Chris' A.P. Life by Ed Owen by Katie Bernacchi  
As I’m sure many of us have, I’ve spent the last few days thinking a lot about Chris and his life, trying to come to terms with all that has happened. I needed a way to think about Chris’s life that did it justice, that captured some important essence of who he was, and that provided something approaching an explanation.

I’m not a religious person in the traditional sense, so looking at things in terms of God’s will or some kind of divine plan didn’t really speak to me. I needed something more earthly. In the end, this is the weighty philosophical guiding principle that I found: Advanced Placement.

Yes, Advanced Placement. As in those accelerated, “AP” courses offered in high school, or least that’s what they called them back when we were in school. The idea with Advanced Placement was that you tackled difficult, challenging material well ahead of your peers. You took college level classes in high school, with the idea that if you passed an exam at the end of it all, you gained college credit and qualified to move on to the next level.

Chris took about just every Advanced Placement course offered in high school, I think, and easily earned lots of credits at UC San Diego before he had even arrived there. In the 5 or 6 years that it took Scott to decide what he wanted to get his bachelor’s degree in, Chris had already completed a BA and a combined masters in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science – at least a year faster than most “ordinary mortals,” as Chris would have put it. With the exception of Greg the professional student, it remains the most advanced degree of any of those in our main high school circle.

Chris wasted no time in landing a good engineering job with travel to exotic Asian destinations, and leapt way out in front of us again by taking the AP exam in Commitment long before any of us – he and Rachel were married just a few years out of college.

If I described this resume to someone who didn’t know Chris like we all do, they might assume that he was some hard-charging, type-A personality. But we all know that Chris was anything but. Oh, he was driven, but he was also laid back almost to the point of apathy. As I said at his wedding, he seemed to yawn his way through just about everything but nevertheless ended up excelling. It was part of Chris’s special genius that he made everything look so easy.

But, even for Chris, those AP classes were hard. Advanced Placement is not all fun and games. And Chris seemed to stay on that track in life, tackling the hard stuff well ahead of his peers. He was still in college when he became one of the first of us to lose a parent.

I was still single and just getting to know my future wife when Chris’s marriage began to unravel.

And, then, he contracted a disease almost incomprehensible in someone his age.

Advanced Placement.

If anything, these challenges only mellowed Chris further. He handled them all with an uncommon grace and dignity, and he never once lost his trademark sense of humor. Perhaps greatest of all, he used his life experiences to draw closer to the ones around him, rather than as an excuse to withdraw. I recall a time when Chris, single again, joined my wife and me on a ski trip with friends; he was up late into the night talking on his cell phone with a woman. We teased him about a new romantic interest in his life, but he said, no, he was just chatting with his mom.

Visiting Chris over the last three years has brought me, Scott, and Dean back together in ways we would not have anticipated. And we’ve all been absolutely in awe of the bond between Chris and his mother, brother, and Katie.

So, the way I see it, Chris had taken just about every Advanced Placement course in life, and he had aced all the exams. He’d proven himself qualified to move on to the next level, and that is just exactly where he’s gone.
Word · Added: Oct 21, 2008 · Views: 4295 · People Inspired: 2
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My brother-in-law Chris passed away October 4, 2008. He was 37. At his memorial his life long friend Ed read these words through tears. They say everything.
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