A Beloved Son
This is the eulogy Chris’ father read at the service in Savannah, Ga.
First, Christopher’s mother Linda and I would like to thank everyone for being here today and for the tremendous amount of assistance, prayers and condolences offered in support of our family in this difficult time. I will not try to name names as I found the list quickly grew out of control. However, I would like to mention two: first, Reverend John Haney for opening his heart and his congregation to our family. Second, Tisha Robinson, for the beautiful photographs and paintings she has done for us. Tisha put together the DVD photo montage that you have watched on the screen.
When Chris was very young, he evidenced artistic talent through drawings and beginning to write stories. That talent would mature into a passion for writing and later, photography.
His humor that he is noted for was always there and, as he aged, became more pronounced.
I could tell many stories about Chris as he grew up. He loved sports; but, his constant battle with asthma made sports problematic. He loved to play football; but, after several “end of game” trips to the hospital and an oxygen tent, his mother and I insisted he give it up. Chris could deal with it; but, we could not. He made it to state finals in wrestling before the same trip to an oxygen tent brought that up short.
If anyone could find the pointy end of something it would be Chris. Like falling on an only slightly buried pipe in our backyard and driving it into his knee. Or, while using a razor knife to carve a model something or other, it slipped and drove into his thigh.
I could talk about a phone call from the police department to come pick our son up from their jail, where he had been taken for driving around the high school driver education course late one Saturday afternoon. It didn’t help that I had to excuse myself from a group of guests Linda and I had over for a dinner party. The only saving factor was that Linda and I agreed the incident was absurd. It was, after all, driver education, was it not?
Finally, I could talk about Chris losing our family automobile after parking it on the sand at Daytona Beach and going off to a party – but, I think I won’t go there.
Chris loved reading from a very early age and, as he moved into high school, began delving into more sophisticated literature and poetry. One of his earliest, “most favorite authors” was Ernest Hemmingway. I had read Hemmingway too and, while I enjoyed the stories, did not understand Chris’s passion for “Papa.” It would be a while before I figured out that it was not the stories that he cared so much about, it was the writing. The turn of phrase that said so much, with so few words. He would spend the rest of his life striving for, and sometimes finding, the perfect sentence.
Because of Hemmingway’s early influence I sought to find a quote from him to use here today. I could distinctly feel Christopher looking closely over my shoulder and chuckling unmercifully as I paged through Hemmingway quote after Hemmingway quote, trying to find something I could actually utter in a church. I did finally find one, which is: “Every Man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived, and how he died that distinguish one from another”.
The details of Chris’ life are legend: his time on the Hill with Asa Hutchinson where he became known for his writing ability and for mentoring new, young Congressional Press Secretaries. The handling of Asa’s communications during the tumultuous months of the Bill Clinton recall. In part, because of this professionalism, Congressman Hutcheson would be featured by Time Magazine as one of only two people who came through the Clinton debacle looking stronger than before.
Chris’ time back with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette where, as an editorial writer, he won many journalistic awards; and, his time writing his Kidney Cancer blog, as Chris and Dena together struggled to find their own way, and in the process guided, helped and supported so many other cancer victims and their care givers across the country and around the world.
Chris was passionate about his love for family, including his extended family, on both sides of his marriage; it was important to him that Josie and Kate would continue to have relationships with all of their various cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. He was proud and interested in his historical relationships with the city of Savannah.
I will close for now, and leave this podium for others; however, I would like to make two final observations:
First, to Chris’ wife Dena: Who, with two small children and a highly impactful job of her own, has fought like a tigress with anyone and everyone who could possibly help Chris’ condition. Using her research skills prior to a doctor’s visit, she would often know more about the complex cancer drugs than the doctor himself; and woe to the unprepared physician who might begin to lead them in a bad direction.
Dena, you did everything humanly possible to save your husband. It is time now to stand down and look for new beginnings.
Secondly: During the 1960s our country engaged in a war that spanned the terms of three Presidents. During ten long years of war we lost around 58,000 young Americans. The country reacted violently with many marching in the streets. The detritus of that war still resonates in the halls of our government. 58,000, that is indeed a terrible loss. In this one year of 2013 we will lose something around 600,000 Americans due to that “Emperor of Maladies,” Cancer, and we hear barely a whimper from our government. Could “We the People” possibly have our priorities confused??
Harry Truman very famously said that “The Buck Stops Here.” Mr. Truman got it wrong. The buck, ladies and gentleman, stops with you and I, at the ballot box. I hope you’ll consider that when elections come again.
Our beautiful son has passed; but he is not gone. He will live in my heart and in Linda’s – forever.