I’m Dana, and this is my sister, Shelley. Thank you all for being here. Thanks to team Curry, especially to Chris’s best friend, Mark McLeary, and to John Mulkern.
I am privileged to give voice and honor to the memory of my brother and my best friend, Christopher James Allan Curry.
To know Chris was to know a truly radiant man of great love and enormous heart. There was absolutely no one like him. He was incredibly intelligent and a brilliant attorney, but at the same time Chris was extremely humble. He was adventurous and outgoing; Chris loved his family, and Chris loved people. To be with Chris was to be in the company of a man who was extremely present. For those of us who had the honor of knowing him, he always gave us our full and undivided attention. Just like his father, Sheldon, Chris treated every person in his life as family, and as a holy encounter.
Chris was the kindest and most generous person I knew, and would have given the shirt off his back to a stranger—especially at the State Fair. You may have seen him there; he was THAT GUY who walked around the State Fair WITHOUT A SHIRT, sporting a fanny pack, eating corn on a stick–that was my brother–he was THAT GUY with the crack attack. He didn’t care; he was just being fully himself.
Chris loved nature, and was a Boy Scout at heart. If could have earned a decent living being a camp counselor, he would have done it in a heartbeat. He worked at Tomahawk Scout Reservation for years as the beach director–a perfect place for him as you well know, because Chris loved to be tan. I can picture Chris laying out in the sun with his arms stretched above his head so he could tan his trimmed armpits; as a forerunner of fashion and style, Chris cut his armpit hair far before man-scaping came to the United States of America. And he had salon quality hair.
While brilliant and highly credentialed, Chris was humble and was a kid at heart. I remember after he graduated from William Mitchell, his dad’s alma mater, he went to work in a fancy law firm downtown where there was an unspoken dress code for wearing Cole Haan shoes; he got in trouble for humming and whistling in the hallways because it was unprofessional—he didn’t stay there long, he needed to sing his song. Working at Gage offered him a place where he could shine his light, be himself, . . . and he could wear jeans and size medium shirts.
When Chris got married and began a family, his wife and children became the center of his life. Above all, Chris was a family man. Cate—Chris loved you with his whole heart; Aidan, Rowan, and Bronach—you all were the apple in your daddy’s eye. Chris loved decorating for holidays, having parties, and surrounding himself with the people he loved. And everyone was welcome. His door was wide open to anyone who had no place to go, and to Chris, everyone was family. In his memory, I ask that in the face of this tragedy, to please open your hearts and your doors to Chris’s beloved family, and help Cate raise their three beautiful girls. Pull them in, love them, and support them, just as Chris had done for others, and would have done for each and every one of us. I know Chris is here, and can feel the love from all of us in his newly-mended heart—the heart that so tragically failed him last Sunday.
When our father passed away, he gave my mother the gift of waiting to take his last breaths just minutes into their 26th wedding anniversary, Chris left this life on Mother’s Day for a reason. The sun was shining, and when I spoke to him early, he mentioned what a beautiful day it was. That morning, Chris went to church, sang in the choir, and later picked up the girls, and brought them to my son, Max’s, school play. At one point, he looked over to me and smiled, saying, “Well, I guess God’s in the driver’s seat, Dana. It’s not me anymore.”
It was Mother’s Day for a reason, and we were blessed to be together on the last day of Chris’s life. Those of us who have children know that THEY are our best teachers, and during the play intermission, my mom reminded my brother what a blessing he was, and Chris told HER he just couldn’t do it without her. She also gave Chris a copy of this poem she had written two years earlier.
ODE TO CHRISTOPHER
If I were to choose a son,
I would choose you
for your kind heart,
for your integrity,
for your thoughtfulness,
for your sunny disposition,
for your loyalty,
for your honesty,
for your tenaciousness,
for your sense of fun,
for your strength of mind,
for your stability,
for your sound values,
for your self-discipline,
for your capacity to love.
God loves you, and and so do I.
You have enriched my life immeasurably.
~~Written on Mother’s Day, 2012
That afternoon, he went running, and his friend, Matt, told me that Chris shared that he was finally ready to start a new life, and let go of the past. While Chris was on his run, I sat in his backyard watching the girls jump on the trampoline, talking to the babysitter. My daughter, Chloe, and I stayed for longer than planned, and when we finally left, we took a different route home for the first time, and decided to drive around Lake Harriet. When we reached South Beach, we saw paramedics, and we both looked at each other and said, “It’s Uncle Chris.” I pulled over in the one parking space that was waiting for us, and Chloe ran out and crossed the street to see who was in trouble. She came back and found me and said, “Mom, it’s not him,” and I looked up to see Chris’ running buddy, Matt, and asked, “Is it Chris?” and he nodded yes. Chloe hadn’t recognized him. Chris suffered a heart attack and was never revived, even though they attempted for over an hour. His big, beautiful heart was done. I believe Chloe and I were led to Chris by a higher power, and we are so grateful to have witnessed his last minutes. As the paramedics left the beach and we drove to the ER, it began to softly rain. You can’t make this stuff up.
I want you to know that I connected with and spoke Chris for over an hour. He didn’t want to die. I read him his eulogy; of course, he kept interrupting me with words like,
“Stop it, already!”
“Don’t say that!” and,
“I’m hot! I looked good!”
When we came in, his words were,
“What the f#@ happened?”
He said he had a headache, but that wasn’t a big deal . . . and he was pissed.
HE DID NOT WANT TO DIE.
“You mean I’m $#@ING dead?”
“What? Is this real?’
“Tell everyone I love them.”
“Tell my kids that Daddy will be home always.”
“I am who I am because all of you.”
“I am here.”
“It was as it should be.”
“It sucks. Do what you gotta do.”
In the end, my brother’s life was a luminous, ongoing prayer of hope for the future, and for peace. And while it was sometimes wrought with challenges, with pain, and with fear–Chris was also committed to joy and laughter, and kept his head held high, and continued to run into life with his arms wide open, and his heart full of love. Chris was sustained on a momentary basis by his renewed faith in God. And while we are not always IN on God’s plan for us, I know in MY heart that God had a plan for my brother, Chris. In the last months of his life when he was struggling, he was able to dig deep and live in his gratitude for all his blessings. We can’t just be grateful to God when things go our way, that in the daily struggles and in the pain there is love and there is learning—we humans may not see it because we JUST can’t get big enough. I reassured him that every experience is perfectly designed for us here on Earth so that we are presented with the lessons suited just for us. Sometimes, I just needed to remind Chris to breathe.
When I picked up my kids after leaving the ER, my daughter Chloe, smiled, pulled me close to her and whispered in my ear, “Mom, sometimes things just don’t work out here on Earth. He’s in a better place”—and she pointed to the heavens. Christopher James Allan Curry was a beloved son, devoted husband, a dedicated father, an amazing brother, a loyal friend, and a model of how to live a life of integrity with a dash of whimsy and irreverence—. Throughout his journey, and as a result of surrounding himself with people who loved him most, and through his close faith community here at Mount Olivet, Chris came to a place of great faith in his life. We can rest in knowing that he is now up in heaven sitting by a campfire, eating cosmic rosettes, rocking a Speedo, looking down at his beautiful family and his beloved friends. He is safely nestled, at peace, in the hand of God.
Dana Lynne Curry, Ph.D., has been teaching middle school English (with no low bun) for over 23 years. She is a grateful writer, storyteller, teacher and student. Find Dana at funfreeME and on Twitter.