His name was Kris

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When people asked who he was, I said his name was Kris. I hate saying that phrase. Names have a way of turning people into nouns. Although the function of a name is to help us create pictures of people in our minds, it is devoid of the characteristics that actually define that person. A name is just an empty label.

Kris is more than just a name. He’s that kid who hid his Sublime tattoo from his parents and would crack your back with his powerful bear hugs. Kris was there when a group of my friends dressed up as jedis to the Harry Potter premiere and pissed off all the fans. We drank, blew things up and laughed with him, but on a sunny day in spring we lost a friend to suicide.

With most suicides there are some common warning signs: talking about suicide, withdrawing from others and saying good-bye. Although Kris displayed none of these, the latter hurts the most. A friend and I visited him at the deli where he worked two days before he died. After the usual “what’s up?” and “let’s chill soon,” we tried to convince him to kick us down a free sandwich as he had done in previous visits. Kris replied, “Nah man, my boss is here, I’ll get you guys a free one next time.”

What hurts the most about Kris dying is knowing that help was just a call away. The pain that he was feeling clouded his vision so much that he failed to see the help that any of his friends would have given in a heartbeat. He didn’t see that the positive aspects of life outweigh anything that might have gotten him so upset. To live we have to die, to grow we must get old and to laugh we have to cry, but happiness can always be found. These are terms and conditions we accept when we punch in the clock at birth.

There are two big lessons people learn when a loved one dies. Lesson number one is that life is a temporary occupation. The second lesson is the most important: don’t forget to say “I love you” to people you admire. When Kris died I learned that I should always let the people in my life know that I am grateful for them. In retrospect, I realize that he was always the first one to tell his friends he loved them. I now know that by spreading the love, it tends to never be forgotten. It is only through love that lives are saved.

Thanks to Kris I understand that life is a heartbeat away from death. Every time I skydive or get close to nature I am honoring Kris and my own mortality. Balancing life and death is part of the cosmic dance that everything is part of. When I look at a tree I think of Kris and life’s equilibrium. The green leaves on the branch replace the dead ones on the ground in the same way that Kris has breathed a new life into me.

I don’t know what the afterlife is like. Perhaps God gives us a backstage pass to show us how he runs the show. Maybe our molecules break down and become a part of everything. Whatever it is, I hope that it involves an overdue sandwich with the people who I love. I can only hope that my life means as much to someone as Kris’ does to me. Kris was a good man and unbeknownst to him, my greatest life mentor. The memories that emerge in my mind when I think of him is what defines him. For now, I send those memories one of Kris’ signature bear hugs. His name was Kris.

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