It’s the morning after the big rain storms in Houston. Today so many families are facing the destruction of their homes or the loss of their property, possessions and cars. Far worse are the deaths of five individuals who never dreamed yesterday morning that before the day was done they would become victims of the raging waters that overtook the city’s bayous and streets. While all of the pandemonium was playing out all over my hometown there were people still dealing with the routines of life. Babies were born, people became sick, some took their final breaths. The world goes on all around us in spite of dramatic events and this was all too sadly true for my long time friend, Chris Nixon. This morning those of us who knew him learned from his daughter that he had died.
I’ve had a difficult time pushing myself to write today. My heart feels so heavy. I knew Chris from the time that he was a young boy. We attended school together for many years. Because it was the practice to group students based on test scores and achievement levels back when I was a student, Chris and I ended up in the same classes. Our high school was small and our particular Honors section spent four years moving from classroom to classroom together, taking the same courses and sharing the same experiences. We were often placed in alphabetical order which wedged me between John Kurtz and Judy Loisey. Since Chris was always sitting either behind me or at the start of a new row we had few opportunities to talk or interact during class time but I certainly noticed him because he was a very handsome and friendly young man. I suspect that I harbored a teenage crush on him from time to time but mostly we were just friends.
After graduation we all went our separate ways as is so often the case. I kept in touch with some of my female friends but generally lost track of everyone else, including Chris. We were all busy building our lives and raising families. Time goes by so quickly and before we all knew it decades had passed. Each of us had become almost unrecognizable with age. We had our unique stories but always we remembered those wonderful days when we were young, beautiful, ambitious and filled with so much hope and promise. Thanks to the wonders of Facebook we slowly but surely began to find one another and to renew our friendships again. That is how Chris Nixon and I were reintroduced.
Chris had been a mighty captain for Buffalo Industries. He labored along the Houston Ship Channel and garnered the respect and loyalty of those who worked for him. He had a family that he loved and of which he was justly proud. Life was good, at least until his health began to fail. He developed chronic heart trouble and endured a stroke. Slowly his body turned on him. He found comfort from his children and grandchildren and he enjoyed hearing from old friends via Facebook. Somehow he managed to stay positive in spite of the many setbacks that he endured. I enjoyed hearing from him and knowing that on the whole he was content in the knowledge that he had lead a truly remarkable life. Still I suspected that it was difficult for someone who had been as dynamic as he was to be held down by a body that was failing him.
The members of my Mt. Carmel Class of ’66 recently met to plan our fiftieth reunion. Happily I was able to talk with Chris. He was as gracious as ever and downplayed the difficulties that he was facing. He walked with a cane and and it worried me that this once strong man seemed so frail. We exchanged a big bear hug and when he flashed his smile I felt assured that he was going to fight to be with us for many more years to come. I had hoped to be able to talk with him some more when our group meets again in May. Now there will be an empty chair at our gathering and a heaviness in our hearts.
The clock is always ticking. We have little idea when the bell will toll for us or for someone who is meaningful to us. We arise each morning expecting that our day will be routine but experience has taught us that there are all too often those terrible surprises that break our hearts. Thus it is for Chris Nixon’s family and friends on this day.
I have reached that unlucky point in my life at which more and more of those with whom I shared my youth are leaving this earth. Somehow in my mind we are all still eighteen years old and at the pinnacle of our health, attractiveness, and intellect. We are ready to take on the world and make history. It’s difficult to accept that some of us have all too soon been called to our heavenly home. In the past few years both Mike and I have been saddened with the news of the deaths of one former classmate after another. We have been reunited with our friends at funerals too many times. We are reminded over and over again of the reality that none of us are immortal and that we must seize each day that we are given.
Chris Nixon has joined other angels from my Class of ’66. He will be remembered as a kind and caring person who lived with gusto and optimism even until the end. He taught us all the meaning of courage and helped us to understand the importance of love and friendships.
The skies are still gray today even though the storms have passed and my heart is heavy. Another friend is gone. I’d like to imagine that Chris’ broken body is once again strong and erect. His brilliant mind is now as quick as it ever was. He is a handsome and commanding captain navigating the waters of heaven and protecting his family. I suspect that he would want each of us to value one another and to take the time to celebrate our common past and the futures that lie before us.
I will miss seeing Chris and reading his posts on Facebook. He was a good man. May he rest in peace and never be forgotten.