It doesn't feel right to post this on Facebook or Instagram, but it feels okay here. I guess my blog has more honesty than those other places. I guess I feel like if you come here and read my blog, you want to know me. You want to know more about who I really am. Maybe that's wrong, but it is how things feel to me. I imagine I get to teach my audience. That this is the place I can change the world. That is a lofty ambition, no doubt. But I guess I need to feel like if I tell my truths to the world they are worth something.
I lost a friend this weekend. I've never lost a close friend before and it's surprising me how the grief feels stronger than almost any other loss I've experienced. I lost my mother when I was really little, and that is the only grief that trumps this right now. It's the grief his son will know, his wife will know. Sparred only some of the pain (but not untouched by grief) will be his baby when he/she makes his/her arrival into this world.
I want people to know why we should all be like Chris. I want to be like Chris. As photographers, we need more Chris's and it really makes me mad that we just lost him. I've met a lot of photographers, and Chris was special. He will always be special. As the Vice Pres. of our ASMP chapter, I saw all the varied personalities and egos and it made me recognize how special the photographers who selflessly help other photographers are. That was Chris.
I want to tell you how Chris guided me.
A year and a half ago, Sam took an interview in Charleston. The company brought me out too so I could see if I would be on board to move if an offer came. I used this opportunity to reach out to the best photographers I could find in the area to see if they would let me buy them a coffee and talk to them about life working here. Only Chris said yes. Only. Chris. Just him. Let another photographer buy him a coffee. Which, I'm pretty sure he still insisted on paying for.
Only Christopher was kind enough (and confident enough) to meet a total stranger and tell them with complete honesty that they would be okay here. To tell a stranger who could be viewed as competition the tips, recommendations, pricing, market stats, that he spent years building and learning, over a first coffee. To give another photographer a helping hand. And do so honestly, holding back nothing. Because he never felt threatened by helping people.
I don't know if we would have moved here if it weren't for him and that coffee.
He recognized me in the grocery store the day I moved in, calling out to me. He was always happy to see you. He was a beautiful father to a beautiful boy who quickly became one of my son's best friends. He was a beautiful husband to a beautiful woman who my husband and I quickly knew we wanted to be friends with forever. I don't think he knew how amazing it felt to be welcomed like that. How much it meant to me when moving somewhere that I knew almost no one (just a stranger who was kind enough to have coffee with me really) and how my heart jumped at being recognized by someone. I ran home to my husband to tell him all about my friend. Just like I ran to my husband after our coffee to tell him everything Chris told me. How I felt like we could make it work here because of him. That is just a small moment. We had so many moments, and that was just a blink of one little moment and how he could just make you feel valued. He was a good, good friend.
A year and a half wasn't long enough to know Chris.
I feel cheated.
I feel cheated out of the studio we would drive around town looking for the right location for. I feel cheated out of the camping trips with our families (even though he, without hesitation, told me that would only be after he took his son camping without us because his son's first camping trip needed to be just the family because it was a special trip). I feel cheated because we won't get to do any of the projects we talked about doing together. I feel cheated because I didn't get to go with him to test fly the new drone he bought because I was making up for time I lost with my broken ankle. I feel cheated out of the friend I could call for an emergency work meeting when I had an awesome collaboration idea, who would drop what he was doing and come. I feel cheated out of the bbq's and beers, while watching our kids play that have been cut short. I feel cheated out of the friend who would find me doing something on my own (cleaning, decorating the Christmas tree, etc) at parties and would hang out with me when everyone else was doing more "fun" things. But he made it fun to do those chores. I feel cheated loosing that beacon of kindness that he was. Who even came and finished shoots for me that were really hard when I broke my ankle. He actually finished my shoots for me, bringing my computer back and fourth between the studio and bed I was stuck in so I could review his work and get my projects done. I feel cheated in so many ways.
And he was only my friend.
I want to say I can't imagine the grief of his family, except I can. Because I was that child who lost a parent really young. And that makes this so much worse. It's disbelief I feel that my friend is gone and that my other friend is about to go through the hardest time in her life. That her son is going to go through it too. It's hard to stop crying.
He means so much to so many people. He will still mean so much even in memory.
So please. Be like Chris. Be confident. Be helpful. Be giving and honest. Help your friends move (even when you've only known them a few months). Help people up when they reach out. Make people laugh. Don't stress about small stuff. Find the way to enjoy even the most boring times. Do things for others just because you physically can and ask for nothing in return.
My heart is broken. I can't believe we've lost Chris. It makes me so frustrated at all the photographers in the world who don't help other photographers. Who are afraid of other photographers, who see them as competition and don't want to know them. Because they are missing out. They are missing out on being or knowing a Chris. I am so lucky that Chris was a beacon of kindness who I got to be friends with. It just wasn't long enough.
You've changed our lives in the small time you were in it. We'll do everything we can to be better people because of it. You are so, so, so missed already. I hope you're right and there is a heaven we go to because I want to see you again someday. And if there is a heaven, you are in it, I have no doubt about that. We'll do everything we can for your family, who we love as much as we love you.
You'll be in my heart buddy. Let's make my heart a bit lighter and more goofy like yours while your in there.