“Do not walk through time without leaving worthy evidence of your passage.”
— Pope John XXIII
I got the text late that Monday night. Chris wanted tacos. Not just any tacos. Tacos from our truck. The truck where we created our Taco Tuesday tradition. He had been diagnosed with brain cancer a month before and it was encouraging news that he had energy and an appetite. The next morning I gathered the folding table, chairs, tablecloth, wine glasses and flowers – also part of our tradition – to set up in the dirt just off Highway 12 and Dunbar Road. Our motto: Two-dollar tacos with a million dollar view.
When he arrived with our pal Rob, it was evident the disease and treatment were taking its toll. Holding back tears, he took the bottle of wine and said, “What the hell.” He poured himself a full glass and we toasted. I am not sure to what. After ordering three Al Pastor tacos each, his favorite, Sabino (chef and owner of the truck) refused payment. Partly because he was told by Chris’ brother how sick he was, but mostly in deep respect. Sabino had been in a horrible crash the year before and Chris was one of his first visitors in the hospital. He made sure that Sabino and his family had everything they needed through the long recovery.
Christopher was evidence why God gave us two hands. One is meant to reach out and help others. Help others he did. Over and over again.
Less than an hour after we started our lunch, Chris was in pain, restless and ready to go home. Before he got in the car he said, “Marce, this is the last time I am going to see our truck.” I gave him a hug, secured his weary self into the seat, and closed the door. As he pulled away and with my heart broken, I burst into tears. I had no idea until then he wasn’t going to beat the beast.
Christopher was one of the strongest men I knew. Not just physical strength. Strength of conviction. Strength of character. Strength of soul.
The next time I saw Chris was to deliver dinner. I had suggested bone broth for its healing properties, but he balked, smirked really. It took me a few minutes to realize why. Healing wasn’t possible. Thankfully, enjoying good food still was. As I entered the house he greeted me with a kiss on my forehead and a bottle of St. Francis Sauvignon Blanc – classic Chris, the consummate host. Near the end of chemo and radiation, he was markedly weaker and compromised. As I chatted with his cousin and caretaker Delores, he moved around the living room, seemingly unable to get comfortable. Yet he made sure I was, offering a plate of perfectly ripe strawberries and a bottle of water.
I left the osso buco with a set of instructions and a promise to cook more. It turned out that was never needed; it was Chris’ last meal.
Christopher passed away a short time later with his beloved daughter Sydney by his side. She shared that with his last breath, and holding her hand, he lifted his arm – almost in a final salute – tightened his grip… and let go.
Live everyday is obviously not a cliché, yet it somehow slips away. I am determined to honor Chris by embracing the gift of life just as he did: Help others. Work hard and play hard. Thank the workers. Plank until you can’t plank anymore. Frequent the old school Italian joints. Drink the best wine. Be a good and loyal friend even when it’s not convenient. Love your children. Tighten your grip when the going gets tough.
And I’m going to say “what the hell” a heck of a lot more.