It’s a cliche but it’s true: life is fragile. And it’s precious.
My family lost an amazing human being last month. It was sudden, it was shocking, and it’s left me to sit in a mixture of numbness, disbelief, and unimaginable loss.
Writing this is difficult and I feel like it’s a very small step in what it might mean for me to begin to heal.
(Please forgive me if I inadvertently repeat what some other have so eloquently conveyed)
My uncle Chris was an amazing person.
The first thing I’ll mention is that he was an amazing photographer. Amazing as in, top 1% of the top 1%.
He had that rare combination of raw talent, technical expertise, artistic sensibility, and literally countless hours of refining his craft.
As my wife Jami mentioned to our family, he was there for every big moment in our life together—he shot our wedding, our kids birthday parties, Christmases, and so many thing in between. He loved our girls—loved taking their pictures, which often included chasing them around the Orpy Land Hotel or crawling on the floor in a toy store to capture the perfect image—and they loved him right back. In fact, all of the photos of me on this website are his.
But what’s even bigger than his immense talent was that everyone I know who met him had an experience with him that they won’t ever forget.
When Chris took your photos, you not only walked away with an incredible product, you walked away having experienced him. He poured himself into you the same way he poured himself into your photos.
He would grab you by the face and kiss it “old-country” style.
He listened with such intensity that his glare could almost be unnerving.
He was ferociously loyal. When someone wronged you, there was never a question as to whether or not he had your back.
He did nothing half-assed. Whether it was running a successful photography business, making homemade dog treats for Harley from scratch, or organizing his garage, he put all of his effort and attention into it. (Seriously, you should SEE his garage!)
His relationships were the same way. Being known by Chris was being loved by him.
For special occasions and such, he made these honey-bbq wings that were the best I’ve ever had, and I made sure he knew it. I’ve wracked my brain and I think the last time that I actually saw Chris was a couple weeks after my back surgery when he called me out of the blue to see if he could deliver some wings. I was over at my parent’s house, so he met me there with a tray of wings that could have fed 10-15 people.
He never settled for “good,” and I mean that in the best possible way. If he could make something better—no matter what it was—he would. This included himself. Just a couple days after he passed, his daughter remarked that at age 65, he had become the best possible version of himself.
This was definitely true. I knew Chris for roughly fifteen years and the change was drastic. In his final years, he became his most selfless, his most passionate, his most loving self. He didn’t quit because of age, ingrained ideas, or whatever. He never dug in so hard that he wouldn’t allow himself to morph into something more beautiful.
And that’s a beautiful thing.
There is so much about Chris that I aspire to emulate, and I suppose that is the legacy he leaves behind for so many people whose lives he touched.
But right now, there’s just a heaviness. His absence is palpable—more like a punch in the gut. I could go on writing, and someday I’m sure I will, but for all that I would like to express, there still seems a hollowness to it that I can’t quite seem to quantify, almost like anything else I would say would just be a platitude in comparison to what’s in my heart.
If you didn’t know Chris, I wish you would have, because if you did know Chris, you are a better person for it.