I know it sounds crazy to say and is something of an oxymoron but I think that all who attended would agree that Chris Haven Peck’s memorial service was the best they’ve ever attended. I have always hated those services where someone who, often times, has never even met the deceased before, gets up and drones on and on delivering us catch phrases and passages from their text of choice while we all sit there, uncomfortable, pretending that those generic words are offering us any comfort at all in our time of need. It’s no offense against the stranger or the words, it’s just that in those times, we don’t want to hear about anyone’s beliefs or philosophies on death, we just want our loved one back.
I am happy to say that thanks largely to the unsinkable amazingness of Anne Peck Dixon, her family, and Chris’ roommate Dennis there was not a word uttered at that service that wasn’t heart felt, insightful, healing and fully representative of the man we all came to pay tribute to. For those few hours we all spent together it really felt like we had him back and I never wanted that service to end. (and yes, I know amazingness is probably not a word – I just don’t care)
It started out hard. Somehow just walking through those doors of Baldwin Fairchild for the reason that I knew I was walking in them for just felt so final, so irreversible, and I just didn’t want to walk in, as if maybe if I just turned around it wouldn’t have to be true. I went in anyway, as we all did, and sat down uncomfortably, just waiting, like an emotional time bomb, nervous about my ability to control when I might just go off.
It got more and more crowded as we all knew it would but the room was eerily quiet and felt more and more thick with emotion and expectation and then a beautiful thing happened…David Knix, an old time friend of Chris’ broke the silence and gave us all the comic relief we needed by declaring to the entire crowd “if anyone has a lap they’d like me to sit on that would be much appreciated” Everybody laughed and for me, it was like “yep. There’s the spirit of Chris” and from that moment forward I could feel him in the room.
The service began with a beautiful slide show of Chris set to music that kept getting stuck, which again only served as the perfect comedic seque as Dennis, our host for this beautiful experience quipped “I guess we can thank Chris for that one final remix” Dennis began the ceremony by sharing some heartfelt thoughts about the important things he learned from Chris. I can’t remember every detail but the main thing I got was that Chris taught him by example that you don’t have to agree with people in order to love them (so huge you might want to reread it again) and that Chris also taught him that we are all hugging
wrong. Chris said people’s natural tendencies are to lean to the left when they go in for a hug and he felt that instead we should all lean to the right. This way when we hug we are lined up heart to heart. Dennis asked us all to humor him by getting up right then and there and giving someone beside us a warm Chris style hug. We did and with that, Chris’ love was now fully in the room.
Next up we had Tracy, Chris’ fiancé, who shared with us some beautiful stories of the very current Chris. She shared about how important his spirituality had become to him, and how and why he now felt comfortable to take on the namesake of his grandfather Haven (feeling like he had grown from the boy to a man) and about how he had just gotten to a place where he was ready to take on his lifelong nemesis: commitment. And she made us giggle as she lovingly recounted him walking through the house affirming out loud “I am great at commitment. I am great at commitment.”
Chris’ childhood friend, Tom O’Shea was up next to share with us the High School Chris. He made us laugh with stories of Chris talking him into joining the High School cheerleading team, or roping him into his one and only performance of Stairway to Heaven on the senior cruise or the image now burned into our brain of Chris passed out in the back of a car dressed in a skirt and sporting some rather large bosoms after the now infamous powder puff
game. And he made us cry right along with him as he shared his heartfelt sadness over how much he is going to miss this truly one of a kind friend who can never be replaced.
His friend Mark shared with us the MBA Chris that he knew and loved and made us all chuckle in the remembrance of how incredibly intelligent and adventurous Chris was. He talked about how they always stayed connected even though their lives took different paths. He laughed in remembrance of a dinner where he had brought a “newbie” to the experience that was Chris Peck and that after a round of spirited conversation his friend just looked at Chris and said “I don’t know whether to punch you or hug you.” And naturally Chris stood up, arms wide open and grinned “Come here. Let’s hug it out man”
Mark was now married with a little one at home and every now and then Chris would call out of the blue and it would be like “where are you?” and Chris would usually say something like “I’m in Brazil, I’ve just had the most amazing experience. You should come down and play with me” and Mark would look over at his wife changing a diaper and grin “maybe next time.” He loved his life but it was always exciting to live vicariously and hear what great
adventure Chris was off to next.
Next it was my turn to share what it was like to be Chris’ girl next door. How we were two odd balls but that I was better at hiding it than Chris so I spent most of my childhood trying to rein Chris in for his “own good” but how glad I was that I hadn’t succeeded or we probably wouldn’t have all these wonderful people here today telling all these amazing stories. I didn’t prepare much more than that because I had wanted to just look around that room and give
space to what Chris might have wanted me to say.
As I looked around that room what I saw was the most diverse group of people you could possibly place in one room. There were people of all ages, colors, faiths and preferences sitting side by side unified in their love for Chris and it reminded me of another one of the things Chris and I have in common; our intense unconditional love for people. So what I ended up sharing was a reminder about how Chris loved literally everyone. That there were no conditions to his love, whatever you were bringing, he loved it and that he had enough room in his heart for every single one of us.
I asked everyone to consider getting to know one another as a way to keep Chris’ spirit alive, and to try, as an honor to him, to love one another as he had loved them, and to maybe bring some of that Chris flavor and spice we’re gonna miss so much into their own everyday lives, essentially “to go out and be a Peckinator”
After that we were treated to a beautiful rendition of John Lennon’s Imagine sung as a duet by Dennis and one of Chris’ musical partners, Wendy. This is the moment that broke me emotionally because, to me, that song so embodies who Chris was as a person and the questions he asked. It went straight into my heart, and the tears started to flow but they were tears mixed with smiles so I didn’t mind it a bit.
And just when we thought things couldn’t get any more special there was Chris’ sister, Anne! Beautiful, strong, extraordinary Anne Peck Dixon!
She is right. No sister should ever have to eulogize her brother at this age, but given that she had no choice she gave the most amazing Eulogy any brother could ever hope for. I honestly wish I could remember every tiny little word she said in exact detail because everything that came out of her mouth was that precious to me but I think my most favorite part of the whole thing was when she looked around at all of us waving our programs from the heat and some of us standing for what was now over an hour and said quite defiantly, yet adorably, that she had a lot to say, and she was going to take her time and say it, and that we could all just sit there and be hot and deal with it because this was her time now and she was gonna take it! So there. (We were all so happy she did.)
She reminded us of all the wonderful stages and talents of Chris. The fussy baby who “acted as if he was having an existential crisis the moment he had been cut off from the source”. The accomplished athlete. The rebellious teen. The cheerleader. The Surfer/Flagler student. The MBA Chris who started multiple businesses. Key West Chris. The musician who played out everywhere. Burning Man Chris (who kinda resembled Elton John). The world traveler. The yoga teacher. The Kirtan student. The Raw foodist nudist. (Oh how that man loved to be naked.) And the man who was going to save the world with chocolate.
She said that when he would call her, the name that would come up on her cell phone was “The Show” (her nickname for him) because, as we all know, that is exactly what Chris was. You never knew what you would get from him from one minute to the next but you could be certain that it was going to be entertaining, exciting, challenging, occasionally frustrating or dare we say sometimes even down right annoying. She reminded us that yes, it’s okay to admit that. Sometimes he drove us crazy with his need to understand, to know, to push the envelope but those were also the reasons we loved him just the same.
She talked about how he always showed up with a bag and how you never knew what was going to be in that bag. We giggled as she pulled out one of his bags and began to share with us some of the contents of it right then and there. A silver suit, complete with a cap and mask, cuz, you know, who doesn’t need one of those. One of many kama sutra statues…which way does it go… we don’t know…but Chris had a lot of these around the house because as we know he was quite the lover boy.
She agreed with all of us that Chris was truly one of a kind. His wit, charisma, intellect, ridiculous amount of talents and passion for life were unmatched by anyone we had the pleasure to know but that it was the way he loved that we would all probably most remember.
He loved people with his whole heart, hugged deeply, and gave even when he didn’t have it to give. She said that she never fully understand why he loved her soo much and with such passion. That he told her every time they spoke but that lately she was just wondering if she had loved him enough. Did he get what he needed from her? She just hoped and prayed that she expressed sufficiently enough back to him how much he was admired and loved.
Then she treated us to another beautiful slide show she had made for him on his 40th birthday and introduced our last and final speaker for the night, the one and only Robert Newton Peck. (Chris’ Dad)
The moment Mr. Peck stepped out in front of us and said with a smirk “Well I’ve got good news for you. I won’t be singing” we were instantly reminded where Chris got his charm and incredible wit from. He made it short and sweet, talking about his sweet, precious boy who really lived his life with a passion. Who loved wine, women and song, some in larger quantities than others and before we had time to feel sad again from missing him he brought us right back up again with “I bet Chris is looking down on us all right now singing I’ve got friends in low places” Then he wrapped things up with a quote from another tragic story, Hamlet, that he felt summed up all that needed to be said in closing. “Good Night sweet Prince…..what was the rest….it was…..ahhh cut me some slack people I’m 83….oh yes…. Good night sweet prince and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”
And that was it, but wait…what’s this, one last little surprise. It was from Chris himself, one last performance he had recorded on his Ipad. It was a new song that he was inspired to write from an inscription he had seen on a side of a mountain “C God” There he was still so full of life like we all remember him, giving his explanation for the song, and then using
everything including his foot to play this song for us.
He started out slow and haunting as he looked at us with that intentional stare he gives when he wants us to really hear his words and then just like that, I heard a knowing chuckle from around the room, as we watched him pull the classic Chris Peck switch playfully turning the song into an up tempo as he continued to jam out joyfully to the rest of his tune.
How powerful you are Mr Chris Haven Peck! Saying goodbye to us yourself from the great beyond. Still giving us amazing memories to cherish even after you have passed. We will always remember. We will keep you forever alive inside our hearts.
And thank you again Anne, Bruce, Dennis, Rob and Dori for such an extraordinary celebration of his life and giving us the gift of being able to say those odd and bittersweet words “What a great funeral.”
(P.S. I am very serious about putting together a collection of stories in his honor as a gift to his family. If you would like to contribute please send your stories to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)