“Someone asked me once if I knew the difference between a civilian and a citizen. I know now. A citizen has the courage to make the safety of the human race their personal responsibility. Dizzy was my friend. She was a soldier. But most important, she was a citizen of the Federation.” –Johnny Rico Starship Troopers
On a cold, rainy Thursday morning in January my friend Kris passed away. He spent his last two months-ish in a hospice in East Bremerton. It was a nice place on the inside, but as you pulled into the lot you were confronted by a towering rock wall that exuded a foreboding vibe…it was like the final battle scene in Starship Troopers…an uphill battle against alien bugs…
I met Kris at my friend The Ricker’s house. He was The Ricker’s neighbor and had been invited to a guy’s group that had been meeting on Thursday nights at The Ricker’s place for some time. I was made aware of this former radio personality by my friend Chris (different Chris…different spelling) and, being a lifelong fan of radio, I felt compelled to not only meet him but strike up a conversation about a love we both shared. We became fast friends. Little did I know the price of this friendship. Had I known, I might not have committed. Thank God I didn’t know.
Together, Kris and I walked through some heavy shit…we learned a great deal about who we are before God in Christ. We learned that there is no need for false pretense in Christ. We learned that love means walking through anything that comes our way in the process of glorifying God. Then we were tested on that material…pop-quiz, hotshot–what do you do? I still don’t know the full scope of what God was trying to teach us all through Kris’ life. I’m convinced it was something important.
I learned a great many things from my friend Kris. He had the Zen attitude that comes from defying death’s icy-cold grip enough times to make a cat ask: “What the fuck?!”. One evening we were all sitting on The Ricker’s back patio. It was Summer. Kris had just bought the fillet of a white fish that had been crab-stuffed by the skilled hands of some Trader Joe’s lackey. When he told the story of his acquisition, preparation, and subsequent consumption of this dish, his face told the story of a blissful nirvana accessible to anyone with an oven and a working knowledge of rooting out Trader Joe’s locations. I knew instantly that I needed the recipe for this fish dish. He gave me all of the steps he followed. I made note of them all. Then began my journey toward the realization of this entree of which dreams were made, if one were to stuff one’s dreams with crab…which I do. I told Kristy, my wife, all about it and she gathered the requisite ingredients. The stars aligned and we came to the evening when we could enjoy this fish. I sat down and, remembering the look on Kris’ face, I gleefully took my first bite. Were evolution not so lazy my taste buds would have grown arms with shovels attached to them to clear my tongue of the hideous flavor that accompanied this fillet. The trip to nirvana that seemed too good to be true, was. During the ensuing three days, while I tried anything and everything that wouldn’t cause permanent nerve damage to rid my mouth of that repulsive flavor, I contemplated why Kris would’ve given me such horrible culinary advice. Was it some kind of a prank? Did Kris lack the sophistication to discern between good and bad dishes (dishi?)? Did Kris not like me? All of these were important questions as they’d all play a role in formulating the response I gave to the inevitable question: “How did you like the stuffed fillet?”.
In the end, I decided it was none of those options. And what I learned through this contemplation was, prossibly (a word I invented to bridge the substantial chasm that the terms possible and probable leave between one another), one of the most valuable lessons of all of the things I learned from Kris. You see the secret was, and is, that Kris didn’t let a mediocre meal taint his view of life…he used his view of life to change a mediocre meal. When you live on borrowed time everything tastes better…but borrowed time doesn’t actually exist…or it is all that exists. My point being: Kris’ close calls with death never changed the length of his life, anymore than my lack of close encounters has modified the length of my life. We only have the time we’re given, but Kris experienced things that changed his perspective about the life he’d left to live, and I, by meeting Kris, also experienced something capable of changing my perspective. If I allow such change. I do…Sometimes.
The following Thursday Kris asked me: “How was the fish?”. “Not bad”, I told him…it was a lie, but I just didn’t see a reason to contradict his view of the fillet. Maybe that was wrong. Time will tell; she always do.
Redemption is a subject that preoccupies the human experience more than anything else. It’s in our songs, poems, stories, and movies. We use it to understand the hero’s plight, and it is a hook upon which we hang our hope. I had the opportunity to watch a hero strive toward redemption, and while I missed the beginning, I saw the end. It was beautiful. Thursday, January the 24th heaven received a new voice to join in the refrain: “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty Who Was and Is and Is to Come.” Kris: My Friend.