I went to the post office this morning to pick up a package. The line was five deep, and I was not in a mood to wait. The guy at the head of the line was being very chatty. I shuffled from foot to foot, wishing he would hurry it along.
I don’t know what he was shipping, but it was something he must do regularly, as the clerk asked “When will you ship the next one?”
“December,” he replied.
“Oh, I won’t see you then. I’m leaving at the end of the month.”
He paused and seemed genuinely sad to hear she was leaving. He remarked how she was always jovial, and had a smile on her face. He wished her luck and said he’d miss her. Other customers chimed in. Clearly, this lady had taken what I assume is a pretty boring job, and through her joy, made an impact on people. She made a simple interaction a little bit nicer.
This morning before going to the post office, I had been thinking about Chris and the outpouring of love that has happened since his passing. I believe his real gift wasn’t his music or his humor or his larger than life personality. It was that he lived his life with joy.
Joy. What a strange word. Probably not one that most people would associate with my dirty, gruff metalhead of a brother. But to me, that is the thing that unites everything about him. He led such a full life. Some people knew him as an athlete. Some a comedian. Most, a musician and father. I loved him as a brother and friend. But no matter how you knew him, whatever he was doing, he was going to do it to the fullest, to get the most fun out of it, and if you were lucky, he would take you along for the ride.
I talked to my mom this morning, and she mentioned how he had made the most delicious Mexican food a few days before. When he cooked, he didn’t throw something together from a box. He would slow roast a pork loin on the BBQ for hours until it melted in your mouth. You would wait all day for that meal, knowing it was going to be something to be savored.
My boys loved hanging out with him because he was going to make a day of it. He would take them swimming or bowling or to the arcade or to hang out at the Black Sheep. Then we’d have lunch at the restaurant inside of an airplane. The food wasn’t anything spectacular, but he knew they love getting to play in the cockpit and eat inside a plane. We’d get back to the house and he’d wrestle them or play with their toys. Every hour he spent with them, they were having the most fun. Some people grow up and forget what it is like to be a child. He had a firm grasp on that reality. He was a giant kid at heart.
In his youth, Chris had stars in his eyes. He wanted his band to be huge, to tour the world. He did everything in his power to make that happen, but it didn’t come to pass.
I remember a few times over the years, assholes making remarks about when he was going to grow up and give up on the band thing. When was he going to get a “real” job and quit working sound at a club.
One of the things I love about him, is that he didn’t give a shit when people said those things. He played in bands because he loved making music. The last time I saw him, he pulled me into the garage to play his latest CD for me- a concert of two with him headbanging along to ever song, and every once in awhile enunciating lyrics or pointing out a particularly great part. “Listen to this part right here. That is sick!” Every single time he made a new album, he would tell me it was the best thing he had ever done. Every one was better than the last.
After seeing thousands of shows, you would imagine he would get sick of it, or at the very least get over the thrill. But he would get positively giddy when he would get to see a band he liked and hadn’t seen before. Old favorites who he had seen a dozen times could make him feel like it was his first concert. Just a few days ago, he was posting photos from behind the soundboard as Suicidal Tendencies was playing. As soon as I saw the pics, I knew he was living it in that moment.
Seeing that lady at the post office today, being so cheerful to every customer, I wondered what that must feel like, to be genuinely at ease with joy. I am not a natural conversationalist, so sometimes I hide behind a “leave me alone” attitude. We are who we are, and I’m not saying I will becoming some exuberant outgoing individual. But what if I allowed myself to be a little more joyful? Not forcing it, but by doing the things I love and allowing that joy to pass through me and touch others.
Maybe that is one of the lessons to take away from this. There has to be something. Because it can’t just be about pain. It would be the worst dishonor to have Chris’s life end with everyone feeling hurt instead of loved. He was the master at taking something painful and turning it into the funniest story you ever heard. When I think about him, I see him holding his stomach and laughing the biggest laugh.
I know as I drive home to Colorado, and see my family and my friends, the pain is going to return and multiply. But this moment, I am filled with love for him, and glad I got to know him. I hope he is some how able to feel all the love for him. He always enjoyed being the center of attention.