This is a guest post by commenter and twitter bad-ass Bam D. Woodchipper (aka @bam294). Bam has organized a BRACKET CHALLENGE for the upcoming NCAA men's basketball tournament. She also recently lost a dear friend to cancer. FUCK CANCER. The Madness Bracket Challenge is set up to benefit the three girls that just lost their father - donate at least $10 to the girls' education trust fund to play. If you want to play along with the bracket challenge, leave a comment and I'll send you the info (but you have to include your email address-it won't be publicly visible). If you don't want to play but would like to help out the family follow this link to learn more.
---------- by BAM294 ----------
Last week, my friend Christopher Maki died at the age of 40 from kidney cancer. There are heart-breaking facts that accompany this – his three gorgeous and crazy sporty daughters all under the age of 13 will never get to have their dad walk them down the aisle. His wife, my idol, won’t have Christopher to stare blankly at her as she tells him about how stoked she is to compete (and, did I mention, win?) the next Muddy Buddy.
The kids got their sports skills from their mother, but their competitiveness was something that had generational breeding of epic proportions. It is their mom's defining feature, but it was also Chris’s. Don’t get me wrong. Christopher could run. If there were police or some sort of beer-related challenge that ended in 50 yards. Other than that….not so much.
Tomorrow, I’m facing my first trip to see the family without Chris and I’m terrified. Chris was the youngest of a group of 10 or 12 of us from grad school. He was married after one of the funniest ‘ripped from the Spanish soap opera’ courtships around. She was a wee bit older, and might have known his sister before she and Chris started dating.
And yet, Chris took this all in stride. Actually, stride may not be the right word. He basked in it. He had a defiant ‘why the hell not’ attitude about his love that made the rest of us wonder who this brazen kid was. He had an amazing capability to back up talking smack with more talking smack. And this I loved. No, this I adored.
I am going to see a group of friends brought together by grad school and marriage; defined by humor-and Chris kicked all our asses in it. He was snark and sincerity in heaping helpings. I look at tomorrow knowing have lost my friend, but I have also lost my sense of balance in this group. I am snark. I’m not so great at sincerity. Those moments where I would occasionally wonder if I had gone too far in my humor, Chris would take things a bit farther and a bit funnier if only to offer me a safe dock back to civil discourse. And then as the conversation moved on he would catch my glace, and roll his eyes at me and I would install the small filter remembering not to voyage into that area again.
And he did the same, seamlessly for so many others in the last year the awkward moments-where people wondered how Chris was and if it was okay to ask about cancer treatments and how he felt-would be caught by him before they had a chance to exist in real time as he looked at them and said, “Hey. Can you get me a beer. I have cancer you know.” He was super classy that way.
I wait for the first horrific silence of my group as we gather tomorrow. The one Chris should be filling in and I wonder if I’ve learned enough from him, from our friends, to find grace and say something of substance. And it will require something that the word ‘grace’ makes sound too trite. Something miraculous in fact, because I know no one will never replace my friend. As fabulous as our group memories are, our hearts will always be broken in a way that can and should never be corrected.
This week has made plain to me how selfish I am. I want more time, more jokes, more hugs and more Chris. I want these things not just for myself but for all of us. Yet no bargaining, disbelief or pains of loss are going to make that possible for those we want it most for – his wife and those three sweet kids.
I know this because I’ve lived it. My dad died when I was the age of Chris’ daughters. Growing up, the awkward silences when strangers asked about what my parents did, or where my dad was were filled with silence. Raging silence as no one wanted to mention my dad and make everyone cry. Because crying was a bad thing.
I hope we can show the girls that crying is okay. And laughing is okay too. But most of all, talking about Chris and the way he made us all funnier, kinder, more competitive, and far better people is okay. I know if love of family and love of life were enough to make anyone survive, Chris would have outlived us all. Of this I am certain.
But of all the hilarious, selfless, even keeled and great things he did, Chris’ daughters are without question the best (with his wife's help, of course). In some way that defies all logic, I look to the them for my hope. I want desperately to see them tomorrow. I want to see how many of Chris’ attributes they have. Who has the glint Chris had in his eyes when he did something ever so sly that might pass under his wife's radar. I want to see if any of them bob their head and hold their face the way he would when something was overwhelmed him with laughter. And when I am too heartbroken to think of this for another second, I close my eyes and look to a future where when each of the girls turns 21, we take them out, as we did when his wife turned 40, and and tell them stories about their dad.
For those interested in contributing to his daughter's education fund, find more information here.