Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Dennis & Ryan's Tribute to Chris

This loving and intimate family portrait of Chris was delivered by his dad Dennis and his brother Ryan.


Last Sunday was a special day for Canadians everywhere and the Dixon household was no exception as we gathered for a day of fun, celebrating and enjoying a good meal. What was different for us though was that often on Canada Day we’d be doing our own thing and usually, scattered about the area at different venues. It was the first time in nearly a decade I wasn’t away on a golf trip in Michigan and finally the whole family was living close enough together that we were all able to make it home for the day.

If we could have choreographed our finally time together as a family, the script would have read exactly as it unfolded with everyone laughing, reminiscing, discussing some current events issues, and lots of general friendly family ribbing of each other.

At one point, the conversation turned to facial hair. We examined Chris’ goatee and I remember looking at his face and thinking how great he appeared, his face full and eyes sparkling as they always did when life was good for him.

Friends, this is the Chris that we all need to remember for he was a stoic person but not at all somber, and would want us to remember him and all the wonderful experiences many of us shared with him.

For most of the years in Chris’s short time with us, so many of his wonderful qualities were for the most part only shared by those of us who were really close to him. And even then he sometimes was a little shy and seemed guarded of his feelings when a crowd was around because it was his nature to observe and be a quiet part of what was happening. Then… enter Sandra Miller, a feisty, independent, young lady that Chris met while studying at Western. He probably thought she would be just another of his many academic connections that would pop in and out of his life occasionally. However, this time he had stumbled upon a lady friend that could not only match his wit, debate anything he chose to debate, but also shared so many interests that he held dear, and as a bonus was gorgeous and available.

Friends, this relationship truly became a match made in heaven, and with that one missing part in his life now present we saw for the last several years of Chris’s life a metamorphosis of sorts, where everything that Chris had kept closely guarded within himself began to surface and even bubble over at times and the rest of world got to see and enjoy the real Christopher. The time they had together I know was easily the happiest of his life and he would not have traded in one minute of it for anything.

Now, if during any of the moments here today you think you detect a slight whisper in your ear. That would be Christopher, the ultimate researcher pursuing his thirst for information. You see he was working toward his doctorate on social networking. So the types of whisperings you’re likely to be hearing are “Who contacted you?” “How was the contact made?” ”Did you contact anyone else?” “Why did you decide to make contact?” “And how was it done?” Folks, if you do hear him, kindly whisper back your response as he is a pit-bull of persistence when it comes to research.

Chris - I think everyone who knew him would agree - would not exactly be described as the out-going, happy-go-lucky kind of guy who steals the attention of everyone around him, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t funny. In fact, over time, he developed a wicked, well-defined humor that delighted his friends and family - not to mention keeping them on their toes.

After watching a televised competition of the Reach for the Top trivia team that Chris was part of in high school, I made the observation that, while there were four students on the team, there might as well have been only two: Meredith, who answered about 90 per cent of questions and Chris who handled the other 10 per cent. I brought this to Chris’ attention and – reflecting upon this comment – he said to me “I prefer to think about it this way; I answered 100 per cent of the questions Meredith didn’t answer.”

His humor was again on display as recently as last Sunday while our family gathered for Canada Day at our house. Having noticed there were three people - Chris’ grandma , his mother, and his uncle Brad - all using canes to help them walk for a variety of reasons, I suggested maybe we could host the gimpy Olympics in our front lawn. First, Connie and Brad could race, then Janis could take on the winner. Upon hearing this Chris said, “Well, I’d better get inside and tell mom the three-legged races are about to begin.”

Chris had some grave medical conditions. And they seemed to really flare up whenever it came time for him to move from one apartment to another. Let me tell you though, he had the art of moving co-ordinator fine tuned to a science. He had no trouble prioritizing which boxes my dad and I should move first and which ones we should be most concerned with treating delicately. And it never ceased to amaze me that no matter which friend he enlisted to help with the move always performed the role of assistant moving co-ordinator so admirably.

A voracious reader and movie watcher, Chris set very rigid pop culture guidelines in our house. I think one of the first traumatic shocks to his system was when the first cassette tapes I bought were of the dreaded rap genre.

Chris loved big ideas, but he hated small talk. I noticed this trait most when I spoke to him on the phone. At first I used to think his tendency to go silent for what seemed like an eternity between thoughts was a touch awkward, but I soon learned there was no reason to scramble and try to fill the air. Just give the man time and he’d be on to another big thought soon enough.

Despite being born smack in the middle of the famous 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series and growing quickly to an imposing 6-foot-2 frame, athletics were never really a big part of Chris’s life. That’s why I’m all the more appreciative of the fact he, upon figuring out his sporty younger brother was probably never going to come to him with questions about math or science, he tried to bridge a seven-year sibling gap by going out of his way to adopt my team - the Montreal Canadians - as his team and always using sports as a means to initiate conversations with me in the hopes they would be a springboard into talks about more important matters. Often, they were.

Chris, always a music lover, definitely marched to the beat of his own drum. He never succumbed to peer pressure, always preferring to stay true to his own beliefs and values. With his love of music and unique tendencies in mind, I was curious to hear what he and Sandra would choose as their wedding song when they took their first dance as husband and wife last September. I knew none of the tried and true (i.e. songs Chris would consider boring) would make the grade. Sure enough, when the couple finally hit the floor it wasn’t to the tune of the Karen Carpenter standard “We’ve Only Just Begun” but in true Chris fashion he and Sandra lightheartedly stepped out to the very distinct sound of Kermit the Frog strumming his banjo and pondering the connection between all those songs about rainbows.

Chris, like Kermit and you and the rest of us, none of us really knows what waits for us on the other side of the rainbow, I truly hope that the rainbow connection is a place for dreamers and lovers and you.

Son, I want you to know the connections we all experienced with you - me , your mom, Grandma, Ryan , Sandra and each of your friends, - have left indelible impressions with us that will never be forgotten.

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