|My Friend, Chris|
I took my time in college, attending several schools; starting out full-time and ending part-time (mostly because I couldn't afford to do so any other way). One of the advantages of taking my time was that I got to do and learn from lots of great theatre and lots of great directors and acting coaches. The other was that I got to meet and make friends with a whole lot of people, many of whom I still know and love to this day.
One of those people was my friend Chris, seen to your right in a rather blurry photo taken by our mutual friend Marly while on a trip we took to Salem, MA to do 'research' for a production of Arthur Miller's The Crucible. Chris lived close to campus and we had many parties at his house. We also went on lots of adventures together.
One of those adventures was a Spring Break road trip to Florida, which probably deserves a post of its own one day. Myself, Chris, our friend Rich and his future wife Dawn all headed down I-95 in car I rented (because I was only one old enough to do so). We took turns driving and I remember waking up around 3 AM somewhere in the Carolinas, as Chris was driving. I glanced at the speedometer - the needle was pressed as far right as it would go. I simply shrugged and went back to sleep, knowing that someone who had once been pulled over for speeding on the Autobahn was at the helm and we would be fine. There's a ton more to tell about that trip, but again - that's for another post.
As much as Chris had a reputation among our clique for being for being a madman, he was sweet and kind and gentle and often very, very funny. A talented carpenter (his father was a cabinet maker) and an often reluctant actor, Chris was known to have a bit of a temper and once infamously and very completely destroyed a beautiful art deco set he'd built for a production of Dinner at Eight after a dispute with the director (the show had closed). We all knew who'd done the deed, though none of us told, even though the incident made the local papers.
Many years passed and while some of us were still in touch, it wasn't until the advent of Facebook that we all reunited (as much as folks can on Facebook). It was last fall when Chris joined Facebook and we were all glad he had done so.
Then news came in January that Chris had gone missing. Suffering from bi-polar disease, Chris was visiting his sister who noticed he wasn't himself and set out to take him to a local hospital for treatment. She went to get her coat and upon her return found him gone. Scent dogs traced him to a footbridge on the Delaware-Raritan Canal. While Chris was an avid outdoorsman and knew how to survive in harsh conditions, the situation didn't look good. Although we were scattered all over the country, our mutual friends expressed concern and worry. This past Sunday, a family canoeing the canal stumbled across a body which was identified by a driver's license as Chris. Local police are speculating that he committed suicide, though there is no hard evidence to support that theory.
It doesn't matter to me how or why Chris passed, only that he did. And that my life is all the better for having spent time with him. And I can only hope that his was better for having spent time with me and our mutual friends. While I and our friends mourn his loss, we can all celebrate the many wonderful; hilarious; joyous; confounding and exciting times we shared together. I only hope he is finally at peace.
Tonight, at 10 PM Eastern, our mutual friends raised a glass in Chris' memory and posted photos of ourselves doing so on a private Facebook page dedicated to him. I can imagine him smiling at the thought.
Here's the thing: None of knows how long we'll be here. Take the time to tell the ones you love that you love them. Do so often and sincerely. Savor the joyous moments of your life because they are truly few and far-between. Spend as much time pursuing the joyous moments as you can. Spend even more time pursuing time with friends and family. Be kind to everyone you meet - you never know who'll be part of your life for all of it, or just some of it. Laugh as often as you can. Love as much as you can. Share your joy, but never gloat about it. Slow down. Live the life you want to live and make no apologies to those who disagree with that life. Take time to remember everyone who touches your life, no matter how briefly.
This was one of Chris' favorite songs, and while it isn't exactly a 'happy' song, it's one all of his friends will always remember him by:
I truly hope that Chris' pain has receded, even while his family's and friends' is peaking.