My son, Chris: Musician, Artist, Friend

Karen Hutchinson

photo of Chris

I was cleaning house that Saturday, April 5th, 1997, but for some reason, stopped to fiddle with the website I had set up for Chris' band, Toenut. My brain didn't seem to be functioning right. Nothing I did worked - I was becoming increasingly agitated. The phone rang. One of Chris' bandmates was calling from Atlanta to tell me the Georgia State Troopers were calling all the phone numbers in Chris' address book, but wouldn't say why. I called the number he gave me. They said someone would call back immediately. I KNEW. I can still hear my screams - I couldn't stop. I was alone at the time.

On reflection, I'm glad my husband and Chris' younger brother, Andy, weren't home - my initial agony would only have added to their grief. Chris was driving to his band's gig in Athens, Georgia. He was killed instantly on a clear afternoon by a man driving a commercial truck who ran a red light. There were only 50 feet of skid marks. In those few seconds, his lack of brain function took away my heart.

I am a professional portrait artist. Chris inherited my easygoing temperament and artistic talent. He attended Rhode Island School of Design and was also a very talented professional musician - bass guitar. We were always comfortable with each other and could talk about anything I can't remember a cross word between us. He joined the band Toenut several years ago and moved to Atlanta so they could practice and promote the band. They were soon signed to a recording contract. The band put the final touches on their second CD the night before the crash. Chris called that evening, just to talk - as he often did, and was so happy and excited. I was so proud of him. His dream was really happening!

Chris came home often. We always stayed up most of the night talking and enjoying each other's company. I so miss his hugs and the special connection we had. We held an "Irish Wake" at our home in the country the following Saturday. Everyone needed to come together. Through word-of-mouth, hundreds of his friends came from all over - as far away as New York. We all talked, cried and hugged trying to make some sense out of the incomprehensible. My fondest memory of that night was when, at 4 in the morning, several of his friends got out their guitars for a concert around the bonfire, singing and playing music they had played with Chris.

The band, with my support and blessing, is touring in support of Chris' last work. They will be going on their second European tour in November. On the August European tour, they took some of Chris' ashes with them and scattered them in each city they visited. Chris had so looked forward to this tour, we all felt that he would approve. I still maintain their website and am somewhat consoled by being involved in something Chris enjoyed so much. I have a memorial page for Chris on my website and his band Toenut also has a page in his honor.

Andy is devastated - Chris was his big brother and his best friend. He was in the final months of college. He had maintained a 3.9, but now found it hard to even go to class, much less concentrate on his studies. I am so glad he was living at home while finishing college. I couldn't have survived without his love and support. Through this tragedy, we have grown even closer and I love him dearly. He did manage to graduate.

My husband, Chris and Andy's stepfather is inconsolable. He provided both of the boys with a loving and stable father figure and has helped me keep my sanity. Losing a child IS the unimaginable nightmare. thoughts of Chris keep running through my mind constantly - tears come at the slightest reminder. Our lives and those of his many friends have all been made dimmer by the loss of the bright light that was our son, brother and friend - Chris.

Karen Hutchinson

You can send email to Karen at: [email protected]
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anniversary date 04-05-97
date of post 10-19-97

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Crisis, Grief, and Healing: Tom Golden LCSW