Happy Birthday, Kris

Your exceedingly gracious and beautiful Mamma reminded us that it’s your 45th birthday today.  This time 26 years ago I know exactly where we were and what we were doing – engaging in blindfolded scavenger hunt birthday shenanigans fit for our beloved roomie and queen of all things adventure and fun.

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Just before getting kicked out of the library.

Wow, how that reminder punched me in the gut. There are so many others acutely aching for you, not only on the anniversaries but every minute of every day for the last almost 7 years since you were wrenched from this life so abruptly. To try and quantify my sense of loss compared to that of your parents, your children, your husband…to go anywhere near that ineffable grief with my words almost smacks of blasphemy. But it strikes me even harder, after some honest reflection and recognizing just how significant and sacred an influence your life is to mine, that to not express it would be the sacrilege.

I’ve been wracking my brain trying to remember the last time we ever saw each other. I think it might have been your wedding not long before Jimmy and I nearly self-destructed and fled San Diego and you and Steve moved to Texas. The day we met, however, is crystal clear in my memory.

I was nervous upon arrival to campus, not knowing a soul and hoping to God my roommate situation would be tolerable. With 4 to a room I figured surely the math would add up to at least some relationship drama/trauma. As I tentatively stepped into the room for the first time, an impossibly cute little blond was waiting there to greet me. Your corner of the room was already set up in distinctive Kris style. I felt comfortable enough to choose the bunk underneath yours rather than one of the vacant beds across the room. After my parents finished their delivery and said their goodbyes, there we were…just you and me, waiting on the other 2 strangers and soon-to-be sisters to arrive.

I don’t think you gave the awkwardness more than 30 seconds to fester before asking if I wanted to get out of there and go for a drive. We spent an hour or so driving around Pt. Loma in the VW Rabbit convertible with the top down swapping basic info about our lives. We both had boyfriends. I got to hear the first of many never-boring tales of your life in small town Colorado. You told me how your parents had moved out with you to work at the college and lived nearby. You already knew the lay of the land and had scoped out potential adventures. Within the first hour of meeting, you demonstrated your distinctive ability to simultaneously put people at ease while encouraging them to get out there, take life by the balls and live it…and you did it with me, probably one of the toughest social nuts to crack. This chick was cool and fun and loved to take others along for the ride.

Heather and Jessica would arrive later that day and the magic that was our relationship as freshman roomies of Goodwin Hall P1 began.

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I blame the Aquanet fumes…

We were each so very, very different from one another in personality but the most compatible foursome imaginable. We didn’t fight but we also didn’t walk on egg shells with each other. Each one gave the others complete freedom to be who they were without judgment. Our room was a comfy, albeit perpetually messy (thank God all 4 of us were then) haven of peace and belonging and fun.

I miss that dynamic SO much. I’ve never experienced anything like it since. I’ve tried, but I’ve never been able to develop friendships anywhere near that free and loving in adulthood. Maybe if I’d had a Kris…

I’ve always been horribly insecure when it comes to orchestrating fun and instinctively relied on other people for it. Kris, you were the master. Fancy schmancy dinner dates with the boyfriends. Generously offering to loan me cute clothes and formal wear. “Forbidden” activities on and off campus (which was pretty much breathing back then at a conservative Christian college). I didn’t join you for all of it, but you never EVER made me feel lame for taking a pass and I was more than happy to cover for you crazy gals a few times and you were more than happy to return the favor when it was my turn for a little unsanctioned fun.

As a unit, we’d already grown quite close by November when Sean died. When my parents came to break the news to me and take me home early before Thanksgiving break I wouldn’t leave until I’d seen you and Jess and Heather. I have a vivid memory of the three of you standing outside Goodwin holding each other as we drove off. I desperately didn’t want to be apart from you.

When I returned, oh how you girls saved my life. Kris, you in particular encouraged me to live.  It seems so strange to say it, but that year was the most fun of my life, bar none, even punctuated by such devastation and tragedy. You cried with me, you laughed with me, you let me do what I needed to do. We shared and lived our stories with each other in all honestly and without shame and you truly wanted the nitty-gritty both ways. I loved that the most, I think.

Then in the spring of our freshman year, you were the main instigator in getting this reluctant dork together with The Grizzly, truly the mark of a master of fun and mischief. The twists of fate got even wilder as Jimmy’s best mate eventually became yours.

Not even a year later we were in VEGAS BABY! I might have been the one getting married on my 20th birthday (wearing your dress), but I’m quite sure you had the most fun of any of us.

The bulk of our relationship was compacted into only two years…two glorious and magical years. After I was married-married, adult life started to creep in and we didn’t see each other very much, though we still managed a highly memorable shenanigan or two.  Then it wasn’t long before we all moved far away and started families. I never saw you again. We kept in touch old school with Christmas cards and birth announcements and such. We discovered your family were old friends of our pastor’s family and kept tabs that way too.

Then Facebook hit the scene and just as the whole gang was coming together to reconnect and reminisce…suddenly you were gone – eighteen years to the day of our Vegas trip, my birthday.

My God, my God…the significance of that to me. What a horrendous and beautiful treasure to have all of that tied to one date and how much more that snapshot of those 6 silly child-people means to us all.

Your memorial service was just as much a college reunion. What love you engaged and facilitated in your lifetime. It was so wonderful to see all the faces and hug all the necks and I swear I had to force myself away from thinking you were just on the way to the party and would be joining us any minute. That group without you, the master of fun and living life to the fullest…my brain and heart just couldn’t make it real.

How could any of us ever have seen ahead to this? Who could have predicted our relationship with Steve now? The man who once asked to know God better than any other human has been instrumental in me being able to know God as fully as any human can through integrity in my humanity.

Who could have predicted Jimmy would be Steve’s groomsman twice? Oh Kris, your beautiful mother is the bravest and most gracious human I’ve ever met, and I suspect the original master of fun and mischief herself. She adores you so…it was always plain to see. It was one of the most profound honors of my life to sit next to her at Steve and Lindsey’s wedding. Words fail me to describe your parents’ strength and grace that day, but I know you were right there. I was talking to you the whole time and you were talking to me, telling me to love your Mamma for you. You adore her so. It was always plain to see.

Did any of us have an inkling that from 4 girls would come 12 new lives or that a P1 reunion would forever be incomplete?

 

None of us can look ahead…none of us could stand to…but we can look back with perspective to see the sacred woven throughout that we could not recognize as we lived it. With enough reflection maybe, just maybe, we can develop eyes to see it in each other in real time going forward.

Happy birthday, Kris. You being born and that any of us got to share space and time with you is certainly worth celebrating as well as feeling the ache as deep as it goes…and you made one hell of an impact crater, Girl.

Thank you for doing you so well and sharing yourself freely with us. We miss you terribly. Please give Sean a hug from me if that’s a thing as you are. We’ll be there soon enough for a group hug.  Until then, I’m going to remember you, grab life by the balls, and live (and have some fun while I’m at it!)

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