Last week our staff was hit with the news of a dear friend and co-worker passing. Chris Walton’s death shocked us and everyone is grieving in his own way. My grieving involves sharing memories of him.
I started working for Trinity in 2013 and Chris had been gone for a few months on a project, so when I finally met him my first thought was, “Holy cow, that dude is tall and terrifying.” But by our first conversation, I realized he was so much more.
With starting a new job, I felt overwhelmed. During our first conversation Chris said, “Hi, my name is Chris; I hear you are doing a fantastic job. What you do isn’t easy, but I understand that your upbeat personality and high energy are serving you well. Keep it up and there will be nothing you can’t do here, Rachel.”
Chris encouraged and empowered me during a moment when I didn’t think I would be able to make it. This interaction foreshadowed a role he would play in my life at Trinity.
Near Easter this year I was running around with my head cut off before the debut of our latest production. Chris came over and said, “Rachel do you have a second?” I didn’t, but Chris was always giving me his time, so I was due to return the favor.
He pulled out an old photograph of a beautiful woman.
“Rachel this is my Grandma. She was a classy lady. She would never eat messy food and always had her cloth handkerchief handy if her hands got dirty. She held her head high, shoulders back and took the world by storm. She is someone I have always admired greatly. And it hit me recently that you remind me so much of her. Always stay classy Rachel, it’s one of your greatest attributes.”
What Chris didn’t know was that he spoke into something that I had been teased about my entire life. Being called “uptight” and “prudish” with my passion for etiquette has been something that has deeply upset me. Chris’s words washed over those wounds. Thinking of this conversation still makes me cry.
One of the last conversations I had with Chris involved a huge transition in Jacob’s and my life. It’s one that’s incredibly scary, and Chris was one of the first co-workers I told. When shared our news he got a huge smile on his face and said, “That’s just so perfect for you. I couldn’t be more excited for you both. If you need a place to stay during your transition, let me check with Stacy, but we would love to open our home to you.” I was almost in tears at his joy for us and his instant generosity.
But the amazing thing is that I am not alone on my “Chris” stories. After his death, they poured from everyone’s lips. Chris was amazingly present when it came to people. He touched so many and I know my stories pale in comparison to his true impact.
Chris, you were there for so many and you have challenged me to do the same. You have lit a fire in my heart to love others your way. Your legacy will continue.