorial service because it is so beautiful - filled with light and love and hope - and says so much about how we felt about each other. Now, its words also serve as a light in this darkness. Chris' shine will show us all the way forward...


Shine by Daniel Lanois

I have wandered far and wide
All the way from Paris to Mexico
'Til I was gone and didn't know

In the end the thing that keeps me walking
Is your shine, your shine in the morning, your shine in the distance,
Your shine inside the laughter and the ghosts

They have spoken of the river forever bending inside the fever
Of the saints that walk all night with no domain

In the end the thing that keeps them walking is your shine
Your shine when they wear no coat, your shine when the feelings low
Your shine when it's too late to turn around

I have frozen up my dreams, thinking I was all alone
Fighting every minute for each turning stone
I have reached the rocket speed
I have touched the ground that feeds
Scaling fences, looking for the healing sun

In the end the thing that keeps me walking is your shine
Your shine in transmissions, your shine in decisions,
Your shine when I labor to the new day,
It's your shine, your shine, your shine, shine, shine on

Boxes of letters

Anyone who knew Chris really well knew that he could be quite sentimental. He was also quite a pack rat! These two attributes meant that he saved lots of cards and letters that he received over the years. I've found a scrapbook of get well cards he received when he underwent surgery as a boy as well as birthday cards dating back to when he was a toddler.

There are also dozens and dozens of letters he received from close friends during his university years - especially when he lived in Belarus for a year. I haven't been reading all these letters line-by-line... partly because they were not meant for me but also because there are soooo many of them! But by skimming them to confirm their senders I have read again and again the deep affection and bond shared between Chris and these friends.

Chris was a true blue friend, through thick and thin - even after many years of not communicating - when he did reconnect with close friends he was attentive and always interested in their news. Not satisfied to merely catch up, he wanted to know how they were feeling and what was uppermost on their mind. Never one for small talk, he quickly got to the heart of the matter without being pushy or nosy. He simply gave his friends the support and encouragement to be themselves.

I am going to try to "repatriate" as many of these letters and cards as I can. I hope that they will provide fond memories and comfort to those who sent them. Simply browsing through them has only confirmed that Chris was a very special and loving person whom we were all so lucky to have in our lives.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Strange & sad coincidence

Today I found out that the husband of an acquaintance of mine died very suddenly the day after Chris. I had called to tell her of Chris' passing but after a stunned moment she told me that her husband had also passed away the very next day. Both of our husbands collapsed at home due to coronary crises with no warning whatsoever. We were at the same hospital, on the same day - she holding vigil beside her husband in ICU for three days before he died, me in Emergency for one hour before I was told what I already knew.

We had discovered upon first meeting that both our spouses had received transplants - her husband a heart, Chris a kidney. This unique shared experience and all that it implied formed a bond that needed no explanation. We kept up-to-date on each other's lives and spouses health on a semi-regular basis. Never did we suspect we would both join the young widows club so soon and at the same time!

To add additional coincidence to the story both memorial services were held on the same day in the same funeral chapel - ours in the late morning and theirs immediately afterwards in the early afternoon!

I am still in shock from hearing her news. I burst into tears when she told me - not just because I was so upset for her loss but also because I knew all to well exactly how she felt. Hearing the news of course also tore open my own freshly raw memories of that terrible day when I lost the love of my life.

In the past month and half I am one of three young people I know who have lost spouses. Up until now I have only known one friend who lost a husband at a young age. It seems all I hear about is death after death after death and I'm not even 45! So much heartbreak and unfulfilled promise... One can only ask WHY?! So much so try and accept...

UWO Tribute to Chris

The University of Western Ontario flew the university flag at half mast in honour of Chris on the day of his memorial service, July 6, 2007.

As well, the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at UWO, where Chris was a PhD candidate and where we met as grad students, has created a memorial page on their Alumni website in honour of Chris. I hope to update the information in the coming months.

Toothbrushes, combs and other things

Last night I was thinking about those first few days after Chris passed away. Trying to remember what I did and whom I spoke with... One of the clear memories I have is seeing Chris' toothbrush and comb in the bathroom and thinking how he would never use them again. I threw them in the garbage along with his razor.

I remember how strongly I felt about seeing all the bottles of pills that he had to take to maintain his health. I had taken them all to the hospital with me on that terrible Monday morning and then brought them home again when I came back alone. I dumped them all into a plastic bag and took them to the pharmacy for disposal. I never wanted to see so many pills again.

To me they represented Chris' constant struggle to maintain his health despite having kidney failure. The prescriptions seemed to always be changing: dosages, new variants of old drugs, an additional drug for some new symptom or condition that had to be treated.

Getting rid of them meant that he was finally free of all the procedures, surgeries, tests, treatments, and day-to-day challenges of living with a chronic illness. It was not the cure that we all dream of but I know that Chris' spirit is now finally free to soar to those limitless places that his heart and mind were so easily able to achieve.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Late night reading

I've been reading a lot to help me through this darkness. These are some that have touched home for me:

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (thank you Sarah)

Giving Sorrow Words: how to cope with grief and get on with your life by Candy Lightner (founder of MADD) & Nancy Hathaway

I'm Grieving as Fast as I Can: how young widows and widowers can cope and heal by Linda Sones Feinberg

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

These are a few of Chris' favourite things...

Interests/Hobbies: Cooking, Social Network Analysis (how ironic), Photography, Reading, Listening to Music, Chess, Cricket

Favorite Music: The Cure, John Lennon, Motown, Pixies, Catherine Wheel, Josh Rouse, Radiohead, Sigur Ros, Peter Gabriel, The Smiths, Belle and Sebastian, James, Daniel Lanois, Bonnie "Prince" Billy, My Morning Jacket, early Suede, Hot Hot Heat, REM, Tahiti 80, Manu Chao, Arcade Fire, Elliott Smith, The Decemberists, Leonard Cohen, Lucinda Williams, Rufus Wainwright, Louden Wainwright III, Martha Wainwright, Feist, Cat Power, James, Dumas, Depeche Mode, Elbow, The Dears, Modest Mouse, New Order, Beth Orton, Sloan, 54-40, Skydiggers, Neil Young

Favorite TV: Lost, Food Jammers, Food Network, Rick Mercer Report, The Hour, This Hour has 22 Minutes, Dead Like Me, Jeopardy

Favorite Books: What's Bred in the Bone, Les Miserables, The Englishman's Boy, Trumpet of the Swan, Brothers Karamazov, A Clockwork Orange, A Fine Balance, Power of One, High Fidelity, Fall on your Knees

David's Tribute to Chris

This heartfelt and beautiful eulogy was delivered by David, one of Chris' closest friends and his Best Man.

Chris was my best friend. We were soul mates. "Soul brothas" he would probably say. We often joked about being brothers separated at birth. The fact that I am 4 months younger than Chris makes this a certain impossibility. We both grew up as sick children, me with my juvenile arthritis and Chris with his condition. We were self-motivated achievers that surprised and astounded our parents. And despite growing up as outsiders we shared a deep love for our own families and for humanity.

Chris and I were drawn together over many shared interests, not the least of which was an equal passion for music. Music is the shorthand for emotion. It can express the inexpressible. And as we all know, Chris was always trying to express the inexpressible. He was the only one I knew who could out-talk, out-analyze, out-categorize anyone on a subject he felt truly passionate about. He could go toe to toe with you on anything, because he had the brain, the heart and passion to match. Some are blessed with one of these talents, but Chris had all three in glorious abundance.

Chris had so many sides to him. He could at one moment talk about the most serious subjects and the next be a complete goof. I never quite understood where this came from. My inner goof is so badly underdeveloped. But Chris had a profound understanding of opposites as a natural law of the universe. "Without orange there is no blue." Without light there is no dark, without day there is no night. Without death, there is no life. Death brings meaning to life. Chris always knew this. He was given an early expiration date on his life, and that made all the difference in how he chose to live. He lived life to its fullest. He burned bright, with passion, with knowledge and most importantly with Love, because he knew on a deeper level than any of us, life's most precious value.

In the words of Tolstoy: "Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world."

I was there when Sandra entered Chris' life. I saw a spark in him light and become increasingly brighter through the years. I was honoured to be part of Chris and Sandra's wedding day last fall and rejoice in such a happy time for such a truly amazing couple. Sandra brought out the very best in Chris. They were a perfect match of opposites and this only strengthened over time. Recently I saw their relationship blossom even more as they continued to plan a future together. There is no doubt in my mind that Chris was at his happiest right at the end. And of course, Sandra had everything to do with this.

We are all struggling with the sudden, unexpected, unfair loss of such a wonderful and unique person. As I grieve with you, I'm also as a friend, rejoicing right now for Chris. Rejoicing in the way he left the world, full of life, full of hopes, full of dreams, and full of love. His heart was so full it literally burst.

He protected us so often from the realities of his sickness. He accepted his fate, but he didn't want us to dwell in that world. He wanted us to live life. He used to tell me that he hated being called a hero. He just wanted to be. Day after day, week after week he would go into dialysis and see his future staring back at him. He knew what lay ahead. We all had hopes for him, but he did not shy away from the cold hard facts. He dreaded the deathbed scenario, wasting away, thinking not only what it would do to him and his spirit, but what it would do those closest to him. If he had one wish, it would have been to leave the world in a blaze of happiness, in a blaze of hope, in the arms of his beloved. For all he did for the world, and for us, the universe gave him this very special reward.

I used to tease Chris about his sometimes cheesy taste in music. He didn't shy away from things that were over the top. Give him a 12-minute large anthematic rock song and he was in his glory. If it was sung in falsetto by an Icelandic singer all the better. He would sit on the edge of his seat and point out places of crescendo, drumming passionately as the guitars and music swelled to even higher heights. With Chris there were no limits. He would air drum or air guitar his way to the final chord, smiling, happy and at one with the universe. I like to think of him now, that way, and think that this is how he played out his last days with Sandra and with the rest of us.

If Chris could speak to us now, I'm sure he would like to use the words of Shakespeare's Puck, featured in Chris favourite film Dead Poet's Society:

"If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber'd here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
if you pardon, we will mend.
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends."

* * *

Now the hungry lion roars,
And the wolf behowls the moon;
Whilst the heavy ploughman snores,
All with weary task fordone.

Now the wasted brands do glow,
Whilst the screech-owl, screeching loud,
Puts the wretch that lies in woe
In remembrance of a shroud.

Now it is the time of night
That the graves, all gaping wide,
Every one lets forth his sprite,
In the church-way paths to glide:

And we fairies, that do run
By the triple Hecate's team,
From the presence of the sun,
Following darkness like a dream,
Now are frolic; not a mouse
Shall disturb this hallow'd house:
I am sent with broom before,
To sweep the dust behind the door.

Dennis & Ryan's Tribute to Chris

This loving and intimate family portrait of Chris was delivered by his dad Dennis and his brother Ryan.


Last Sunday was a special day for Canadians everywhere and the Dixon household was no exception as we gathered for a day of fun, celebrating and enjoying a good meal. What was different for us though was that often on Canada Day we’d be doing our own thing and usually, scattered about the area at different venues. It was the first time in nearly a decade I wasn’t away on a golf trip in Michigan and finally the whole family was living close enough together that we were all able to make it home for the day.

If we could have choreographed our finally time together as a family, the script would have read exactly as it unfolded with everyone laughing, reminiscing, discussing some current events issues, and lots of general friendly family ribbing of each other.

At one point, the conversation turned to facial hair. We examined Chris’ goatee and I remember looking at his face and thinking how great he appeared, his face full and eyes sparkling as they always did when life was good for him.

Friends, this is the Chris that we all need to remember for he was a stoic person but not at all somber, and would want us to remember him and all the wonderful experiences many of us shared with him.

For most of the years in Chris’s short time with us, so many of his wonderful qualities were for the most part only shared by those of us who were really close to him. And even then he sometimes was a little shy and seemed guarded of his feelings when a crowd was around because it was his nature to observe and be a quiet part of what was happening. Then… enter Sandra Miller, a feisty, independent, young lady that Chris met while studying at Western. He probably thought she would be just another of his many academic connections that would pop in and out of his life occasionally. However, this time he had stumbled upon a lady friend that could not only match his wit, debate anything he chose to debate, but also shared so many interests that he held dear, and as a bonus was gorgeous and available.

Friends, this relationship truly became a match made in heaven, and with that one missing part in his life now present we saw for the last several years of Chris’s life a metamorphosis of sorts, where everything that Chris had kept closely guarded within himself began to surface and even bubble over at times and the rest of world got to see and enjoy the real Christopher. The time they had together I know was easily the happiest of his life and he would not have traded in one minute of it for anything.

Now, if during any of the moments here today you think you detect a slight whisper in your ear. That would be Christopher, the ultimate researcher pursuing his thirst for information. You see he was working toward his doctorate on social networking. So the types of whisperings you’re likely to be hearing are “Who contacted you?” “How was the contact made?” ”Did you contact anyone else?” “Why did you decide to make contact?” “And how was it done?” Folks, if you do hear him, kindly whisper back your response as he is a pit-bull of persistence when it comes to research.

Chris - I think everyone who knew him would agree - would not exactly be described as the out-going, happy-go-lucky kind of guy who steals the attention of everyone around him, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t funny. In fact, over time, he developed a wicked, well-defined humor that delighted his friends and family - not to mention keeping them on their toes.

After watching a televised competition of the Reach for the Top trivia team that Chris was part of in high school, I made the observation that, while there were four students on the team, there might as well have been only two: Meredith, who answered about 90 per cent of questions and Chris who handled the other 10 per cent. I brought this to Chris’ attention and – reflecting upon this comment – he said to me “I prefer to think about it this way; I answered 100 per cent of the questions Meredith didn’t answer.”

His humor was again on display as recently as last Sunday while our family gathered for Canada Day at our house. Having noticed there were three people - Chris’ grandma , his mother, and his uncle Brad - all using canes to help them walk for a variety of reasons, I suggested maybe we could host the gimpy Olympics in our front lawn. First, Connie and Brad could race, then Janis could take on the winner. Upon hearing this Chris said, “Well, I’d better get inside and tell mom the three-legged races are about to begin.”

Chris had some grave medical conditions. And they seemed to really flare up whenever it came time for him to move from one apartment to another. Let me tell you though, he had the art of moving co-ordinator fine tuned to a science. He had no trouble prioritizing which boxes my dad and I should move first and which ones we should be most concerned with treating delicately. And it never ceased to amaze me that no matter which friend he enlisted to help with the move always performed the role of assistant moving co-ordinator so admirably.

A voracious reader and movie watcher, Chris set very rigid pop culture guidelines in our house. I think one of the first traumatic shocks to his system was when the first cassette tapes I bought were of the dreaded rap genre.

Chris loved big ideas, but he hated small talk. I noticed this trait most when I spoke to him on the phone. At first I used to think his tendency to go silent for what seemed like an eternity between thoughts was a touch awkward, but I soon learned there was no reason to scramble and try to fill the air. Just give the man time and he’d be on to another big thought soon enough.

Despite being born smack in the middle of the famous 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series and growing quickly to an imposing 6-foot-2 frame, athletics were never really a big part of Chris’s life. That’s why I’m all the more appreciative of the fact he, upon figuring out his sporty younger brother was probably never going to come to him with questions about math or science, he tried to bridge a seven-year sibling gap by going out of his way to adopt my team - the Montreal Canadians - as his team and always using sports as a means to initiate conversations with me in the hopes they would be a springboard into talks about more important matters. Often, they were.

Chris, always a music lover, definitely marched to the beat of his own drum. He never succumbed to peer pressure, always preferring to stay true to his own beliefs and values. With his love of music and unique tendencies in mind, I was curious to hear what he and Sandra would choose as their wedding song when they took their first dance as husband and wife last September. I knew none of the tried and true (i.e. songs Chris would consider boring) would make the grade. Sure enough, when the couple finally hit the floor it wasn’t to the tune of the Karen Carpenter standard “We’ve Only Just Begun” but in true Chris fashion he and Sandra lightheartedly stepped out to the very distinct sound of Kermit the Frog strumming his banjo and pondering the connection between all those songs about rainbows.

Chris, like Kermit and you and the rest of us, none of us really knows what waits for us on the other side of the rainbow, I truly hope that the rainbow connection is a place for dreamers and lovers and you.

Son, I want you to know the connections we all experienced with you - me , your mom, Grandma, Ryan , Sandra and each of your friends, - have left indelible impressions with us that will never be forgotten.

Chris' obituary

This obituary was my gift to Chris - my final love letter to him.


Dixon, Christopher Mathew

Suddenly at home, at age 34, in the arms of his beloved wife on July 2, 2007. Predeceased by his paternal grandparents and his maternal grandfather, he leaves treasured memories with his best friend and soul mate Sandra, his grandmother Connie Lou Moore, his parents Janis and Dennis Dixon, and his younger brother Ryan. He will also be sadly missed by extended family and many dear friends.

Chris was born in London but grew up all over southwestern Ontario as well as northern Ontario where his parents were both teachers. There, he gained a life-long love of nature and an appreciation of the sense of balance found in nature helped him find peace in his own life. His appetite for life-long learning began early at the Little Red School House in Lambeth and he continued to devour books and absorb knowledge throughout his life as he progressed towards completion of his PhD.

His steel-trap memory was legendary and he wielded it to great advantage in such diverse settings as family arguments and trivia contests. Chris passionately loved music and it was here that he was most able to find expression and comfort for all of life’s ups and downs. In recent years Chris developed a love of cooking and nurtured a secret dream of going to chef school. He kept family and friends laughing heartily with his brilliantly dry humour.

Chris lived his life with quiet fortitude, never wanting pity or hero worship for his kidney failure. His short life was a gift to all those who knew him and he will live on in our hearts forever. Special thanks to Andrew House, Jane Ridley, and the entire UH dialysis team for their ongoing support. In honour of Christopher, please consider organ donation and discuss your wishes with your family. In lieu of flowers, please give generously to the Kidney Foundation of Canada.

One day at a time...

It's now been over five weeks since Chris passed away. It's still hard to believe that this has happened... It's still hard to say "Chris died." or "Chris is dead." It is easy however to believe that he is simply somewhere else - at the university, at dialysis, over at a friend's, out running errands - anywhere, alive, breathing, walking... not dead.

But as the days turn to weeks - and now a new month - that trick is getting more difficult to believe. I want to be able to stop time, to be able to freeze that few moments after he died so that I can fully accept its finality. Time is going by too quickly and life around me is going on as if nothing had happened. But everything has happened. Everything in my life has stopped.

I know that somewhere, sometime in the future I will have come through the darkness and the fog that is this strange, timeless place where I now exist. I can't think about much beyond the next month or so because that is a time and a place where Chris will not walk through the doorway, will not call on the telephone, will not write sweet thoughts in my birthday cards.

As I write this, I'm still not sure what this blog will become. I originally thought of it as a place where his friends and loved ones could share their memories of him - stories, photos, top 5 lists. But I also realized that I wanted a place where I could write my thoughts and experiences of this voyage that will be "young" widowhood. Perhaps it will be all these and more...

One of Chris' favourite films was Dead Poets Society. The protagonist is a teacher who inspires his students to live life passionately and fully - to seize the day - "carpe diem". Chris loved learning and knowledge was his was drug of choice. His kidney failure was something that in many ways inspired him to seize the day because he knew in his heart that his life might not be a long one. I thought it would be a fitting title for this blog as it will remind us of how Chris lived his life and how he would want us to live ours.

I'll keep scribbling down my thoughts and I hope that others will add to this story. Together we will pick up the pieces and life will go on and we will seize the day.