When I woke up yesterday morning and checked my Facebook I was immediately greeted by a picture of Chris. For a moment my heart leaped and I thought that the events of the past few days were all part of some terrible nightmare. It took me a minute or two for reality to sink in and for me to realize that the reason Chris’ face was all over my Facebook feed was because we were all paying tribute to Chris. Remembering our moments with him. Celebrating his life.
When the Tunisian terrorist attack happened on Friday, June 26th 2015, as soon as I realized that Chris was on the beach that day with his wife Gina, my heart sank. I felt sick to my stomach. I immediately posted on social media asking if anyone had heard from Chris. Although the concern escalated, the news was slow to come in. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t hold back tears of worry. I didn’t sleep that night. The updates between Saturday and Monday were vague and couldn’t really be confirmed. It seemed like he was ok and his wife was injured. There were no details. There was no way to get an exact answer. However, hearing that Chris was ok from numerous people allowed me to relax a little. Yet I was still waiting for some word from him. Surely if he was ok he would have reached out directly to somebody by now. I tried to stay optimistic, but there as still a nagging feeling inside.
Then the news came – links to newspaper articles saying that he was ‘feared’ dead. The anxiety started to set in again though I was clinging on to that word ‘feared.’ Maybe, just maybe …
Alas, no amount of hoping, wishing, pleading, crying, praying, and begging was going to change the truth. Chris was gone.
When I got out of bed Monday morning I felt completely numb. It was surreal. Everything around me felt silent. All I could do was go through the photos I had taken of him at our club. I was so glad that I was able to capture so many of his moments on the mats with us … and at the same time it made me really sad. Coming up with this tribute video was the only way I could think of to help me cope with the tragedy and express my thoughts and emotions, ones I was sure my fellow teammates would be feeling as well.
They say death is harder on those left behind. I cannot imagine what Chris’ family and his wife Gina are going through. She has her own extensive wounds to recover from. If only there was something we could do to help — the only thing that came to mind was to start a fundraising campaign on behalf of our club to hopefully help her out in some way. (If you’d like to donate, please do so via this link: gofundme.com/yafuef7).
As I drove to our Jiu-Jitsu club on Wednesday, the anxiety started to set in. Knowing that Chris would not be there filled me with a level of anguish that I can’t even begin to explain. However, we were his team. He was part of our Jiu-Jitsu family. I knew the only others who could understand the weight of the loss would be my teammates. The only way we could get through this was to be there for each other.
As we filed into the club one by one you could feel the tension. Part of me thought that maybe if we we don’t mention it then it won’t be true, but the silence was deafening. The hugs were quick but full of meaning, each of us understanding that if we held on for too long the tears would be uncontrollable.
It felt weird. I mean, what were we going to do? Could we just step on the mats and get on with it? It felt awful … but we knew that if Chris had been there he would have gotten on with training. He loved Jiu-Jitsu. Today, we were here for him.
As we sat around getting ready to begin our class, his absence from the mat was felt immensely. I don’t think many of heard what was going on in the lesson, kind of tending to zone out a bit, hesitatingly looking around the mat not wanting to accept that he was never going to be on there with us. Reassuring squeezes of the arm, pats on the back, and glances and nods at each other acknowledging our loss … all of us devastated that we would never again get back on the mats with Chris.