I received an email today that had me on the verge of tears all day:
Since you were such an important part of Kristofer's high school career, I wanted to let you know that he passed away last night. We still haven't made any arrangements as of yet, however. If you don't mind, could you please inform the rest of the staff members at XXXX High, especially Dr. XXXXX & Mrs. XXXXX?
Thank you. Ironically, he was very happy in the last few days/weeks because we were going on another vacation to Disney in two weeks. He was gonna surprise you by sending you an email from Epcot. He loved & enjoyed you so much. Right now I am looking at arrangements for Thursday @ 11am. However, I still have to discuss things with my pastor. I would love it if you & Dr. XXXXX & Mrs. XXXXX would be able to attend and say a few words (maybe about 5 mins). Just let me know, please. I would also like for Mrs. XXXXX and/or her son, David, to speak as well. If you could please relay this message to those persons mentioned.
Here is what I wrote for his funeral:
When we come upon a marker in a memorial park, the three things we are likely to see etched in stone are the name of the person who went passed, the day they were born and they day they left their earthly home behind. The most important details, the things that mattered most, are but a dash between these dates. It’s funny to me that we set about to engrave the two things that we have no control over onto a piece of stone. We all know that only God knows when our time has come and when he decides to call us home. It is that part of life that comes between these two dates that defines us and is our legacy for those we leave behind.
I tried real hard to think of a word, a single word, to describe Kris. The first word that came to mind was courage. Kris indeed had courage. He needed courage to meet the challenges that he faced on a daily basis. Kris had the kind of courage that allowed him to try even when others were certain he would fail. He had the courage to be who he was and who he was was a remarkable young man.
Then I began to wonder, does courage fully define who Kris was? Certainly he was Inspirational. Thomas Caryle once said that “Men do less than they ought, unless they do all they can.” I could always count on Kris to exceed expectations. Some people are satisfied with the status quo but that just wasn’t Kris. He met every challenge, every assignment with a willingness to do his very best.
The Energy, invincible determination, self reliance, and honesty that Kris possessed makes me wonder if the word I should use to describe him should be leadership. You see, I often tease my students that having been born in DC I would eventually be the President of the United States. I’m certain many students began shopping for another country just in case this actually happened. Kris told me that I needed someone to counterbalance my shall we say enthusiasm and he agreed to be my Vice President if I ever held the Office of President. Secretly I believed then and believe now that Kris held so many of the characteristics we want a great leader to embody.
Sure these words defined Kris but they didn’t begin to touch on some of the things those who knew him loved so much. Kris had a playful sense of humor and being one who always loved a good joke I would be remiss if I didn’t address this. Many of my students love my stupid news stories. I glean the papers looking for unbelievable stories which I use not just as an attention grabber but as also a way to sneak in language lessons but to get kids talking about subjects that affect them every day. Kris would often send me copies of articles he thought I would appreciate even after he graduated and they always brought a smile to my face.
For a few years I was keeping a gratitude journal. In it I would make a point to write something, no matter how small, that I was grateful for. It might have been a beautiful sunrise, a call from my son, or the word that a student I taught had received a scholarship. It was important to open to the many opportunities that life holds for us to be grateful. Recently I’ve been going through some difficult times and I had put this practice on hold. My husband chided me because he said I seemed much happier when I was keeping the journal. I put it off for awhile until I received an email from Kris’ Mom. In her email she talked about how Kris was getting ready to go to Disney and he was going to surprise me by sending me an email from Epcot. She told me that I had always meant a great deal to Kris. It is that message that helps me as I am dealing with the pain of having lost such a wonderful young man.
It is one of those many times in life when the student becomes the teacher. Kris taught me so much. He taught me about faith, hope, success, life, and love. For love is really what is important. It is what Kris has etched on each of the hearts and lives of those gathered here today. Love should play a big part in our daily living as we are writing the story to be left behind in the dash between the dates. Never let the opportunity go by to tell someone you love them. Don’t excuse yourself from doing this because you feel that person should “know that you love them.” Kris reminded me that a life lived in love is patient and kind.
So while I searched for just the right word to describe Kris I realize that no one word can ever truly define a young man as wonderful as Kris and I am grateful, truly grateful for having had the pleasure of knowing him.