Today marks the 13th anniversary of my son’s passing. He died while rock climbing in Yosemite National Park when he was twenty-five.
I remember the year leading up to Chris’s death. Beneath all consciousness, the mystery appeared to prevail. He had visited relatives across the country and had collected his belongings from others. The weekend before leaving for Yosemite, he visited with old friends at the martial arts school that had helped him grow up. Those who saw Chris that year recall his joy, peace, and love.
Looking back, it’s as though, even as Chris lived with all his heart, the Earth couldn’t hold him. He was two when, on the eve of the birth of my daughter, he discovered stars. It seemed in that moment that a light went on inside him, which throughout life grew ever brighter. As I wrote in the book Freedom To Fall: I thought that Chris, if given the chance, would not go back and do anything differently. From the earliest age, he was always breaking out into new territory, new heights, new vistas—new realms of freedom. You could cherish Chris, but you couldn’t contain him….
I take comfort in knowing that Chris is where he is supposed to be. I know not what he is up to, how he serves God. Only that the love we had is the love we have and the love we will always have. The saving grace in loss is the soul’s endurance.
Chris was a shining example to many whose paths he crossed. May this day be a reminder that he is with us still, even as his journey (and ours) continue on.
Communicate with Carol or order a book via her website, morningsongbooks.com.
On May 31, 2003, my son died in a rock climbing accident in Yosemite National Park. He was twenty-five.
After Chris died, I created a manuscript about his life, which included many poems. Later, the manuscript was culled into a book without poems. In remembrance, for the 11th anniversary of Chris’s fall, I am sharing a few of the poems.
Love’s Angel expresses the sense of Chris’s freedom following death. Growing Up and Reverie cast light on his character and love of life. The final unnamed poem reflects on my experience of loss as a whole.
Chris is Love’s angel,
such wealth untold;
I feel his sparkling Presence—
stardust turned to gold.
Love is not earth’s servant—
rather rapture on the wing.
Love flames mortal hearts,
then soars to hear seraphs sing.
Angels flit among us
like shining shafts of light—
Some linger but a moment,
then spiral into flight.
to Love’s sweet home.
I’ll know you by the ash
you hail from heaven’s dome.
Chris grew up and up,
an unwieldy clatter of bones
ahead of himself.
He was the tallest kid in class.
While playmates tilted
to tease or taunt,
he tied knots in their shoes,
and learned to laugh at himself.
At six foot five the kid settled in—
a slick, swift, lanky
gem of a guy,
though they say he couldn’t dance!
When others cracked up,
he’d jazz it up,
bobbing above the crowd.
Goofy or graceful, it was all the same.
Chris rolled with the rhythm of life.
Chris danced the elfin jig
under a crescent moon.
He leaped to touch the arc
of a rainbowed afternoon.
Live your life, forget the strife,
Whirl and twirl; be free!
The wind is heckling clouds,
and the sun glitters glee.
Chris juggled feathers
strewn by wayward flocks.
He gazed on nature’s splendor,
whistling on the rocks.
Laugh and play your nimble days,
tread lightly on the earth.
Rain is clapping; trees are sapping—
My love is full of mirth.
Loss is loss of pleasure—
the pleasure of a tantalizing smile.
But what is loss compared to love,
when love is all the good worthwhile?
Through faith, miracles work
to rouse the tender twinge to wing.
Through loss I probe that deeper well
to tap the silent mystic spring.
When Chris was 14, he discovered rock climbing. His brave journey as a rock climber and my climb from despair after he died come to life in the book Freedom to Fall. To order a copy, click on the appropriate link above.
In the winter of 2005, a friend was vacationing on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. He implored me to come, saying that I would be enchanted.
It was a life-changing week. Under the sway of sea breeze and tropical light, deep feelings surfaced and a marvelous healing. My son had died less than two years before. I want to live here, I thought, and vowed to come back.
That spring I returned to look for land. Another friend suggested the Central Valley, where it is cooler, mountainous and lush. He knew of a cabdriver who would take me around.
Each morning Mamo, the cabdriver, picked me up and away we would go, driving the back roads of the Central Valley, looking for property, knocking on doors. I bought farmland in the agricultural belt above the sweet highland town of Atenas.
The soil, planted in peanuts, breathed a rich reddish hue and sloped gently down toward tree-dotted fields disappearing into velvety green mountains—wide open country. Standing on the land, my heart opened up. I returned that summer to begin building a house.
In those early years of loss, while the field was being cultivated into a garden, I could feel Chris’s presence in an almost tangible way, as if he had led me there. The heavenly light of the tropics and a profound sense of peace pervaded my home. I sought a local sculptor to carve an angel in Chris’s likeness.
Seven years have passed since first stepping foot on land that promised a home. Today I was feeling a little sad, seeing how the garden, though glorious, has grown up, the treetops partly concealing the mountain vista, the peanut plants long gone. And there is development—street lights along the rustic road…. I thought, How in the world can you complain? But I sensed there was something else going on, as in, All of life is in flux, constantly changing.
The early years of loss was a magnificent time, in a way. There were years in healing; there is no description for a mother’s broken heart. But so dear and precious, so divinely inspired, as if God was right there with me. In the depth of my grief, I found Costa Rica. And suddenly, looking around at the garden, I was faced with remembrance, realizing life had moved on. An era had ended, the new one not yet defined. The feeling of peace still pervades, yet something has changed. Was I grieving the loss of those magical, albeit painful years, when an invisible thread connected me to Heaven?
I wonder where the new life leads. I have a precious daughter, the light of my world. There are cherished friends. Beyond that, it seems more to do with a mystical path. I dream of a golden life for the golden years.
This morning, before the sun peaked above the mountains, in the cool, fragrant air, I was having an animated discussion with my gardener, when I began listening to the pure music of his voice and native tongue. For a moment, I stood, utterly spellbound. Therein lies the path, I thought later.
Often I hear my son speaking to me, in the way he spoke in life, simple observations accompanied by that little chuckle. Mom, it’s easier than you think. It’s just little things that make up a good life. You don’t have to figure things out or even have a plan. You just have to be present for the unfolding.
Freedom to Fall is a book about the life of my son as a rock climber intertwined with my life as a bereaved mom. To read more about it or to order a copy, click on the appropriate link above.
Today I want to share the link to register for my free on-line event on July 10, 10:30, pacific time. If you can’t listen in then, it will be available for free until July 31. Just go to Hay House radio and to the title of my event: Freedom to Fall: A Spiritual Approach to Loss.
However, I encourage you to register for the live event, as it will involve interaction with listeners. You’ll be able to send in questions, and I’ll respond vocally on the show.
I am deeply grateful for being able to share my story for this seminar. I’ve always envisioned a day when I would be able to share with others my experience of loss, the journey it entailed, and the miracle of reclaiming the true bond with my son and my life. In putting together this program, I’ve come up with practices and insights to help encourage this journey in you. It can be the journey of a lifetime. It can change your life and in some cases, save your life.
Here is the link for purchasing a free on-line ticket that allows you to listen in:
I look forward to having you as guests on the program!
For the past month I’ve been writing and preparing for a live on-line Hay House seminar. It was supposed to air June 11 but was postponed until Wednesday, July 10, 10:30 PDT. This is a free event, and I will be sending out a link later for registering. You will be able to call in with questions and comments, and I certainly encourage you to do so. This event is important to me, as it is my response to what I was given after losing my son 10 years ago. Following is the course description:
Freedom to Fall: A Spiritual Approach to Loss
This course is about loss and the redemptive power of love. It is designed to help people navigate through the loss of a loved one in the best way possible, whether the loss occurred years ago or recently. This live online event will help you come to terms with a loved one’s death, finding the courage to let go while holding onto what is truly important. By making daily shifts away from the past and into the present moment, magic can happen that engenders healing.
My book, Freedom to Fall, is the story about the death of my son in a rock climbing accident and how I was able to keep our love alive, allowing me to redeem my life. This is not a love that clings but a freeing love that is joyful.
We will explore ways of cultivating a sense of a loved one’s presence after they have died as well as ways of letting go. The two go hand in hand! In those two practices you will be promoting a deep spiritual truth: Love is eternal. You never really lose who you love. Once you develop that awareness, it is yours forever—for the giving and receiving every day.
You can begin benefiting from this dynamic approach to loss today. By learning to keep alive the bond with a loved one, you begin a process of recovery. There may always be an element of sadness for losing someone you love. After all, loss is real. But a more profound reality can emerge through practice and faith—a beam of light shining through the loss, awakening invaluable gain.
After my son died, I felt intuitively that he was still with me, would always be with me. But that sense was overshadowed by his absence, the sense of loss. The deeper sense of our enduring bond would take years to develop, through persistence and faith. Chris was there, but in order to sustain that sense from where I stood, I had to become an active partner. I had to cultivate it, to keep coming back to it, to believe in it. Most especially, I had to learn to let him go.
Keeping Chris alive occurred through many and often wondrous ways, which crisscrossed and ultimately formed a cohesive whole. Today there is deep gratitude, knowing that through God’s grace we never lose who we love.
Love Burns Eternal
From the beginning, there were simply ways of experiencing Chris without any thought or effort. He had been a lover of the natural world, and I felt him in the wind, the brilliance of autumn, rainbows, and crimson skies, knowing his spirit could be many things. I spoke to him each day, telling him how much I loved him and how proud I was that he had become one of God’s own. I would look to him for guidance and pour out my feelings. Chris comforted me daily in my sorrow, whispering, Mom, I am with you always.
I recorded memories of Chris, vignettes about growing up, and collected stories from friends, traveling to places where he had lived. Through the hearts of others, Chris came to life in ways I could not have known him otherwise, enriching my own memories. Our collective tales formed a kaleidoscope of perceptions, capturing his essence.
Though it felt wonderful to connect with Chris’s spirit, I could not have sustained it without letting him go as I had known him. I would have kept drifting back to the sense of loss as the dominant, tangible reality. It wasn’t a given that I could let him go—having raised him from infancy. You revel in the aliveness of your child and the miracle of his being. Releasing Chris, accepting his death, came in many guises over many years, in little steps and with frequent backsliding.
Letting Chris go meant the willingness to live again. To dance again, run with the wind, embrace hopes and dreams—when Chris could not. It meant admitting I still belonged to Earth, with more to learn and more to give. It meant risking our bond, for in reclaiming my life, I feared his spirit disappearing, when all would be lost.
For the first anniversary of Chris death, I journeyed to Yosemite, the place that had claimed his life. On the anniversary day, I hiked Half Dome, circling the 4000 foot giant by trail. Standing high up in the elements, in the deep ethereal blue, surrounded by the granite wonders Chris had so loved, I scattered his ashes, releasing him to God.
The ways of keeping Chris’s spirit alive are with me still. I share my visions and the news of the day. He quips clear, humorous one-liners, as he did in life. I see the calm, smiling nature shining through memory. I see him in the serendipitous way of things and in exquisite cloud formations. I feel the joyous giving and receiving of our love. Meanwhile, I keep letting go, stepping back towards life.
God never takes without giving back a hundredfold. Ten years after Chris’s passing, our love burns eternal—a beam of light, becoming ever more golden.
When my son died, I believed in the durability of love. Yet it was never a given that I could overcome loss. I had to release Chris, mustering the courage to embrace our love in the realm of the sheer airborne present.
I had been on a spiritual path for a few years, my teacher, Dawn, having opened my eyes to a higher reality, helping pave the way to receive Chris’s death. In the aftermath of his passing, I had to learn to climb the sky.
Faith and Love
On the spiritual path, climbing is a mirror image of diving. The deeper you go into the inner wellspring of life, the closer you come to God. In the midst of loss, I brought myself time and again, albeit briefly, into the sanctity of pure communion—beyond timed existence, where love never dies.
In the early days, the sense of loss was so overwhelmingly real, spiritual awareness was like sand sifting through my fingers. I tried to keep to the higher road, but couldn’t.
The beautiful thing about faith is that once it takes root, it allows you to keep on. Without faith, I would have tumbled, perhaps forever, into the past, futilely longing to reclaim what couldn’t be.
As months passed and Chris’s life on Earth receded into the distance, I pushed through uncertainty, fearing the day his spirit would also disappear and all would be lost. As months became years, I witnessed the strengthening of our soulful bond. What once was faith became faith’s rendering. God set Chris’s death before me to help me grow, opening me up to things eternal.
Excerpt from Freedom to Fall
With the coming of spring, bleak days were followed by blessed days,such divine sweetness,when the light of Heaven streamed through, and I would see with fresh eyes that Chris’s death had been purposeful….
When all of life is glad again and bursting with exuberance, the tender buds of healing can peek through. Wondrously, in the midst of tumult came a steadying sense of closeness with Chris in my heart. I could be with friends without being overwhelmed with sadness. Most significantly, for the first time, I was taking a few of Chris’s framed pictures out of the drawer where I had placed them and setting the out. Amid the pangs and birthing of spring, I created a shrine, which included pictures, a St. Christopher stature, Chris’s climbing photo album, and an urn of his ashes.
The loss of my son caused a fundamental shift in my approach to life. If what was most precious could be taken away, then what was life for? Why was I here? It seemed as though God was holding a vision for awakening to a truer life.
We create our lives in partnership with God. For Chris’s sake, I wanted to see what was possible to make the best of his passing. And if this experience was potentially life-changing, I wanted to step to the plate.
Losing Chris taught me what is important in life. I gave up trying to prove myself, to garner accolades or recognition. I stopped seeking life or trying to reap benefit or advantage. I settled down into the person I am, the life I have, and the little gifts that abound. I became more giving of myself. I opened up to a life founded in love.
In finding a more authentic life, I was able to keep my bond with Chris alive. The love that shone brightly for Chris also allowed me to heal. It allowed me to eventually step beyond the borders of grief to connect more deeply to life in the surroundings, to awaken to my humanity.
Losing Chris helped simplify my life. It revealed how fragile life is: hopes and dreams can shatter in an instant. It showed me what can never break. It is not God’s desire that we continue to suffer. God wants us to discover the truth about life—the gem at the center that allows us to thrive.
I once thought it would be impossible to survive the loss of a child. So after my son died, it seemed a wonderment that not only could I endure, I could learn to let him go.
There is no one who brings joy the way your own child does. You revel in the aliveness of your own child and the miracle of his being. You take pleasure in his pleasure and feel hurt when he is hurt. To lose a child is one of the most profound experiences of human life. — Freedom to Fall
A Mother’s Perspective
I have always believed that one of the highest expressions of love is letting go. I had approached motherhood that way—releasing my children a little at a time, encouraging them along the pathways of their own callings. But I couldn’t face the finality of releasing Chris to God, at least not alone. Through God’s mercy, a golden cord was forged between us stretching from Heaven to Earth, which could never be broken.
Looking back on the time of grieving the loss of my son, I feel gratitude for the experience. There will always be times of sadness, but the gains are immeasurable.
On the first day of knowing my son was gone forever, when I took to my bed with a broken heart, certain truths rose from within: Only good can come from love. Chris will be with me always. There is meaning and purpose behind his death. In the months that followed, I held onto the insights of that first day. They became my guide, my faith, my eventual resurrection.
The Road to Recovery
Grief, in those first unbearable months would come in waves. In moments of relief, I could feel Chris’s loving presence. He didn’t exist in our time anymore, but as a spirit in eternal time. Though I didn’t know if that sense could last, it was a revelation—the saving grace. I learned that my two states of awareness, that of Chris’s absence and his presence, could not exist side by side, but only in succession. Surrendering wholeheartedly to the pain of loss, allowing it passage, opened a door into God’s realm.
Though I’ve kept up this blog for a while now, I feel led to bring you all into me – into my life and my story. I’ve recently published a book titled Freedom to Fall, which chronicles my journey to healing after losing my son Chris. This is me.
I am beginning work to publicize the book and share my story with whomever will find it. Here’s to new beginnings.
Taking a Step Back – My Story
Born and raised in Louisiana, I followed my heart to Colorado, where I attended the University of Colorado and pursued a career in Special Education. After marrying and moving to the mountains to raise a family, I discovered a calling as a storyteller, performing original stories as well as myths and legend from world cultures. Ultimately, I divorced, and after my two children left home, I made my way down the mountains, landing in Denver around the turn of the century. Then in 2003, something happened that changed my life.
In May of that year my daughter, Kate, who was in college, had come home for the summer. Chris was rock climbing in Yosemite National Park. On June 1 we were awakened in the night with the news that Chris had been in climbing accident and was dead.
The devastation and shock of that summer was soothed by the presence of my daughter and by an abiding faith. I knew intuitively that Chris was still with me and always would be. I felt there was meaning behind his passing. I wrote every day about the raw emotion of grief coupled with whatever insights came. Those journal notes became the basis for Freedom to Fall, which I began that autumn.
The book chronicles my journey through the first two years of grieving, along with a portrayal of my son in a way that captures his spirit. Just as all people have special qualities and gifts, I felt that Chris, for his 25 years of living, had much to offer in the way he loved life.
The hard times of those first two years were also times of hope and redemption. I discovered the healing power of love. I did not think that my life was over. I knew that I would fully live again, and through that belief, found my way.
Writing the book was cathartic, and the blessing was in realizing that the book could be an inspiration and comfort to others. Today, ten years after Chris’s death, I am standing on solid ground. Of course I miss my son, but we have a relationship that endures. He is my angel in Heaven.
I choose to write a blog to communicate with like-minded people. In these times when families are often spread out and neighbors may be strangers, I can’t think of a more uplifting way to establish community than through the simply act of sharing stories and ideas through writing. I write first thing every morning; it is the mainstay of my life, and I look forward to making connections.