Time It Passes
In Loving Memory of Christopher Michael Richmond
“And I’m farther from you every day…” - Farther
How does one begin the saddest story they have experienced in their life thus far? I’d imagine it would begin the same way as the happiest; with introductions.
I met Chris when I was 19 years old. I was just a kid, but man, I thought I knew everything.
I spent all my time with a few close friends in their apartments, I had dropped out of college, I was delivering pizza, and crashed at friends’ houses after nightly drinking and parties. I decided to take a job at Walmart to make more consistent money, and they put me on what was called the “remodeling” crew. The store was being redesigned and it was our job to make sure all the new aisles were properly set. One day standing at the back of the store I noticed a guy, tall dark, and kind of awkward. I decided to strike up a conversation with him by asking where and when he graduated high school. He answered but blew me off. I would later find out he was just clueless that I was trying to flirt. Classic Chris.
Chris was in nursing school at our community college. I had thought about nursing, but I had never really given deep thought at exactly what path I wanted my life to go yet. We spent days talking about college and nursing classes, the role of a nurse. It was inspiring. Chris was 25 and I was 19, he had a daughter who was 3 years old. We would always be assigned on the same team so over the next few weeks we talked more and more about our lives. After I went to the beach for vacation that year, I decided I was trying to date this guy. His goofy smile and our conversations were all I could think about. Chris and I started hanging out after work at a dock off an abandoned hotel. We would meet day or night, just sitting on a bench facing the water and talking for hours. The glow from the houses on the reservoir provided us with all the light we needed.
Our first date was also on the reservoir; I made manicotti and brought blankets. There we sat two kids ready to take on the world eating dinner and looking at stars. I can still smell the pasta and hear the crickets if I close my eyes tight and concentrate. To make a very long story more concise I will sum up the next events. Chris and I were inseparable. This quickly turned into me being in his daughter’s life every weekend as well. We did pumpkin patches, amusement parks, Jamestown. We wanted to live life. I figured out that nursing was for me and enrolled. Chris was my rock and he was my support. And in a very big way I was the same for him. Chris had severe epilepsy. I didn’t know you could die from epilepsy, but you can.
“I’ll bring back even what’s unspoken just to see you…” – Anything
Chris had his first seizure about six months into our relationship. His seizures were violent. Out of nowhere his eyes would roll back, his arms and legs violently jerking in a way that didn’t seem would ever end. Luckily, the first seizure I was there for, he was already in bed, and he was protected. He came to, deer in headlights, he couldn’t speak, he didn’t know where he was. He lived with his parents so I ran downstairs to get his mom. The next seizure occurred at Walmart while he was working. He was in the soda aisle, repeatedly slamming his chin into the floor. What did our co-workers do? They just stood and watched. Luckily, I was across the store and ran over to him. At first, he was having a seizure about every 3-5 months. He was almost done with nursing school; I was accepted into nursing school. The next 9 months spiraled so quickly.
“You tell them- that’s just my battle scar” - Wounded
Chris’ seizures started to get worse. He graduated nursing school and was looking for his first RN job. My parents always swore that if I ever lived with a man before marrying him they wouldn’t pay for my wedding. Chris was looking to get a place of his own, and I went to my parents and asked if I could move in. I was 21 at the time and I was terrified Chris would have a seizure living alone and hit his head with no one there to help him. Chris and I then moved in together in July 2009. It was not a great place, we rented from his uncle for ridiculously cheap with the agreement we would fix the place up. I started nursing school. Chris began seizing every month. His insurance wouldn’t cover his seizure medication so we had to order it online from Canada because we couldn’t afford the co-pay. Chris was not able to drive. Trying to coordinate his daughter, work, my work and my nursing school was tough. We did it and we made it work. I was in the last few weeks of my second nursing semester when the mother of all seizures occurred.
“I’ve never felt alone until I met you, I’m alright on my own” - Deep Inside of You
Chris had grand mal seizures. I cannot explain the times I have heard a steady thumping in the other room only to round the corner to find him seizing. Thump. Thump. Thump. I have held Chris up in chairs, shielded his daughter (who was then 6) from seeing the seizures, and stayed by his side. In April while playing on Myspace, Chris went into a normal for him grand mal seizure. Our black lab Cody sat right beside him the entire time. I proceeded as always, leg between his, bracing him in the chair, and protecting his environment. When Chris came out of the seizure he had his usual glazed stare, but this time he reached over to the dog, grabbed his lower jaw and wouldn’t let go. I was crying, begging him to let go, he just stared blank into my eyes. Eventually he grabbed my hand and I thought he was going to break it. He then started picking at his shirt as if he was having a focal seizure (petite mal). That was it. The last straw. We went to the ER where Chris was a nurse on the Neuroscience unit (ironic I know). He downplayed his seizure that night. They released him from the ER. A month later he would be dead.
On May 11th, 2010 it was my first day of summer break. I dropped Chris off at 7pm for his night shift. Around 9pm I got a call while I was in the shower; I couldn’t understand the message. I called the number back. Chris had a seizure at work and was in the ER. This seizure was called an atonic seizure - he just lost consciousness and fell into the floor. When I arrived in the ER they had run a CT scan and the physician chalked it up to Chris missing his last dose of seizure medication. We got in the car and went by Wendy’s our last meal together. It sounds so weird to say that. He got a baconator combo and I got the asiago ranch chicken. I never finished my sandwich. We drove home, he took his seizure medication and we crawled into bed around 2am.
“A Silence I can’t ignore like the hammock by the doorway we spent time in swings empty…” – How’s It Gonna Be
On May 12th, 2010 I woke up in a panic. I was meeting a friend to paint and replace siding as a side job for extra money. I jumped out of bed and hurried to let the dog outside and get my shoes on. Chris came sleepily out of the bedroom and into the kitchen. He had to work that night so he asked me to wake him up at 5pm. I asked if he had taken his medicine and replied, “Yeah, I am going to go to the bathroom and then back to bed.” I never said I love you and I never said goodbye. Fast-forward to 5pm. I was texting and calling Chris with no answer. Thunder and rain poured down and he wouldn’t answer me with our dog still outside. I was panicked and cursing and afraid for our dog and myself getting home in the storm safely. I ran inside the house, down the hall swung open the bathroom door just enough to grab a towel with my right hand, and then I ran to the backyard to let our dog inside and dried him off. Once Cody was in the crate I started calling Chris’ name but there was no response. I opened the bathroom door where he was. On the floor. He was gray. He wasn’t moving. I screamed. I dialed 911.
I was a nursing student. I knew how to do CPR, I knew how to check for a carotid pulse. When I placed my shaking hands on his neck as the dispatcher instructed I wasn’t sure what I was feeling. I know now it was. Hope that his faint heartbeat was still there. The dispatcher never told me to begin CPR. Looking back at this, I should have known he was gone. The dispatcher asked me to wait for police to arrive. They did. Still no CPR. The EMT’s arrived. No CPR. Instead, I was told “I’m sorry, there’s nothing we can do.” I screamed again. I called my mom. I told detective after detective about the day. It is a very sickening feeling to realize you are being interrogated. When the lady with CSI arrived she explained what I saw. His gray color meant he died likely minutes after I left. He never made it back to bed. His fists clenched meaning he likely seized. All I could do was cry. This cannot be real. I was 22 years old. This was my forever. My forever was gone. Then his mother arrived. Chris was an only child. Two sounds that will stay with me all of life, 1: her scream, 2: thump thump thump. I never said I love you and I never said goodbye. I never imagined life without him. His bright and beautiful soul extinguished in an instant.