The Anthology of Chris
This is the eulogy I read at Chris’ memorial in Alexandria, Va. on August 23, 2013.
A year ago, Chris and I drove to Savannah to buy our burial plot together. It was on I-95 that we planned this service. Somewhere between Quantico and Richmond. Chris kept asking if I wanted him to drive since I was sobbing. But, I would regain composure and then sob again. I explained to him that it wasn’t customary for the wife to speak. He shrugged and said, “You don’t have to if you don’t think you can.” As if it was a dare. I’m hoping not to create a reprisal of our drive to Savannah by melting into a slobbering mess like I did in the car. But, I give you no guarantees.
Today is about Chris, and I’m going to talk about Chris – but first, to Chris’s parents and his brothers. Tragedy often tears families apart. But, our family only grew stronger. You lost a son and a brother – but you still have and always will have a daughter and a sister.
To everyone here today – you have walked this journey with us. Followed our writings, cried and laughed with us for four years. Chris’s battle may have ended, but others continue to wage on. 58,000 people will be diagnosed with kidney cancer this year. The list is too long. Our work is not done. For as long as I’m able, I will fight this disease. I hope you’ll help me continue what Chris started.
The day Chris died, I was inundated with messages. So many of you wrote to tell me what he meant to you. “He inspired me, helped me look at things in a brand new way,” The word mentor was used frequently. Rich Cooper went so far as to say, I’m here because of Chris Battle – in telling the story about how Chris encouraged him to start blogging. Chris had a great gift for seeing potential in others.
When Chris was first diagnosed with cancer, some might remember that I wasn’t quite the advocate that I grew to be. In fact, I was a basketcase. The day that we got the pathology report back, I was in my office…on the floor, sobbing when Chris called. He offered to come and get me, but I reminded him that he was three days out of surgery and couldn’t drive. When I got home, he met me at the door with a glass of red wine and a bottle of Xanax. Then he sat me down and said, “Dena, even if I don’t get through this – you will. You’re strong.” I felt so far from strong that day – but Chris saw strength in me that I didn’t even know I had. My goal in life is to be the person that he believed me to be.
Aside from being remembered as a loving husband and father, Chris would want to be remembered as a writer. Not a great writer, or a talented writer – just a writer. It’s what he did.
But, he was a great writer. It’s so cliché to say it – but he made us laugh and cry . Often in the same sentence. How many times did we find ourselves saying, “I can’t believe I just laughed so hard at cancer.”
It wasn’t just his essays. People sent me e-mails that he wrote to them that had been saved in in-boxes for over a decade.
When Chris was diagnosed with cancer, there was never a question that he would write his story. He wrote it honestly and truthfully – adding in humor, but never glossing over the reality of the situation. And his words inspired other patients and caregivers spanning the globe.
We’re here today to share in our grief. But, this grief is earned. We earned it because we were the recipients of his gifts. His belief in us, his words that meant so much to us.
We grieve that we won’t have more. That we’ll never experience that effortless out-loud laugh that we got from one of the little missives that he fired off. Or view a garden in Savannah through his words.
Today, I hope you’ll find solace in knowing and remembering all that remains. Volumes of words. I’m grateful we have this Anthology of Chris that he shared so willingly with us. I hope you’ll help me to keep it alive for my girls and for others to read.
For that reason – just as we planned that day on I-95, I’ve asked a few folks to read some of Chris’s greatest works.
The Scientology Encounter (read at the memorial by Chris’ longtime friend and colleague David Olive)