Chris was a Champion. His legacy will be defined
by most, and rightfully so, for his achievements in life; an all world goalie /
a dedicated husband / a selfless father / a protective son / a loyal brother /
a cancer survivor / a trailblazer for Canadian lacrosse / a coach / a teammate
/ and a great friend. What inspires me the most about Chris, however, his
legacy to me, is the way he came to achieve all these things. He taught
me that a full life is achieved through toughness & courage
/ humor / purpose / and love.
Toughness and Courage:
Although he was blessed in many ways; athletic ability, wit,
good looks, grounded morals, a loving and supportive network of family and
friends, Chris faced many different forms of adversity throughout his
life. I wish it wasn't the case, but I feel blessed to have seen
monumental displays of toughness and courage against his most recent
adversary. I watched him volunteer himself for trial after trial and
surgery after surgery and, I swear, I never once heard him complain. Ever.
I always wondered if his ability to mentally shut out the gravity of the
situation and just move forward was in some way related to an odd psychological
quirk that also allowed him to be a 3x all world goalie. His ability to
just be present in the battle, without being crippled by or even affected by
fear and anxiety, was truly remarkable and part of what makes his story is
I love to tell people a story from his initial surgery at Duke
in 2008. He had what’s called an awake craniotomy, which, in a nutshell,
means the doctors wake you up in the middle of the procedure and ask you to
recite objects on flash cards. As the surgeon himself tells it, they were
going through the cards and Chris was doing great until they got to a picture
of a duck, which, he mistakenly called a goose. Just a slight misstep,
but it was enough to merit caution and the surgeon began wrapping things
up. Chis, however, was not having this, and promptly told the doctor to, "keep
going." The dumbfounded surgeon replies "excuse me" and
again Chris says "take more, I'm fine… its a duck, i know its an effing
duck, I just called it a goose" And so, as the surgeon says, he went back
in. That is Toughness and that is Courage.
A master is defined as "a person eminently skilled in
something with the ability or power to use, control, or dispose of
it." Chris was a MASTER of the craft of humor. He was
brilliant. Brogann unknowingly described this to me yesterday saying, "He
was always the one I wanted to be around. He just saw the world in such a
unique way and found humor in things that nobody else saw. It made him so
fun to be around." Chris used his humor as a tool; to relieve
tension / to bring a team together / to teach / to coach / to find common
ground / and sometimes just to make a boring situation, more fun.
It ranged from borderline inappropriate to completely inappropriate but
the true genius was in the delivery. Little nuances, so subtle, so
affable, and so witty that he somehow was able to simultaneously make fun of a
person and get them to laugh at the same time.
Sam reminded me of a story when our family was at the airport
going on a vacation together for the first time after Stevie was born.
Stress levels were high, as they always are to a certain degree when our family
travels and this just compounded the stress of traveling with a new baby, the
gear, Brogann's schedule, etc… At one point Brogann darted ahead to deal
with seats for the flight or something and hesitantly gave Chris the duty of "quickly
changing Stevie's dirty diaper and meeting her down the terminal at the
gate". Sam and I made the easy choice of waiting for Chris outside
of the men’s room. A few minutes go bye… and a few more ... (at
this point, Sam and I, who previously had been calm observers of the airport
chaos, starting to get anxious, wondering if he might need some help but not
really having much to offer.) Finally, we spot Chris on his way out of the
bathroom with a freshly powdered Stevie in one hand and a tightly rolled dirty
diaper in the other. He looks across the walkway at us gave us a little
head nod and then flips the diaper into the air in the direction of two
unsuspecting young guys walking into the bathroom and said,
"catch," And just kept walking.
I think partly what made Chris so magnetic / what made his humor
so funny / made his leadership so undeniable / and his battle so relatable, was
the presence of humility, self deprecation and vulnerability. He had
these superhuman abilities, that everyone envied, paired with the most
basic and relatable human qualities and experiences. Although I
wouldn't say he "talked" about things that made him this way, he
didn't hide it from people either. His heart was on his sleeve and for
me, this side of Chris defines his legacy more than anything. These human
traits are what led him to Brogann and helped create a bond so intense between
them we as observers can only aspired to attain it someday. These are
things that that made him such an amazing father and they are the reasons why
our family and others embraced him so quickly and so completely.
I remember the first time Chris came to meet the extended family
in South Carolina. He had just gotten back from his first quail
hunt. I don't think he had ever shot a gun before, but it was the perfect
sport for him. (You need Quickness, precise hand eye coordination and the
ability to make real-time critical decisions. Of course, he was ab-surd-ly
good at it.) Anyway, my mother, as she does, was trying to help him feel
comfortable in his new environment and make sure that he was having a good
time, so she was running through the complete list of activities he could
participate in that day.. She said "so this morning you can quail
hunt again or turkey hunt. Then there is more quail shooting in the
afternoon, or we might have a dove shoot, and then some people go
deer hunting later in the evening. If you don't feel like doing any of
that, you can forget it all and just come fishing with me?"
Chris raised his eyebrows and smiled a little and said, "you can shoot the
Stevie and Clementine: YOU two gave your dad purpose.
Trust me when I tell you, he loves you both more than anything in this whole
world. You, after all, introduced him to the greatest and most
unconditional love of all. You both, however, are also his greatest gift
to us and his greatest legacy. All the things we all love so much about
your dad and everything that made him such an amazing father to you, all these
things live on through the two of you.
Stevie - You represent his silent strength / his
courage / is patience / his wit / his
shyness / his leadership / and his intense love of home
and family. You are the best big sister just as he was the best big
brother. We look at you and are reminded why your dad was able to achieve
all the amazing things he achieved in life.
Clementine - As grandma sue says, "you are Chris in a
dress." Just like your dad, you are full of joy. You represent
his charm / His warmth / His love of clothing / His toughness
/ And his silly, but undeniably endearing humor. Just like your
dad, you are down right infectious. We look at you and are reminded of
all the things that made him such a great guy to be around.
He was and will continue to be, so proud of you girls.
Brogann - The love you have given to Chris is the stuff of
legend. What was created from the relationship between you two, long
before his diagnosis or caring bridge, was much much greater than the sum
of two parts. It had depth, it was insular, it was nuanced, and it was a well
oiled machine (That ALWAYS ran on time) You were, as others have said, a force
to reckoned with. As you digest the magnitude of this loss in the weeks
and months ahead, remember the legacy that Chris has left to us: Toughness and
courage through adversity / laughing in times of discomfort / Purpose
and meaning through those beautiful girls and Loving as completely as you can.
These are the things that make up a full life and they will lead you through
the hard days ahead.
I will leave you with a story from the early morning the night
Chris passed. Lots of tears and full of exhaustion, the family's were
reminiscing and sharing stories about Chris. Someone said "I bet
he's up there playing in net for team heaven right now" and another
responded, "Yeah, they finally got a goalie!"
I am proud of you Chris. We are going to miss you.