Plot: there are no random events and all individuals and experiences are connected in some way.
The day I brought Chris home from the hospital I kept holding him, just thinking how beautiful he was. When we were alone, I often referred to him as "Beauty", which was my nickname for Beautiful Boy and always seemed fitting. Throughout his life and even now all of you are being touched by the beauty that was Chris. He was a brilliant young man. At his pre-kindergarten testing when asked what windows were made of, he responded "mostly squares and rectangles, but I've seen some octagons ...". When asked to stack 4 blocks he said, "If you give me the rest of those blocks behind you I can make you something really cool". He was only 4 years old at the time and the teachers told me they were unsure how to score his answers, but he seemed ready for school. Of course, as many of you know, for every time a teacher called me about his intelligence, I probably received two calls about his remarkable defiance. Though as I think about it, sometimes it was an interesting combination of the two and I recall once when he and I met with the principal over a concern that Chris was cheating in Math. You see, Chris always had the correct answers but never showed his work, and on that day he told the principal it was decidedly not worth his time to show his work. The principal, thinking he’d show Chris, gave him a complex math equation, which Chris proceeded to answer, in his head, faster than the principal could complete it on a calculator.
Over the years, Chris had quite a few visits with various psychologists, therapists, and doctors – like, a lot of visits. When talking with the doctors and therapists whom Chris considered intellectually inferior, he would toy with them and give nonsensical answers, like how Bob Dylan talked to reporters in the late ‘60s. Many of those providers walked out, incensed. Others adored Chris and eventually provided several diagnoses including autism, ADHD, anxiety, and depression. But Chris never let those diagnoses define him and defiantly shunned accommodations related to them. Unfortunately, there was one more diagnosis to be made, alcohol addiction, that he couldn’t elude and ultimately cost him his life.
Chris was a complex man who lived an incredibly simple life. In fact, I’d say Chris was a minimalist long before it became cool. He’d frequently pick up objects from the ground like rocks or broken things he thought he may need later, and he often did find a use. His shoes generally had no tread but did have a hole or two on the top, yet you best not try to give him a new pair because the ones on his feet were always “worn in just right” and “still good for a few more miles”. Yes, simple things made Chris happy, and that included his work as a busboy/dishwasher at Los Ocampo, making enough money for the essentials in life with zero desire for more.
Many of you have likely read the book or seen the movie The Five People You Meet in Heaven, but for those who haven’t, the premise involves seemingly random events that often contain meaning and impact other people in unexpected ways, and you never know when, where, or how it will happen. Chris lived his best years as a simple man, living a simple life. He owned little, lived in simple spaces, enjoyed simple things, and worked a simple job at which many of us would look down our nose. Yet, Chris was a man who influenced changes in the school system, had a lifelong friend who is now helping pass legislation (the CSS Access to Recovery Act, named after Chris) to help autistic kids with addiction, had a nanny who says she’s a better mother to her child with autism because Chris was in her life, and all the other countless people Chris impacted and will, God willing, meet in heaven. But more than that, Chris was authentic, he was forthright, he was idealistic if not unwavering, unstudied yet passionately literate, complex in emotion while simple in nature.
And he was beautiful. Yes, my simple, Beauty.
I Love You, Chris.
If so desired make a donation to any charity or foundation that you would like to or follow the links below.
Autism Society of Minnesota