Eulogy for Christopher C. Avent, Jr. - 1992-2002
Seems like I all I do lately is preach funerals. As a tribute to my friend on the loss of his son, I am posting this eulogy here.
We are here this morning to celebrate the life of Christopher Avent, Jr. Beloved son, valued classmate, athletic prodigy, and all around good kid.
You know, when I was talking to Kim the other day, she brought up the good point that in times like these when you experience the death of a child, everyone says "oh he was such a good kid" when that kid was more like one of BeBeís kids. This is one of those instances where we canít say that. Chris WAS a good kid. Anyone who knew him knew that. He had respect for his elders, respect from his classmates. He was a hard working and independent young man. He was a good student in addition to being a gifted athlete. In short, this is a young man where we can say a lot more good things about than bad.
And that is the blessing. For you see, the fact that we can sit here and have fond memory after fond memory come to mind is a testament to not only his inner strength, but also a testament that he had two loving and dedicated parents. I can tell you from experience it is not easy raising a child when the parents are not together. But Chris and Kim made it work. And little Chris knew that. He knew he was loved, he knew he was cared for, but he also knew he had a responsibility to uphold those things that his parents held near and dear.
At this moment, Chris and Kim should be applauded. We are so quick to condemn parents when they do not do what they should, but rarely do we applaud parents when they do a good job. And while I admittedly know Chris better than I do Kim, I can honestly say, that from the conversations that I had with him, they were doing a good job. They knew that their priority was to their son. And I believe little Chris knew that as well.
We hear all the stories about how you canít make spilt family arrangements work. Well those naysayers never saw the way Chris looked at his dad, the way he wanted to impress him, the way that he strove to live up to the things that his parents had in store for him.
I can still remember stopping over at Chrisí house one day last year, and little Chris was over, and they were just goofing around. Then all of the sudden, Chris decided he wanted to show his dad how he could do a handstand. The smile Chris gave his dad when we was rewarded with a "good job" and "very good" comments said it all. This was a young man who knew he was loved. He knew his parents had his back.
They say that the loss of a child is so heartbreaking, so disheartening, so tragic, that there is no word in the English language to describe it. We have words for when you lose a spouse or a parent, but there is no word that is capable of conveying the deep sense of loss and emptiness that comes with losing a child. And perhaps that is for the better. After all, there are times when we try to pacify and placate people with trite words and phrases. Those things are not appropriate here. For there is no one word or phrase that could adequately describe and or comfort someone at this time.
Nor should there be. This is a time where we all have to deal with this loss in our own way, in our own time, and in our own fashion. There is no one way to grieve, no one way to behave, no one way to act. And in that, it is our job, as friends and family, to give both Kim and Chris that time and that space to deal with this loss in their own time and manner.
For I doubt very many of us can relate to what they are experiencing. I know I canít. So all I can do is offer my love for both of them, my support for both of them, and to let them know that there is a comfort. And all you have to do is avail yourself of it.
For in times like these, it is easy to blame God. It is easy to question God. Itís even easier to question God. There is a school of thought that says God only takes those who have completed their earthly journey. That He only takes those who have done everything it was meant for them to do in this life. And while that is indeed a theory, what I do know is that even though he lived for what some of us may think 10 years is not long enough, we should be mindful that Chris lived more in his 10 years than a lot of people do in a lifetime.
I got the chance last year to go to one of his baseball games. It was a fluke that I went. Chris called me and told me about the game, I decided to go, not so much to see Chris play, but to support his dad. But as I stood there watching the game, I saw something else. I saw something more than a proud father coach his son. I saw a young man, committed and dedicated to be the best player that he could be. I saw an intensity in Chris that most kids his age did not and could not possess. I think back to my time playing Little League and I know I was not as into the game as Chris was. I saw this young man watch the whole game, not just the part that concerned him.
They say that the thing that makes people like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Derek Jeter, Tiger Woods, Arthur Ashe, and many other great athletes great is their ability to see beyond themselves during the game. To be able to look ahead and anticipate what the next play might be, where the ball might roll, or how your opponent might move. They say it takes a lifetime to develop such ability. And while I am no coach, I can say that to my amateur eye, I saw glimpses of greatness in Chris that day. After all, there are professional baseball players who have never pitched a perfect game, as Chris did one day. And as a former little league pitcher myself, I can say that is quite an impressive feat.
To say that Chris was a blessed child is an understatement. God surely smiled upon him in a mighty big way. The gifts he possessed he used to their fullest extent. And I am just not talking about his athletic skills. Scripture says "train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old, he will never depart from it." Chris was not only blessed with his parents good looks, SOME of their intelligence, tho I am guessing that was a true gift from God, rather than anything from his dad (smile), his athletic ability Ė but he was also blessed with those things because of what his parents taught him. What they instilled in him. The sense of respect, the sense of courtesy. You could tell when you were around Chris that he was raised right.
As evidence of this, there was another incident I had with Chris about a year or so ago, when I was working out at the Y on Stony. There were a bunch of kids from the day camp classes in the locker room when I was getting dressed. And they were all running around, being loud, cursing, and just being kids.
One of those kids was Chris. So I walked up in between the boys and looked at Chris. I said, "CJ?" His face went blank. I was the last person he expected to see that day. So he asked me if I heard some of the stuff that was being said. Then in a look of almost utter panic he said "Iím sorry! Are you gonna tell my dad?" I knew in that instant, as much as he knew that what he said or was doing was wrong, he was having fun just being a kid. So I told him I wouldnít say anything to his father, and I kinda broke that promise, tho I didnít say anything until several months after the incident.
That day, Chris was enjoying himself, being a kid. Sure, he knew that his behavior wasnít perfect. But he immediately switched gears and went from being a loud kid to a kid that was worried about what his father would think. I remember one of his friends asking him who I was. And he said, "one of my dadís friends." The other kid asked Chris if he was gonna be in trouble, and he just shrugged his shoulders and sat down on the bench. I would see Chris at the Y a couple of times after that, but I never saw him acting the way he did that day. And while I donít think he did anything all that bad, as I said, he was being a kid, he learned. Iíd like to think that he was more worried about disappointing his parents, than he was about what the other kids would think.
And maybe this is the lesson to be learned today for the young men and women who are here. Chrisí classmates and his teammates. Those he studied with and played with. Your presence here this morning is a statement of your love and respect for him. And as a young child, I know it is hard to make sense of all this. We all think that children should not have to experience these hard life lessons at such young an age.
In this age of war and famine, of buildings blowing up, of celebrities being charged with unspeakable crimes, it is my sad duty to inform you that part of this, is a portion of what being a grown up is about. And can I be frank when I say, it sucks. We shouldnít have to deal with these things, these issues. Death, for a lot of us, is still a foreign concept. Itís one of those things that we see on television or hear about in the music we listen to, but when it comes down to it, itís not one of those things that we think we should have to deal with.
And in the midst of all of this pain and suffering and confusion, there are bright points. We do go on. All of us. We learn to cope. We take these lessons and it makes us stronger. You are able to begin looking at your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc., in a different light. Not just someone that puts food on the table or clothes on your back. Those are the easy parts of being a parent. But to understand, that every single one of you has something in common with Chris. Like him, you too are loved. It may not always feel like it. Especially when you get punished like we did for not doing your homework, for not cleaning up your room, but you are loved.
Because love, my young brothers and sisters, is one of the most important things you will ever experience. You all have someone in your life that you love. And you may not even realize it yet. But love is so powerful, so strong, that there is nothing on this earth that can conquer it. Love is the most important tool that God has given any of us. Love can start a war, or end it. It can save a life or it can take it. Love can cause you to perform miracles. It will help you to do things you never even thought possible. Whether itís the love for your parents, or your brothers and sisters, your other family, your friends, the games you play, the tv shows you watch, the music you listen to..... it all boils down to love.
For some of you, while you know you love your parents and family and friends, itís sometimes hard to show that love. Chris showed his love with the respect he had for his parents. In the way he treated his sister, Amour.
And let me digress. Because weíve all been concentrating on Chris and Kim and our loss. Let us not forget someone else who has lost someone near and dear to her. Amour, I have lost brothers, so I can partially relate to what you are going through. This is a time for you to rely on your parents. To remember that he will always, always be with you. The one thing we must all remember is that Chris will live on in each and every one of us. He touched us all. Those of us who are off work today, those of us who are out of school, each and every one of us have been touched by his life. And you Amour, should remember. He will always be your brother. Remember that. Hold on to that. Remember that even if he didnít say it, act like it, he loved you. You two were sometimes like peas in a pod. You looked out for each other. And you being the older sister, you can a duty to maybe make sure he didnít get into too much trouble, while you were trying to stay out of trouble yourself. But hold on to the fact that your brother will always be that. And itís okay to be sad if you want to, itís okay to cry if you want to, itís okay to smile if you want to, or to laugh or to sing. Whatever makes YOU feel better, that is what you are to do.
And that goes for all of us. The love and admiration we had for Chris, we need to hold on to that. We need to keep it as a part of us. We need to realize that for the time he was here with us, he lived a good life. He lived a life that children in other parts of the world only dream about living.
We need to hold onto the fact that as much as we donít understand it, as much as we may get angry with God, that every soul on this earth has a purpose. That there are things that each of us are to accomplish in our life. That we must understand that for however brief we think Chrisí life was, it was a full life. It was a complete life. That God smiled upon Chris, not only through his life, but also at the moment of his departure. The impact that Chris had on each and every one of us is nothing to be taken lightly. And it is a testament to his life that all of you are here today.
They say God moves in mysterious ways. This particular way is quite mysterious. But we must acknowledge that maybe God has something better in store for Chris. When Chris was called up to be with God, and he was greeted with the love that only our Heavenly Father can give, we know that God was pleased. And the love that Chris felt here on earth is only magnified now that he is with God.
So I leave you with this. It is okay to be sad. It is okay to be angry. Grieve and mourn in the manner and fashion which will help you. To Chris, Kim, Amour, the rest of the family and friends, to all of us here, remember, weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
And I tell you this morning. There is joy around the corner. That God is in charge. Look to Him for your source of comfort. Look to Him to be your source of strength. God has not and will not forsake you. Talk to Him. Yell at Him. Argue with Him. He will listen. He will answer your prayers. He will make the pain less, the grief bearable.
God IS in the healing business. God IS in the comforting business. Know that wherever you are, God is. That you can call on Him anytime, anyplace, anywhere.
And just as with God, Chris will forever be with you as well. His body may not be here, but his spirit, his love, his impact will be with you all forever. Chris is with God, and one day, we will all see him again. But until that day, keep him in your heart. Keep him in your mind. Incorporate his essence into your own.
And finally, I leave you with the words from the 55th Psalm. As for me, I will call upon God; and the LORD shall save me. Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice. He hath delivered my soul in peace from the battle [that was] against me: for there were many with me. God shall hear, and afflict them, even he that abideth of old. Because they have no changes, therefore they fear not God.
Call upon God, my brothers and sisters. He will hear your voice. And He will heal your pain. There is joy in the morning. Be patient. Be true. And it will come. God will not forsake you. He is with you now, and will be with you forever more.
God Bless You
(Charles E. Smoot © 2000-2010, all rights reserved)