Carla Mann had given up before her love, Chris, entered her life. In her words, this is her story of loss, love and life.
Where does one begin? My life has been a bit of a “sorted affair.” A lot of loss, turmoil and just bad luck.
At the age of 40, I had moved from my beloved home in High River after losing everything due to the flood in 2013. I returned to my hometown to kind of seek refuge. I’m not going to lie I had given up. I was 40, my young son 9. I had never been married, never been financially secure and I truly thought my life was over. Moving “home” was a really bad decision. There is a saying, “you can never go home again”. This in my experience is so very true.
In September 2014 I reconnected with an old high school acquaintance through FaceBook. He joined because he had just become a grandfather and he wanted to follow his daughter and new grandson on social media. We became online friends and in a very short period of time, we both realized something magical was happening.
By January 2015 we decided to re-introduce ourselves to one another. We hadn’t seen each other since our graduation in 1991. He arrived at my door in our hometown on January 18th, with roses in hand. He kissed me and my life changed forever. Our love grew so fast. We lived five hours apart and Chris working in coil tubing in the oilfield, spent many days away at a time. It became all part of our story.
Before our second date, Chris professed his love for me and I for him. On that second date, Chris bought me a beautiful limited edition H&B necklace that I cherish. Our third date was Vegas and from there our love and devotion to each other became undeniable. We both had never been so happy. Chris had lived a sorted past as well. Struggling through life with loss, career choices, staying in a toxic relationship for nearly a decade and struggling with life’s demons. He had turned his life around a few years before we met again but told me I was all he needed. I was his drug and that what we had found and were building was better than any drug on the planet.
Chris and I spent all our downtime together whether I drove to him or he came to me. He stayed the entire month of breakup with us. During that month he gifted me with many beautiful H&B pieces. Little tokens of love that I will treasure for my lifetime. My son and I moved to be with Chris before summer arrived and it remains the “first” best decision I ever made because there were many to come!
“We found this magical, beautiful love.”
Fast forwarding through our beautiful big love Chris and I got engaged June 3, 2017. It was an unorthodox engagement but it was perfect and we both believed all our dreams were coming true. We found this magical beautiful love where we were crazy about each other and one that was reciprocated to each other in every way. We were building a life and we were happy. Insanely truly 100% happy.
Our wedding date was set February 17, 2018. Zota Beach Resort, Longboat Key Florida. We were thrilled!! Planning our big day was a labour of love. Every moment was planned right down to the tiniest detail. It was a blush and rose gold affair. My bridesmaids wearing sequined dresses and matching H&B sparkle balls that were perfect. Right down to the most insignificant flower or the colour of the napkins we were ready. We were so ready that we even discussed popping down to City Hall and getting hitched before we left for Florida. Chris saying “no one ever has to know, I just want to be married”. We should have done that, just Chris and I. Saying our vows to each other. No guests no onlookers, just us promising ourselves to each other until death do us part. But we only had one hitch to go and then we were off to Florida so we decided to wait.
“We should have done that, just Chris and I. Saying our vows to each other.”
Chris left for his last hitch before our wedding January 26th at 5 am, we had said our goodbyes the night before and talked about our excitement. That time home was a little stressful for both of us. Just with planning the wedding, getting payments to the vendors. It wasn’t our typical “love fest” while he was back. That Friday that he left I was driving to work and I said out loud to myself “did I love him enough these days off?” “Did I show him how in love I am with him?” I vowed right there I’d never let stress get in the way of our affection for each other again. I convinced myself that it was just what happens when you plan a wedding. I promised that moment was going to be the last time I ever had to ask myself those questions.
We spoke on the phone later that night. Chris was exhausted after a long day. We ended our short conversation with our I love you’s and our excitement for his next days off and our wedding. We felt we had put everything back in our order of just loving each other with no boundaries. We were just so excited.
Saturday morning, January 27th, 2018, I spent cleaning, doing laundry and packing our suitcases. When I looked at my phone when I finally sat to have a coffee it was shortly after 2pm, or 3pm in Saskatchewan where Chris was working. I felt a pang of guilt because I always messaged him as soon as I woke up. I quickly messaged him with our pet name for each other followed with hearts and kisses. Chris and I were always in constant contact. Whether it was through texting or phoning we were always in conversation. But he didn’t message back. I sent a second text saying all I had done that morning and the calls made that were finalizing the wedding details. But still nothing.
“Chris and I were always in constant contact. Whether it was through texting or phoning we were always in conversation. But he didn’t message back.”
Shortly after 4pm my doorbell rang. An officer stood at my door. It took him a while to tell me why he was there. I was very confused. He explained that there had been an incident, cardiac arrest and that Chris was not revived. He had passed away at approximately 3:15 pm Saskatchewan time almost exactly when I sent my messages. My entire world was shattered my heart broken into a million pieces. I never felt such complete loneliness and devastation in my life. My beautiful precious Chris was gone and I never even spoke to him that day.
The days that came are a blur. I went from planning the perfect wedding to my beloved’s funeral in a matter of hours. I was so scared, so filled with fear and sadness. I spent all the time could with Chris when he arrived home. Just holding him, talking to him, playing our music and kissing him. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do, walking into a room where the man I love was so lifeless.
I fell to my knees and screamed because a small part of me thought they were wrong and when the doors opened it wouldn’t be him. But it was Chris, my love, and I didn’t want him to be alone or scared so I just stayed. I found a way to get my hands under his so it felt like he was holding on so tight. I pulled up a chair and laid my head beside his. I touch every smile line and freckle. I laid as close as I could for as long as I could and no one questioned me or asked me to leave, they just let me be. I did that for days.
The celebration for Chris was planned in the evening with my closest friends and family. They pulled everything together for us during the day. Chris’s daughter arrived which gave me strength and together we decided we would both offer separate eulogies. As Havyn said, we together were the two halves to his heart. She the first, I his last…
“Almost five hundred people showed up on February 3, 2018 to pay their respects to my precious fiancé. Exactly two weeks to the day that we had planned our wedding.”
Almost five hundred people showed up on February 3, 2018 to pay their respects to my precious fiancé. Exactly two weeks to the day that we had planned our wedding. I wanted this day to show people how I love Chris, how Havyn loves her daddy. I wanted them to feel the kind of connection we shared.
This day was planned at an events Centre instead of a church. Something that really meant something to Chris. It was grand and it was beautiful. From the music to the flowers I truly believe we planned a moment in time that Chris would have been blown away by. I said my eulogy, and in it I said my vows in hopes that Chris heard me devoting my life to him. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do but I did it. Ending with words we said endlessly to each other “I Love You More Chris.”
I flew to Florida a few days later. I went to our beach and I married him officially.
I carried a small urn heart in my hand, filled with his ashes. I never invited anyone but when I arrived at the bridge that took me to our spot, family members were waiting for me. I had given my bridesmaids the sparkle balls Chris had picked out for them all. They sparkled in the setting sun. I walked to the water. I said my personal vows and then adding our wedding I Do’s. Then I went into the ocean and held Chris’s small urn in the water. God he talked about going in the ocean every day… I never let go. Then like magic the sunset turned blue and orange and there’s was one little star that stood out under a crooked moon smile. It was undeniable, my Husband was there.
My days now are quiet. The silence somedays deafening. I am very busy honoring my love. I am starting a foundation in his name to help kids through hockey. This year in April I will be handing out 5 awards for the Chris Mann Memorial, this will take place in our hometown.
I have gone back to work where by no surprise or accident I sell H&B. I am passionate about his brand and the empowerment of women behind it. I wear the numerous pieces that Chris bought me everyday. I am thankful for every single one as I truly feel close to him when I remember the excitement when they were received and the love that came with every piece. I am so so thankful for that.
“I have legally changed my last name to Mann and I will carry forward being Chris’s wife. I plan on being the best of the best.”
I have legally changed my last name to Mann and I will carry forward being Chris’s wife. I plan on being the best of the best. Life is very scary right now, the hurt is still so fresh and my heart is so broken. But I am empowered by the strong support of people around me and I have to be strong to do all the things I’ve planned for the man of my dreams. Chris is my sparkle. The love of my life, my husband.