We were somewhere in the middle of the Kansas plains. Snow had fallen during the night, and dawn was breaking on an endless sea of white. We had been driving for hours. From Nashville to Denver to visit Mike’s brother and his family.
We were station surfing when we heard the announcement. In the mountains just outside San Diego, a private plane carrying members of Reba McEntire’s band had gone down. I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach. We stopped at the first pay phone we passed (you remember those?). Mike called home and there was already a message. Our friend Chris was gone.
Chris who shared my occasional cravings for fried bolgna sandwiches. Chris who played tennis every week with Mike. Chris who helped us muck out our basement when the water heater ruptured. Chris who was crazy mad about his beautiful bride, Trisha. Chris who seemed to see the whole world as a gift waiting to be unwrapped.
Chris who never said goodbye. It astonished me at first. We would be talking on the phone, and suddenly he would just not be there any more. Perhaps we had finished what we were talking about but…well, you know…that tell-tale sign that the conversation is over…yeah, he never used that. He would just be gone.
Ironic, I suppose.
We said goodbye to him on a bright, windy day. Cherry trees threw an exuberance of blossoms against an Appalachian sky. We could see for miles from his resting place high on a hill in Boone, NC. The service concluded with a song Chris had written. It was a fitting tribute to a man who had lived his short life well and had engraved himself eternally on our hearts. The chorus says this:
So let’s drink from a cool mountain river,
And make love ‘neath a blanket of snow.
If we make a lot of memories
as we’re growin’ old
We will take a lot of memories when we go.
We remember, dear friend. Always.