Dear Chris,

 
I’ve been sitting here staring at a blank screen for the last 2 hours. It’s so hard to express in a few paragraphs all that has been seen and felt in the last 2 days.

To try and sum up the truly celebratory service we had on Friday, with one of the most moving moments I’ve ever experienced in life on Saturday is simply impossible.

So, here’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna write 2 letters. One to Chris to tell him about Friday. And one to God to thank Him for the sacred and holy moment He gave us on Saturday.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Dear Chris,

The first thing you need to know is WE MISS YOU!! Yes, we cried. I know you wouldn’t want us to, but you can’t always have your way. But you would’ve been so proud…we laughed too! A. LOT!

Of course your life verse set the tone for the whole Celebration. I think we all know it by heart now. John 10:10…. ”The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” I think after Friday, we’re all gonna try even harder to live life more fully. This will honor you best. Thank you for being such a wonderful example to us. So many of our YoungLife kids said at your party “after today, we’re hitting the re-set button to be more present in the moment. To be more active. To be better husbands. Better dads. Better Friends.” You’re still teaching them, Chris.

Chris, Kellie, Caroline, Kip, Hope

Chris, Kellie, Caroline, Kip, Hope

I want you to know your hot brunette was as hot as she always is! She was the picture of strength and grace. She was having a rough morning, but Alex gave her a wonderful gift. He dug up old footage of you from club years ago. I was standing there when she hugged him and said, “thank you for giving me my husband back.” Seeing your silly face on screen comforted her. And even rejuvenated her a bit, as she begins these first steps of this new journey without you. I’m praying specifically that God is merciful to her memory and that slowly the healthy you replaces the images of these last few weeks and months. If God has an expedited folder, would you slip this prayer in there for us? She misses you as her life partner. “Chris & Kellie” rolls off all of our tongues so naturally. I’m not really ready to not say y’alls names together yet. You were each other’s yin and yang. Salt and pepper. Beach and sand. Y’all have done life together for SO long. She loved being your wife. We sat up a long time the other night emphasizing the fact there will never be another you.

Hope and Caroline were strong too. You’ve would’ve been so proud of them! And Kip. Wow. I know you know this already, but Hope chose so well. Everyone was so impressed with Kip. You would’ve been delighted at the way he held up all of your girls. He acknowledged that you would’ve been the one being so strong for all of them. He knows this is now his role, and he willingly accepts it. He also had us laughing! I don’t remember his exact words, but they were something to the affect of how lucky he was to be married to one of YOUR daughters. It’s undeniable. They are beautiful, Chris. Inside and out. I know he will closely and lovingly watch over Caroline and make sure she chooses well also. I’ll never forget us sitting on your bed and you telling us, “It’s not y’all that I’m worried about; y’all will be fine. It’s my girls that I’m concerned for.” With Kip leading the way, we will all surround them and care for them. We promise.

Cynthia honored both you and Jimmy. She is comforted knowing you and Jimmy are now together. But that doesn’t make it hurt any less. She talked about what a great caretaker you were to Jimmy. Both when you were little and through his sickness as well. It’s too much for a sister to have to lose 2 brothers in 10 months. Our hearts are breaking for her, too, and we are holding her closely. Don’t be jealous, but I think Scott and Pete are wanting to both be her brothers now. ☺ Of course, they won’t fill yours and Jimmy’s shoes. She has a Chris and Jimmy sized hole in her heart that only you and Jimmy can fill. But know that we’re gonna keep on loving her. You and Kellie were both blessed with the best brothers and sisters ever.

Jim, Chris, Jimmy, Cynthia

Jim, Chris, Jimmy, Cynthia

Scott told some great, great stories! They were so you! But I think he honored you best when he said this: “Chris lived an Easter Sunday life in a Good Friday world.” None of us were surprised you went home on Easter. We all agree that Easter will be all the more special now. And I can tell you for sure, I’ve never been more grateful that death has been defeated. I didn’t get a chance to tell you this, but Abbey’s best friend Tiffani was baptized on Easter Sunday. Kellie told me right before services that you’d slipped into paradise. So as we stood at the alter with Tiffani on Sunday morning, the thought that ran through my mind was this: “I’m here with one teenage friend who is professing her faith, while my dear friend Chris is perfecting his faith.” I know how much you love teenagers. And how much you wanted them to understand and know the gospel, so this moment was especially meaningful to me on Easter.

Scott & Chris

Scott & Chris

And speaking of teenagers. You would have LOVED this! At your Celebration, Rob brought us words of comfort YoungLife style! He lost it when he first tried to speak. This has been really hard on him. He’s preached a lot of funerals (I hate that word), but I’m surmising this one has been the most difficult. He did pull it together because he said he could hear you say, “Brother Rob, give ‘em a word.” And not only did he give us a word, he gave us a song and dance too! Yep, you guessed it! He resurrected Danny and Joey! He put the picture of y’all on the screen and even donned the same black, curly wig he wore at the Arbor Green Clubhouse all those years ago! We were rolling! He said he hopes when his time comes, you are standing right behind Jesus ready to greet him to C’mon Ride the Train! Yes, we played a portion of that song at the church, and no, we didn’t get kicked out! I’m sure they’re praying for us, though!

Danny & Joey aka Rob & Chris

Danny & Joey
aka Rob & Chris

We ended your Celebration with Our God and 10,000 Reasons. I remembered your eyes lighting up when we talked about having worship songs at your party. I picked these songs in particular because I can still see your hands worshipfully in the air singing Our God to our Heavenly Father. Both pre and post diagnosis.

10,000 Reasons was a pivotal song for me. I’ve heard it 10,000 times (pun intended), but I heard it for the FIRST time on yours and Kellie’s 29th wedding anniversary. I was at Chris Tomlin’s concert, fresh back from Roswell after Pete and I had flown up to say good-bye to you. I was still struggling with anger and here’s the part of the song that broke me:

And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Soon my soul will sing your praise un-ending
10,000 years and then forever more

When I saw these words flash on the screen, I felt the anger leave me, and for the first time in months, I allowed God to comfort me, instead of pushing Him away. 10,000 years is a long time, and when we all get there, we’ll know this life as a vapor, as you now do. One other note on 10,000 Reasons…God being God, continues to take even our selfish decisions and use those too. Kip and Hope both told me after the service how special 10,000 Reasons has been to them. I was thrilled! I’ll let them tell you about the Lazarus thread between their Easter Sunday message and Rob’s message at your Celebration. But for now, let’s just say, I think the message has definitely been punctuated for them. I do love how personal God is with all of us. He takes such care with every detail and knits it all together. Even right down to messages and songs.

one of our last fun days with you! i love this one especially because of the hairnets! and of course, your JOY FM t-shirt.

one of our last fun days with you! i love this one especially because of the hairnets! and of course, your JOY FM t-shirt.

We did have burgers at sunset back at the beach. And yes, everyone had on shorts and flip flops. Well, some of us had on sundresses. Again, you can’t always get everything you want! But we did dress up in our “Friday best”. The Meat Monkeys went ALL OUT! Bill, Ben, Greg, Craig, Brian, Pete and all of your buds were there flipping burgers, baking beans, and doing it up right. They outshine any caterer. But you already know that. They were absolutely honored they got to serve you in this way.

So many folks came to honor you. Your Oakley guys were there! Jim even brought the shorts that he ripped because YOU made him jump off a cliff! Your high school friends, Tampa friends, Bradenton friends, and tons of YoungLife kids from both communities all came to celebrate you. You even made some new friends. The few there that hadn’t had a chance to meet you, were wishing they had!

We’ll probably always have the “WHY” question in the back of our minds. WHY it had to be you, especially when you championed health. But we’re trying to transition from the WHY to the WHO and WHERE. The same WHO that came to give us life, and give it to the full is the same WHO that will comfort Kellie, the girls, Cynthia, Kip and the rest of us who love you so much. Jesus is the WHO that was with you as you closed your eyes here and opened them there. And we know WHERE there is….we know without a shadow of a doubt WHERE you are. And we want to be WHERE you are one day too.

You leaving us at 48 years old has taught us to number our days and to live them fully. “To live like we’re on borrowed time,” as your favorite song goes. And because you were a blogger, and because Scott so eloquently pointed out that you were a fisher of men (btw, he said you weren’t that great of a fisherman, but don’t tell him I told you), I am posting this letter to you. Why? Because I know your greatest desire was for people to know the Giver of Life. You wanted people to know about Jesus. Yes, you’d hate all of this hullabaloo of us celebrating you. You’d be shushing all of us. You’d be pointing heavenward. But you preached your own service on Friday, Christopher John, because of the life you lived. My hope is that if someone stumbles across this letter, they’ll learn from you just as we have.

I’ll never forget our last words as you hugged me. “I love you sister. Take care of my hot brunette.” I promised you that I would and I will.

Tomorrow, I will write a letter to God to thank Him for the sacred and holy moment He gave us on Saturday. We all laughed on the boat on Saturday when Scott had to dive in the water for the anchor. We could hear you telling God, “yep, those are my peeps.”

One last request…as our diplomat, when you see us coming, will you please ride your bike to the gate and just make sure there are no “issues”? Thanks!

Love,
carmen
Your sister in Christ.
and Lucy to your Ethel.

PS…I’m posting the video of you, Chris, because I want everyone to know you the way we did. And also because Alex did a phenomenal job of capturing all sides of you! I know you’d want me to brag on him too!

Celebrating Chris from The Morning Cruise on Vimeo.

3 Responses to “Dear Chris,”

  1. Connie Hunt April 15, 2013 at 3:17 am #

    Carmen – I can hardly see as I type this –

    I know how difficult this must have been for you to write. But, you did both God and Chris proud in this letter. What a tremendous witness for Chris’s life as well as for the power of God.

    I clearly remember that moment in the Chris Tomlin concert (I believe I private messaged you on FB) as that’s when I lost it FOR you as i thought about you and Pete saying goodbye to your best friend. I’m so glad that it was a cathartic moment for you and not just a devasting one.

    i know you have a lot of tough times ahead of you as you move through this time of greif and rejoicing. But, I also know you know the One who will walk, run, bike and cry through this process with you. And, I know you have “millions” (Yes, I tend to exaggerate a bit) of people who will be there for you,too. But,if there is ever anything I can do for you, you know how and where to find me.

    Love you bunches!

    Conne (Your “eternal pledger” – I can hear you laugh/snort now – but I’m better [working my “Hello, my name is Connie and I’m a “pledge-aholic” plan!])

  2. Barbara Mullins April 15, 2013 at 3:52 pm #

    Carmen, I’m a friend of the crazy woman who wrote the first reply – my JoyFM loving friend, Connie. What a beautiful and eloquent tribute to your friend, Chris. There is one phrase that stood out to me like a beacon – that Chris lived an “Easter Sunday life in a Good Friday world”. How wonderful and what a blessing to know someone about whom that can be said. That is the most wonderful description I have ever heard of the life I want to live also. As with most of us humans, I feel like I fall short of that most of the time. But God keeps saying, “Get up and keep trying!”

    Thank God for wonderful examples of God’s love and faithfulness like Chris and his family. And thank God for the JoyFM. You all help us keep on going and working toward the perfection that Chris has now achieved.

    Blessings,
    Barbara

  3. Karen Davidian April 25, 2013 at 11:27 pm #

    Dear Carmen,
    Thank you so much for sharing Chris with the world. I didn’t know him but now he has touched my life. It is so wonderful for me to see a man living out his faith – I’ve not really had that in my life. Chris shows us that it takes a real man to live in Christ – ooooh new bumper sticker – REAL Men Live in Christ!

    My prayers are with Kellie, his family and friends. What a gift Cris was to the world.

    Karen – a faith-filled listener

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