In the Name of My Brother

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Second year 5K team captain, Kathy Ruggiero, shares the story of losing her brother, Chris.

When I was a 13-year old, 8th grader in Westchester County New York, my mom had another baby, my brother Christopher James.  Perhaps needless to say, this was both an embarrassment and a delight.   I was the eldest of six children – four boys and two girls – he the youngest.  Two book-ends in the six-pack.  But he was a tow-headed, adorable child and Chris quickly became everyone’s buddy and accompanied my siblings and me everywhere.   Despite our age difference we were always very close.  When I went away to college he cried as his only concept of “school” (where he heard I was going away to) was a local building that we went to during the day and he feared I would be forced to sleep on a cold, hard floor there!  He visited me a number of times at Boston College and easily won the hearts of my friends, including the man who would become my husband.

Chris had many friends – particularly girlfriends! – and seemed to glide through life.  He was a wonderful athlete, and extremely social.   Tragically, somewhere along the line he lost his way and in late September, in 2002, he took his own life.  And life for those he left behind – my mom, dad, brothers and sister, his adored cousins and extended family and many friends – would never be the same.

I started the team Chris Shea’s Smile and walked in the Samaritans 5k for the first time last year which marked – to the DAY – the 10-year anniversary of his death.   It was the day the world got a little bit darker for those that loved Chris Shea, but walking felt like the right thing to do. We were out there to honor Chris and support an organization that both assists the despondent and suicidal, preventing countless suicides each year, and also supports the other victims of suicide — those that are left behind to grieve and to forever ask “why?”

I’m participating in the Samaritans 5k this year to once again support Samaritans in the memory of my brother, who brought so much joy to those who loved him for the 31 years we had him, and whose smile and infectious spirit continue to motivate us, propel us forward and frequently make us pause to give thanks for another day.

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