Long before I met my wife and we had our own children, my brother and Jennifer had these two cool little guys named Nick and Chris. I remember the day each of them were born, and watched as they grew up over the past 20+ years. As they got older and their respective personalities came out, I found that Chris was like me – very smiley, energetic, compassionate, and a bit of a smart alec at ti… MOST of the time.
I also remember the day, a little over three years ago when my brother told us that Chris had cancer. He had some pain in his hip that was a cancerous tumor, and they started chemo right away. For the next few years, we watched Chris fight cancer valiantly, and for a long time when people would ask me how Chris was doing, I would tell them “if you didn’t already know, you wouldn’t know he had cancer from spending time with him”. Through his illness, he maintained his positive outlook and sense of humor, and he found and later married the woman of his dreams – Sarah.
Chris’ earthly battle with cancer ended on Sunday, June 26th. That was a hard day, and I know there are many hard days ahead. But we rejoice in the fact that he’s no longer in ANY pain, and that we know where he is. He accepted the Lord and was baptized in the summer of 2015, so now he’s reunited with his grandparents, his aunt Cynthia, and so many others.
I have so many wonderful memories with Chris, from the times when he was little, and up to the last few years. When the boys were young, I remember the fun times we had camping, going to Great Wolf Lodge, countless trips to the park, hockey games, to Arizona to visit our Aunt and Uncle out there, and so many other day and weekend excursions – just the four of us (Jay, the boys, and I). I remember teaching the boys to swim and ride their bikes, and taking them roller skating a few times. I also remember how excited I was to introduce them to Gaby, and she’s always enjoyed being their aunt.
As the boys got older and I saw those two guys turn into men, Chris had some lofty goals. We were there for their high school graduation, and when Chris told us he signed up for the Air Force, that seemed like a great fit. We saw him and some other young people in a ceremony at the Dayton Dragons game, and I know how excited Chris was to serve his country and take that next step in his life. But it just didn’t turn out that way – he was diagnosed with cancer several months later, and began another fight.
For months, Chris told us about this great girl he met named Sarah, and I remember when he texted me about bringing her over for dinner. We so enjoyed that first meeting, and getting to know about this smart, funny young lady that had stolen his heart that evening and in the months ahead. And we are so happy that they met each other and got to fall in love. Later, Chris asked Sarah to marry him, she said yes, and they were wed in early June. I wish they would have had more time together, and I know each of them do as well, but I also know how much they treasured every, single moment. Some people go their whole lives never finding love and a connection like that. I’m glad they found it in each other.
These last few weeks have been especially hard to watch as the cancer ravaged his body, and Chris was able to communicate with all of us less and less. Just a week before his passing, he had one last rally and was fully awake and alert, and making jokes with me. There were other moments of clarity since, but Father’s Day was the last time I saw him fully there. And the last time he joked around with me, personally, was a couple days later when I hugged him, and he called me fat. My nephew, my “little buddy”, always made me laugh.
Gaby and my girls love Chris so much. Gaby always enjoyed talking with Chris, and sometimes learned things about his life and heart that I didn’t know. My daughters light up every time they saw him, and Ellie always reminds me how Chris gave her this big, white stuffed dog she has. I am saddened that they won’t get to grow up more with their cool cousin Chris, and that Emilio only got to meet him a couple times in the last month. But we have stories… LOTS of stories to share with them about him. He was such a good man here on earth, and I know he’s even better, now, in heaven.
I’m glad that God created Chris, and that he was a part of our family. I got to know and love that guy for 21 years, and I’ll always cherish that time. Now, our focus turns to supporting his wife, his parents, his brothers, and all the other lives that he touched. To know Chris was to love Chris – he never met a stranger. Such an outgoing, giving, joyful spirit. I’m a better man for having known Chris, and I know that sentiment is wide-spread among all the family and friends that have been a part of his life here on earth, no matter how brief it was. Chris is very special, and we’ll miss him terribly. But one day, thanks to our faith in the Lord, I KNOW we’ll see him again. I can’t wait to give him another hug when I get up there.
Rest in peace my dear nephew – we love you!