Eight years ago I got a tattoo. I had wanted one for many, many years, just didn’t ever invest the time to do it. I researched a ton, went back and forth on what I wanted and I ended up getting a tattoo that TONS of people have. A cross on my upper arm. Nothing “creative” about it. A standard cross probably in every tattoo shops book in the world. The type they have hanging on the wall as an example of what a tattoo is.
The meaning behind the cross is something though. I wanted to get something to honor my idol, my cousin Chris who was killed by a drunk driver in 2003. He was just 33 years old.
There is no way for me to express who Chris was to you reading this other than saying he was perfect. If you knew Chris you know EXACTLY what I mean. If you didn’t I’ll just say he was a model so he had the looks, but he was also incredibly smart, always looking to learn the next thing, so he also had the brains. He was a risk taker, moving to California way before it was cool. He was a surfer who studied psychology and sociology. He was a smart, great looking surfer! Now that I think of it he might have been Patrick Swayze in Point Break, without actually being a bank robber. All kidding aside, he was breathtakingly handsome with heart and brain equally as awesome.
Chris ALWAYS made time for my family. When he would come home from California it was always a must that he would hang at my house. If there was enough time my parents would host a get together so everyone could see Chris, but if there wasn’t it was fine with us because it meant we got to hang with Chris all by ourselves. He was just an incredible human. I can still see him sitting on my Mom’s kitchen counter eating a loaf of bread and talking about everything. It was like when he was home you asked him his opinion of everything in your life, because for some reason, he HAD all the answers. He never told you what you wanted to hear, he told you what you needed to hear. He made you feel like what you were talking to him about was the most important discussion to be had on this earth at the time. Super genuine human, and to be honest I’m really finding it tough to find the right words to actually capture how great he was. When Chris died he had the coolest funeral where lots of people he knew spoke of him and I just sat there silent. I had a million things to say, just didn’t have him there to help me put them all into coherent sentences. All the words spoken were exactly how I felt. He was larger than life to almost everyone he came in contact with.
He had such an impact on me growing up that I took his name as my confirmation name. Although I never ever felt worthy to carry his name, I knew he was the person who always has and always will guide me in this life.
Each time my wife and I talked about having kids the only boy’s name that we had was Chris. There was never a second choice. We had two girls and never got to use that name and it was something that bothered me for a long time. Not that I had girls, because that has been the greatest gift my life has ever received, but that I could not honor him by raising a Chris and using all the things he taught me or inspired in me. But, now that I think about it, having there be only one Chris is perfectly fitting. No one could live up to that name in my eyes.
Getting back to the tattoo I got… I wanted to show a sign that Chris would always be with me so I got the cross and I planned on getting his initials and dates of his birth and death surrounding the cross but I never could do it. I never could add the dates to the cross because I refuse to believe he is gone. It is my way of holding onto my past, my way of keeping him here with me. It’s funny, my kids never met Chris but I am sure they KNOW exactly who he was. When I started to question the bigger things in life, like the afterlife and all the “who’s God is the real God” type stuff I looked to Chris to help me find out. When I started to read up on Buddhism it was like he was talking directly to me. Like he had written these words I was reading. I still have no idea what I believe in, which I think is what Chris was always trying to teach me. Like Chris is always saying “Keep searching, keep searching, you will find the answers but they will create more questions”.
So, when people look at the tattoo and make a comment about how I have a tattoo that millions of others have I just laugh it off. I could tell them a million stories about how wrong they are, about how each time I see that cross I am reminded of the greatest guy this planet ever had on it, but instead I smile and am grateful that a comment meant to maybe make fun of me reminds me of him.
It’s just a small example of how everyone has their own story. Everyone is carrying an invisible backpack filled with all the good and bad they have experienced. Maybe my tattoo looks the same as many others, but to me it carries years and years of memories and experiences. Maybe that guy driving slow on the highway was in an accident before and he now drives with caution. Is it worth yelling and screaming at them? Who does that help, do you actually feel better?
My point being that not everyone fits into your idea of right, your idea of perfect.
When I write Chris is the person I picture reading it. I think about what he would get from the story, how I know he would be able to write it better. When I talk to my kids about something serious I think about how Chris would handle it. When the world teaches me a lesson or the kids do something that amazes me I think that somehow Chris was involved.
Hopefully everyone has a “Chris” in their lives, but even if you don’t, try to be someone’s Chris. Question shit, be thankful, inspire, and be present with the people you care about.