Our Story: Tina Morris
Mother of Christopher Baker
On July 10th, 2006 my husband and I took our son, Christopher (shown on far left, in photo taken December 2003) to a dual treatment center in Bloomington, Illinois. He was diagnosed with bi-polar and had also began using drugs including Marijuana and caffeine pills. He talked of suicide and had a suicide attempt. He was terribly angry and out of control, which he admitted and he wanted help. I will continue with his story - our story in a moment, but will give you a little background information first.
My husband Jarrod and I have been married for 11 years, since June 19, 1999. I have two sons Andrew and Christopher, and he has a daughter, Corinna. When we married Andrew was 11, Chris was 8, and Corinna was 3 1/2. With them all being fairly young they adapted pretty well to the marriage and we did a lot of family activities, such as camping, fishing, hiking, and more.
Our first encounter with suicide loss occurred on Sunday, August 25th, 2002. My ex-husband, Duane, who is also Christopher’s father (as well as my other son, Andrew’s father), took his own life. He hung himself in his Aunt’s basement. We received a phone call around 4:30am on Monday, August 26th, 2002. Christopher was starting 5th grade that day and Andrew was starting 8th grade. Of course they didn’t go to school and instead, my husband and I sat them down and told them their father had died. They were devastated to say the least. We did not explain how he died as we just didn’t know how to look at them and explain that their father took his own life. He had called them Saturday night to say hello. Because he was in and out of their lives and made promises he rarely kept Christopher did not talk to him. He was very angry with his dad.
Duane’s funeral was on Friday, August 30th. My husband and I decided that it was best to sit the boys down and explain their dad’s death to them so they didn’t overhear it from someone else. We talked with them but they didn’t really say much.
After the funeral we took them to counseling but neither of them would talk. Over the next couple years both got into alcohol and drugs. Both spiraled down in school and life. My husband and I were at a loss for what to do.
On April 14th, 2005 my mother received a call from her nephew that her sister overdosed on valium. She too was successful at committing suicide. This was another devastating loss in our family, especially for my mother and my aunt’s sons who all tried diligently to help her.
Christopher (shown in photo on right, taken November 2006) went to treatment and my husband and I drove back and forth for family night, meetings with the counselor, and other visits. He stayed in treatment from July 10th, 2006 to December 15th, 2006. While in treatment he ran away with another boy for 5 days on Labor Day. No one could find them which was very scary. My only sanity during those 5 days was that he was not alone. Had he been alone I would have been certain that he would not be found alive. Once found he went back to treatment, but then on the night of October 29th a kid gave Christopher his prescription and Chris chopped it up and snorted it. He slit his wrists badly and ended up being transported to a mental health facility in Chicago, Illinois. He stayed there for 2 weeks of which we attended family night, meetings with the counselor, and other visits. He had to return to the treatment center as he was court ordered. If he didn’t return within 2 weeks he would have to start the whole program over. With all that happened, we thought if he had to start the whole program over he wouldn’t make it. The facility in Chicago didn’t want to release him. And, Christopher did like it there. However, because we were afraid of him having to start the treatment over, we got him out within the 2 weeks and brought him back to treatment.
Back at treatment in Bloomington, IL he did okay for a short time and them his behavior became out of control and he was depressed. I kept telling his counselor if they didn’t get him to open up about his dad, he wouldn’t make it. Christmas time came and he still hadn’t opened up and he was getting worse. Every year at Christmas our family goes to a water park in Wisconsin Dells. The treatment center thought they did all they could probably do to help Chris, but they weren’t sure if they should release him. My husband and I met with the counselor and decided to take him home. We didn’t want him sitting in there over Christmas. We thought if he was with the family he may do better.
Christopher had given his life to the Lord when he was about 10 years old (right before his dad passed away). On November 10th, 2006, while in treatment, he re-committed his life to the Lord. He was reading the Bible and praying. He wrote us many beautiful letters while in treatment. I know he loved us. He was confused, angry, hurt, scared, out of control, and depressed, but he was also hopeful which was encouraging to me.
On Friday, December 15th, 2006 I picked Chris up and had a surprise party for him at home. All of our family was there to show their support. My parents were a big encouragement to Christopher all through treatment. They visited him at both facilities, called him, and sent him letters. Chris seemed happy everyone was there for him. We are a close family and try to support one another – we go on trips together and get together often.
Christopher had a girlfriend who lived nearby. They had some issues and my husband and I debated keeping them apart. In the end we decided to openly discuss the relationship with Chris and give him the choice. We felt keeping them apart probably wouldn’t work. We thought open communication would be a better option as he did talk with us about a lot of issues.
A week after he was home, he took caffeine pills again. He was crying to my husband and I telling us how sorry he was and that he almost took his life during the night. We were devastated but remained calm. We told him we loved him and that “today” was a new day. I attend AA meetings so we took him to one. He told everyone what happened as he had been attending the meetings with me and even had a wonderful sponsor.
Christmas went as usual. During our annual family vacation at the water park in Wisconsin Dells Chris was very withdrawn and slept a lot. Everyone was very concerned about him. (The photo on the left was taken at the Kalahari Resort and Waterpart in Wisconsin Dells December 2006. Christopher is on the far left).
We did not know what to do. We tried giving him his space, encouraging him to do things with us, and we did watch him. We did not nag him. We wanted to give him a chance to get back into the swing of things and to find his way.
He started an outpatient treatment on Tuesday, January 2nd. He really seemed to like it, but the next Monday he came home from treatment very upset. The story he gave me didn’t make much sense so I called the treatment center and spoke with the counselor. He thought Chris wasn’t giving any of us the right story. The next night, January 9th, Chris went to treatment and called us during treatment swearing and very upset. He wanted to leave. I encouraged him to stay and try to work out whatever was really going on. I told him he would feel better if he did this. When Chris called, my husband and I were having dinner with Chris’ sponsor. Chris didn’t know this. His sponsor just wanted to learn a bit more about him as he had never worked with a 15 year old and was told he should meet with the parents.
Chris left the treatment and walked to his brother’s house. We picked him up there and didn’t say too much, though he and my husband and I were concerned as Chris was still court ordered and had to complete the outpatient treatment. We calmly told Chris we would call probation the next day and figure all this out. Chris called his sponsor and went to a meeting. This was very encouraging to us as we felt despite whatever happened at treatment he was willing to do the next right thing.
While Chris was at the meeting Andrew’s girlfriend called and said that when Chris was at their house he mentioned something about Daniel – something Chris had found out from other boys at the treatment center. This concerned me and I didn’t know if I would bring it up to Chris or if I should leave it alone. He came home around 9:30pm and went to his room. I went up and got him, telling him he could not be alone and to come down and watch a movie or something with my husband and I. He agreed and we watched a movie. Around midnight the movie all of a sudden went out. We don’t know what happened and tried to restart it. We couldn’t get it re-started so we all decided to go to bed. Chris gave us both a kiss and a hug. He had been quiet that night. He also asked us if we could change his school. The next week he was supposed to start High School at the same school as his girlfriend. We told him of course he could and that I would arrange it the next day. I was also thinking that maybe he would come talk to me about all that happened. Sometimes he would come to my room after we all went to bed. I fell asleep around 12:30am. I wrote in my journal that I was very concerned about him, didn’t know what to do, and put him in God’s hands.
On the morning of Wednesday, January 10th my husband and I woke up as usual and began making phone calls on Chris’ behalf. The treatment center counselor wasn’t in until 12:30pm so we decided to let Chris sleep so we could get things figured out. Usually, with him I would be relieved to hear him turning in his bed upstairs. On this particular morning, I didn’t listen for movement as we were consumed in trying to contact people. At around 12:15pm his sponsor called. My husband was on the phone with him talking when he went down to the basement to get socks out of a drawer. I heard my husband scream, “God, no. God, no, Chris!”
Immediately I knew Chris was gone. Much is a blur, but my husband said I tried getting to the basement, but he stopped me. I could remember no one’s phone number, except for the church phone number to reach a pastor where we used to attend church. I don’t know how my husband did it, but he called 911, the pastor, my parents, sister, brother, as well as his family. He also went over and told my son, Andrew and later that evening drove with his parents to tell his daughter, who was just 11 at the time. Christopher was close with both Andrew and Corinna, as well as his half brother, Michael. While Jarrod did all the calling and everything else I sat on the bed rocking back and forth crying and repeating over and over “It’s okay. It’s okay”.
My son and other family members and friends began showing up, as well as the fire trucks, ambulance, and coroner. It was so devastating. I have never felt so powerless in my life. Some time in the day I made myself get up and do the dishes. I also went up with my son to Christopher’s room. His shoes were set neatly by his bedroom door. I felt numb. I simply didn’t know what to do with myself. I knew I shouldn’t just sit on my bed the way I was. I knew I had to keep moving, keep doing something.
I had a history of depression, drug and alcohol addition, suicide attempts, and anxiety. If any of those got a hold of me I would be in trouble. My son, Andrew needed me and so did the rest of our family.
We planned the funeral and managed to stick together. Within 2 months my husband, son, parents, and I attended Ray of Hope – a support group for suicide survivors (This group is listed in the Groups section of this website and is also on Facebook named Ray of Hope - Rockford, IL. My parents now have a group in Burlington, WI called ENTOUCH.
I will add that my son left 3 notes: To his girlfriend, his brother, and the world. His father also left 3 notes, as well as hung himself in the basement, which is exactly what my son did. We did find out that the boys at treatment were talking about a girl they had slept with and it turned out to be Christopher’s girlfriend. He was devastated by this. While he attempted suicide before and while I believe this contributed to his death that particular night, I really feel his death has more to do with his father’s death than anything.
I still don’t think I can put into words the devastation Chris’ death has brought to me or other family members. I have written probably 50 letters to him, wrote in multiple journals, and prayed unceasingly for the strength to get through each day. God has kept me alive – I know that for sure. I have lots of dreams of Chris. Many dreams where I hold him, hug him, kiss him, protect him, and talk to him. I’m extremely blessed by this.
Despite all Chris’ emotional issues in life, he and I were very close (shown together in photo on right, taken Thanksgiving Day 2006). He was like a soul-mate to me. My heart has been totally ripped out. I have a hole in my soul which God helps fill, but that still yearns for him – to touch him, hear his voice, hold his hand, talk with him, kiss him, and hug him. He was a talented artist and writer, and able to have very deep and meaningful conversations. He was so creative and would entertain his cousins and other family members for hours. He always had exciting things to do – build tents, make bee sanctuaries, and more. He was a deep-hearted, sensitive soul. After a rage he would cry and beg forgiveness – of which he never had to beg. We always forgave him and wanted to help him. We wanted him well and safe more than anything. I will yearn for him until the day I go home, too. When I walk into heaven I will probably drop to my knees and thank God for letting me be with him again. I remind myself often that I will see him in a moment’s time – in God’s time. Until then I talk to him, pray for him, and think of him every single day – many times a day.
2 1/2 years after Chris' death, my father passed away from a drug overdose. Prior to my father's death my sister offered to make me a quilt out of Chris' clothing. I couldn't imagine cutting up his clothes but also didn't want them just sitting in a box. After my dad's death, my sister made herself, my brother, and I beautiful memorial quilts. I decided to part with Chris' clothes and my sister made quilts for my son, step daughter, and myself, as well as pillows for the cousins. They came out awesome. My sister now offers this service to others and really enjoys making the quilts and other sentimental pieces for people. Please visit her site at awarmembrace.net. She puts her heart and soul into making these treasured keepsakes.