Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Remembrance of a Friend, Too Soon Gone

In my last post, I mentioned that a long-time friend was sick and in the hospital, not expected to make it. At the time I was writing that post, my friend lay dying in a North Denver hospital.

This has been incredibly difficult for me to write, partly due to my grief, and partly due to rolling words around in my head for the past week, not really knowing what to choose to say.

Chris Caballero was a giant of a man, who has gone too soon from us. He was a giant not only in his stature, at 6’6” and close to 300 pounds when he was healthy, but a giant in terms of his love of life and his love of others in his life.

I knew Chris from the time we were in Junior High School together all those years ago in Northglenn, Colorado. He was in the ninth grade, me in the eighth. He towered over everyone even at that time, and he was not to be missed. His sense of humor even at that age was well developed. His outgoing nature and friendliness drew people into his sphere like moths to a flame.

In high school, he was involved, like me, in theatre productions. He was a great natural actor, with a sense of humor that bordered on gross sometimes, but always witty and unexpected. He was in many productions at our high school. He was also the greatest artist that I have ever known personally. I have some of his art works that I will treasure for the rest of my life. He excelled in art, being gifted in jewelry, silkscreen, batik, drawing, painting, clay and too much more to mention. He was simply filled with art.

As adults, we kept in touch, even being roommates at one point. I was there in his life when his children were born. He was there in mine when my children were born. I even had a fistfight with him once, the only time we were ever mad enough at each other to go at it. He was married, I was married. He had children, we had children. He continued doing his art, sometimes more than others. He made art until almost his dying day.

We worked side-by-side as Land Surveyors. He was talented at that as well. He was a chef for most of his working career. He provided the reception food for my brother’s marriage a few years ago. While a chef, he severely hurt his back by lifting meat and other food items long after he was not supposed to. He was doing this to provide for his family, and because he loved the work. He was a Master Chef, even if he didn’t have that official designation. He once cooked a complete anniversary dinner for my brother and then left my brother’s house for them to enjoy it. When Chris cooked, you knew it. It was always first-rate and imaginative. He once brought a picnic basket covered in red-checked tablecloth for us to have as lunch on a day we worked together.

Chris was an all-around nice guy, and I feel guilty that I didn’t get to say goodbye to him properly. I also feel guilty that I didn’t keep in touch in the last several years, mostly due to my own life problems. I will always regret not calling him in the weeks before he went to the hospital for the last time. I am mad at myself for all these things and more.

Rest easy, Chris. I loved you as a friend and as an adopted brother. The world will be a less kind place for your having left it. I know that now you are out of the terrible pain you experienced in this life, and I am thankful for that. I know that your partner Tamara was there for you all the time in the years of declining health. I love her for that and because she loved you. I know your children, Ivan and Christiana, loved you like a child loves their father and that they took as good care of you as they possibly could. Your family is in my thoughts, all your family. The people around us in high school became sort of a family around my house and my parents always treated all of us as their own. They grieve for you as well today, big guy. Mike, Randy, Dave, Gerry, Megan and many others.

I have lost a friend who was a much better friend to me than I was to him. I wasn’t always there for you, my friend, but I will never forget you. You are part of me as much as you are a part of any person you ever met. I will live my life thinking of your talent, your spirit and your never quit attitude. I only wish I could live up to your example and tell you these things myself.

Tell a friend today that you love them. You may not get the chance.


Douglas Jackson said...

Dear Mark:

I don't know if you remember me. My name was George Douglas Jackson. I graduated from Northglenn High School in 1973, the same year as Chris Caballero. Not a day goes by that I don't miss him, although there are times that I feel like he is still with me. It may be a delusion, but it is a very comforting one. I found your tribute to Chris by means of a Google search. Thanks for that tribute. It was very eloquent, heartfelt and moving. It meant a lot to me and I am sure that it would have meant a lot to him. I forwarded the link to our mutual friend, Mike Snodgrass.

Thanks again, and keep fighting the good fight in Virginia.

George Douglas Jackson

Anonymous said...

Dear Mark,
Thank you for such kind words, It brought me much comfort,and here as I write these words with tears in my my eyes It is nice to know that My father truely was loved for all the amazing things he was, the people whos life he touched an all those he inspired by just a look, a kind word or act, and of corce his ability to make the world laugh. Thank you and our merged familys are allways together in our hearts.
Kristiana Caballero Shawcross