Our beloved Chad was killed on USAir Flight 427, Thursday, September 8, 1994. Mercifully, things were a bit of a blur as we stumbled through memorial services with no positive identiï¬cation, attended the USAir Final Commendation Services and then, with aching hearts, came home and faced the holidays. Writing Christmas letters was an agonizing task. Gift shopping was mechanical and joyless. Our family gathering only emphasized the gaping hole in our midst. We were but remnants of a once bountiful and loving family. Wed faced too many deaths. The empty chairs at our holiday table now out number the occupied.
As my ï¬rst journal entry in 1995, I wrote…
The New Year has come and I ask myself how can that be? How did 1, Chad ‘s mom, survive the holidays? How could the New Year come without him? I look in the mirror and I see and feel old. My eyes are dull and faded My shoulders have rounded and curled forward and in. The bones in my chest have dissolved. My back aches beneath the weight of my heart. What kept my head held high, my shoulders back, my posture straight and upright when all three sons lived? Was it pride? Was it joy? Was it love? Was it all of the above? Why am I deï¬‚ated, sunken, adrift? Is this self-pity? Grief? Is Chad s life diminished by my despair? Lord, please ï¬ll my heart with something, anything! I don t know what] want. Wrong, I do know. I want Chad alive and well upon this earth again. I want to be made whole again.
I would like to tell you that I have been made whole again, but that would not be true. Instead, I have come to the conclusion that that can never be. However, in these past years, I have found small ways to bring comfort and joy into my life.
Each year, I celebrate Chads birthday by sending off a ï¬nancial gift to the Chadwick Ethan Morris Chemical Engineering Memorial Scholarship Fund set up by his wife, Jen. He was a mentor to so many wonderful and gifted college co-op students. In honoring his birthday I feel I am perpetuating his joy in mentoring and even communing with him.
Chads father planted an Autumn Flame maple tree that fall of 1994. It has thrived in our yard, growing steadily upward. I watch from the kitchen window as cardinals and robins barter for homesteading rights within its branches. The Robins have won. Each fall the leaves turn ï¬‚ame red. I collect a few and press them in my memory book. The leaves have grown larger and redder.
Ive made a special place, something beyond cardboard boxes and plastic storage containers, to store our memory books and mementos of Chad. A beautiful rosemalled Norwegian trunk all cedar lined is now ï¬lled with the joys and tragedies of our sons life.
Past Christmases, Ive lit a candle in Chads memory and given thanks for the thirty-ï¬ve years we shared. On New Years Eve weve poured him a glass of Champagne or beer, depending on our mood, and toasted the New Year in with him. Hes frozen in my memory at age 35 while his younger brothers age beyond him and I become a senior citizen.
One of the things Ive done each Christmas for the past years is to search for just the right Christmas Tree Angel ornament to put in our Christmas Care Packages. I call it, Chads Memory Angel. This Angels has two speciï¬cations; it must be masculine and it must have an attitude. Searching for this angel is a wonderful task and somehow eases the pain of his absence. His Angel is included in the packages to his brothers, cousins, aunts and friends. Each year I write a poem to enclose with the Christmas Care Package.
Excerpts from 1999…
Now hang up the Angel somewhere on your tree, and whisper sweet prayers in our Chad s memory. May your holiday season be blessed with Gods love. May your new year be ï¬lled with his Grace from above. May your lives fill with joy as you walk in his way. May you know you are loved with the dawn of each day.
Excerpts from I998…
Hang up the sweet Angel some where on your tree, and remember our Chad with a prayer. For each dear memory, keeps him with us you see. In this life we are so blessed to share. So hats off to the old year, hello to the new, God’s blessings be with us, whatever we do. And guide us all safely through life s rocky days, with love in our hearts, joyfully singing his praise.
I know that I will never be whole again. I also know that I never have to give up Chad or his memories. He is forever a part of my life, my family. To let go, to try and forget, is far more painful than celebrating his life and cherishing his memory. Thanksgiving is almost here and Im still searching for this years Angel, masculine and with a ˜tude. If you see such an Angel, please think of our Chad.
Oh God, please bless and comfort all, whose holiday tables have an empty chair and the holes in their hearts seem too great to bear and they sometimes feel theres no one to care. Please let them know you are always there.
Merrilee Morris, GA, lost her son Chad, 35, aboard USAir Flight 427 in Pittsburgh, PA on September 8, 1994