My children and grandchildren know they can invite anyone to Thanksgiving at our house. It is my favorite holiday, and we have always invited people who are far from home…or have no family. This year was the biggest Thanksgiving we have ever had: the guest count was 32!
The night before Thanksgiving, we always either order pizza or go out for dinner. This year we went to a local favorite with my sister, Kristin, who helps me for days before the holiday — and her husband Bill, who had just flown in Wednesday. I always turn off my phone during dinner, but something told me to check it — and I saw a missed call and text. Our granddaughter Becka and her girlfriend Kati wanted to know if we could add one more guest. “Of course!” I replied. Then, Becka texted that this young man had just come out to his parents, and they said, “Don’t come to Thanksgiving.” My heart sank. I responded, “What is his name, for the place card?” A text came back… ”Chris.” I began to sob. I was ready to adopt this young man, even though I had not met him. It felt like this was my calling. My Christopher had sent me a Christopher! The great news is that his parents reconsidered, and he had Thanksgiving with them. I hope we had a small part in that. I like to think so. He is still in my heart, and I ask about him whenever I see my granddaughter and her girlfriend.
The Compassionate Friends
The Compassionate Friends of Marin does a Candle Lighting event every year. It is a worldwide event, and candles are lit to commemorate our lost children. I go most years with my daughter, Christina. This year a young man came up to her and asked, “Are you Christopher Hotchkiss’s sister?” WOW!!! This young man knew Christopher, and Christopher had an impact on his life. Christopher’s was the first death of a friend he experienced. He also said, “Christopher was a kind person. Most kids at school would not even talk to me. Christopher always had a positive attitude…no matter what; he always made a point of talking to me.” My daughter, Christina, pointed at me and said, “that is where Christopher got that!” It was so sweet to hear them talking about mutual friends they knew and sharing stories about Chris. What a gift!
In the 17 years since Christopher was killed, we have been going away for three days as a family to celebrate the holidays. We leave the day after Christmas to let everyone else spend time with other loved ones. It is our gift to each other. This year 15 of us traveled to Palm Springs. The schedule during the day is open, but we always meet as a group for dinner. The last evening, December 28th, we had an incredible meal at Tinto in the Saguaro Hotel. Everyone was happy and full of yummy food, and we all headed back to the hotel in three cars. My husband Gary and I were the last to get back, and as we strolled through the lobby we could see our family gathered in the bar. There was some verbal commotion — and as we entered, Miguel (my daughter Christina’s boyfriend) took Gary and disappeared. The family let me know that Miguel was asking Gary for Christina’s hand in marriage. When they walked back in, Gary gave us the news: “I am happy to announce that Christina and Miguel will be getting married!” There was a flurry of hugs and many happy tears. Christina and Miguel went out by the pool, and we took engagement photos. I was over the moon happy and very surprised. It took me a long time to go to sleep that night. I was so excited and filled with love. I find myself breaking into spontaneous happy tears. The best birthday present yet!