I think of my friend, Chris, a lot these days. He died a year ago in February.

We did shows together when I was in LA. Like you do in Los Angeles, you say you’re going to get together, and then, well, freeways. 

But every rehearsal, every reading, every greenroom bagel and schmear–I always walked away from time with Chris feeling lighter and loved. 

His cells exuded kindness.

On paper, I believe I’d have been in Chris’s colleagues-I-hug ✔️ category. 

I also know that if I needed a flat tire rescue from the side of the freeway or became suddenly homeless, I coulda called Chris, and he’d have braved the 405 gridlock, put fresh sheets on his sofa, and bought me a hot dog. 

You know when someone’s affected you deeply–but if Judge Judy told you to cough up documentation of your friendship, you’d have a few parties and a lot of rehearsals, but no actual meet-ups at In-n-Out Burger?

That’s Chris. Whatever concentric circle of his life you belonged to, he made you feel like you were on the inside when you were with him.

He always reminded me of my big brother, too–they’re the same height–6’3”/4”. And he was kind like Joel. 

When Chris and his family decided it was time for him to move into hospice care, he shared it with us on Facebook, prefaced with a warning that it was “long-ish,” –like a heads-up for the audition table people that you’re going to sing the whole song. 

I went back to find that post on his page, and by the time I scrolled there, you could’ve sung all the way to “Seasons of Love” with your Rent cast recording.

Hundreds of people posted on his page, and they’re still reaching out–Wishing him a happy birthday this year, recalling a show blooper, or sharing pics of punny road signs–Chris was always ready to engage in good, clean wordplay.

Chris’s heart impact was not isolated to my experience–how could it have been? It’s who he was with everyone he met. 

This isn’t a you-never-know-how-much-time-you-have kind of message. 

–Not a frantic warning to call everyone you love to make sure they know or to start typing chapter one of that book you’ve been saying you’re going to write one day, dammit. 

Chris’s spirit doesn’t put that kind of pressure on you. The ripples of my time with him amplify a gentler message–kindness and joy shape you and heal you like wet hands on turning clay.

In the face of the frantic, love and trust wrap our graspy illusions in a blanket that smells like your favorite grandparent. 

This friend I got to do shows with–I look at the imprint he made, and on the crusty, grumpy days (grrr today), his presence still leaves me feeling lighter and loved. 

Reminds me of Maya Angelou’s famous quote–that folks will forget what you said and did, but “people will never forget how you made them feel.” 

At the end of Chris’s post he said 

I’m grateful Chris didn’t know the tragedies 2020 had waiting in the wings–He’s been able to view that from a much wiser perspective than you and I did.

And I grab his wish, and fling it out to you with jazz hands —

That you’ll experience “joy, peace, and a desire to be more present and loving than you ever thought possible.” 

I didn’t know Chris would still be teaching me a year and three months after he moved to his new address–it brings me joy, peace, and love to know that he continues to share his generous soul with you and me now.

Much, much love to you, Chris! You’re a precious man, and I thank you for always making me feel lighter and loved. This time included.

I can still hear Chris’s warm, kind baritone voice. There’s only one Chris, just like there’s only one you, and folks need to hear the story that only you can sing.

ps If you want your day to be better in any fashion, listen to Brené Brown’s interview with Brandi Carlile. She shares a story about a life-shifting rejection, and her look-back is one of the most beautiful examples of unconditional love and understanding I’ve ever heard.

pps And if you didn’t get your fill of country singer mysticism, scroll down and listen to Brené talk with DOLLY from last November. Just the best. 

pps I really mean it–there’s only one you, and folks need to hear the story that only you can share. That’s my story and my song for today. Much love.