My mom called him Crink.

My sister and I called him Chrissy.

To most he was simply Chris.

He was funny, handsome, strong, driven and talented beyond compare. He was pilot, a wine enthusiast, a boater and made a mean BBQ.

And two weeks ago today, he took his own life.

For reasons beyond our comprehension, Christopher never saw himself as we all saw him and as he truly was – a loving husband, a devoted son, an army veteran, a wonderful friend, a great uncle, and of course a cherished brother.

Chrissy lived in two different worlds. The real world in which he was so successful, and the world inside his head, where he couldn’t see what a positive influence he was on so many people. He battled depression and over the years, learned to mask his pain from the people he worked with, his friends and family.

Even those who spoke with him that day were all caught off-guard by what happened. None of them could comprehend that he was even depressed, let alone suicidal!

And for me, caught off guard does not even come close to describing my anger and dismay. It was just two short days before, I was talking with him about my upcoming trip to Arizona to see him. I still have the message, “Hi Big Sis, excited to see you this week; call me when your plane lands – Chrissy.

I never got a chance to respond. Unable to get through to him that day, I called my sister from the airport, a bit angry that our “little brother”  was standing me up. I remember telling her that he had not returned my calls. I heard here say that he was dead, but at the time I was riding in a noisy airport tram, rushing to get to my gate. I think I responded with a quick and sarcastic ” You bet he is, and I’m first in line.”

The train stopped and the words began to sink in. Still on the line, I hear my sister clearly now.  “Angela he is dead. He just shot himself. He’s dead. He’s really dead.”

I remember dropping the phone and sinking to the floor in the middle of the terminal. The next hours and days that followed are a blur in my memory. With the graciousness of strangers, I arrived in Phoenix to be greeted instead by my grieving family.  Each and everyone read and reread a note he left behind, searching desperately for answers to our most burning questions.

How did this happen? What provoked it? Was he planning it? How could he do this?  Were there signs we missed? Why him? Why now? Why that way? WHY? WHY? WHY?

Why could he not have waited a few more hours, and I would have been right there to talk it out with him. I would have told him that he was needed. He had options. He had help. He was desperately, unconditionally loved.

I can’t remember if I ever told him these things while he was alive. That I appreciated him, I was proud of him, and most important that he mattered to me and so many.

So Why am I telling you this?

I am telling you all this because I am making a choice not to be silent.

I am making a choice not to be ashamed of what he did. As much as I hate it;  I hate more whatever it is was caused him to feel that his life had no value.

Most importantly, I am telling you so that you can make the choice to let the people in your presence know how much they mean and matter to you.

It is my hope that in some way, I can raise a little awareness for this difficult subject.

It is my hope we can talk about openly and honestly with one another about the need we all have to live a life that matters.

It is my hope that by sharing my story, others will share theirs, and together we can work toward helping those who suffer among  us similar pain and hopelessness.

My biggest ambition as an educator has always been to young children know how valuable their contributions and lives are to the world. As a teacher, I took an oath to elevate their genius, and prepare them to enter the world confident and ready to change it.

When I’m talking to group of kids I ask them first of all who believes they are a genius and has something the world needs? In KG every hand fly into the air.  Not so as the years pass. I am lucky if one or two hands go up in a class of 30 high school students.

When I’ve finished the lessons, my goal is for every single student to be raising their hand high.  I ask them to look at someone who is a world changer, a champaign for a cause, a courageous difference maker.

I ask them to consider the difference between themselves and that person, and then I wait…

Because there is no difference – we’re all given the same gift, and life’s greatest gift is free choice. Unfortunately, even with that privilege, humans make poor choices. The worst choice we can make as human beings is not believing that we matter and that our actions have no value.

My brother was a gift. To honor his contribution to my life and to the world, I am making a pledge to work even harder to let people know they matter.  I have just launched a campaign called Choose 2 Matter. Please join in our fight to do work, live lives, and contribute genius to the world in ways that matter.

Take the time today and let these words resonate with you. Words I wish I would have said and shared with my brother.

Chrissy – you are missed and loved more then you will every know. Safe journeys little brother, rest in peace.  I love you and I forgive you.

A.