There are so many memories both funny and touching that I had to carefully narrow it down to these three - his first car, his goofy taste in music, and his family.
Chris's first car was a large, white Chevy Malibu from the 1980s that Grandma Young gave him. It was a GINORMOUS car - heavy to drive and a gas guzzler. The driver's window didn't always cooperate. Once early in our relationship, I was with Chris as he went through the drive thru of Whataburger, where the car barely fit as it had the turning radius of a tank. He just opened his car door and with words carefully and slowly said for comic effect "I want a Whataburger (pause) Whatameal (pause), Whatasized (pause) with ketchup" At that moment we just giggled like crazy and it became an inside joke between us forever more. That car was awesome and that memory makes me smile and feel warm and happy.
It's no secret that Christopher loved U2 and music in general. He did have a goofy side even here. His guilty pleasure song in the 1990's was C'mon and Ride It (The Train) by Quad City DJs. He even bought the CD single. He knew all the lyrics and if that song came up at a party or wedding, he was straight on the dance floor. The memories of us dancing to this song at Brian Hill's wedding is forever in my memory. Or of us joining in with 8000 other people at PowWow singing the entire album Flood by They Might be Giants as we waited for Carrot Top to take the stage. Memories of us going to Vinyl Fever to see pop-up shows or wait for the newest release of an REM album are other highlights, or going to see Weird Al Yankovic with our friend Rich in Orlando. Music was very much a part of our shared experience, both cool 1990's alternative and pop as well as Dr. Demento and Weird Al. His taste in music was as eclectic as he was.
Christopher was incredibly close to his family. He loved them so fiercely, even though he often felt like the black sheep. He fought hard to forge his own path, but he always wanted to make his family proud. In forgoing a business degree and following his passion for design, he was able to show his family what he could do. He started by becoming the youngest editor ever of the Tallahassee Democrat TV Magazine that came out every Sunday. He did that by getting his dream job in San Francisco with David Siegel , he did that by writing his books, taking part and organizing conferences, he did that by everyday following his passions.
The love between Chris and his family is so strong, it's what gave him strength to do all he did. Thanksgiving and Christmas wasn't complete without the family joke of offering Chris his mom's sausage stuffing which he didn't like (for the record, it was delicious) or Christmas Eve Mass followed by opening one present before bedtime and the joking and laughter as to what present to pick and the story of how Tiffany recognized her mom's handwriting at age five when reading the gift tags to figure out who would get each present under the tree. Family dinners at holidays were always attended and full of laughter and joking at the table. After dinner games of Tripoley or Uno were always fun. His Mom loved games. Or Schmitt Family pizza made on UF/FSU gameday at his parents' house which also came with remembered stories of Hurricane Kate and the passing of Chris' grandfather Harry.
Chris looked up to his big brothers and was immensely proud of them and all they accomplished. He couldn't wait to show me Paul's valedictorian speech on VHS for example (it was hilarious, especially the reference to the "rack") and just causally mention that his brother Paul was advising the POTUS. David was the quiet one who held everything together. Chris loved that David found Margot and that his big bro was happy. And Chris cheered just as loudly as anyone at Tiffany's high school graduation and so happy for her when her dream of a family finally happened and commented on how cute her kids are when we spoke after his surgery a few years ago. He loved his Grandmas and spoke to me about time spent after school at Grandma Schmitt's house, which was covered in drawings made by them all. He lived for the visits from Grandma Young when she would drive or fly down from Ohio and was glad he lived near her before she passed away.
He welcomed his new stepmother and stepsisters into the family and was glad his dad found love after the passing of his mother. I can't think of Christopher without thinking of his family, especially his mom, Grandma Young and Grandma Schmitt. I can't pass his house on Lakeshore Drive when I visit Tallahassee without seeing him there in my mind's eye and thinking his family is waiting for us to join them in one family activity or another. The love is still there, it's still felt and it's palpable.
My last interaction with Chris was on 1 April 2020. We had been debating in a chat about the new Star Trek: Picard. He and I shared the love of Star Trek amongst other things. We had come through so much in all the time we knew each other, and to be back to our friendship was just the best. Memories of our time together of drive thru Whataburgers, music, movies, family games and stories - things we shared together come at unexpected moments that shake the ground beneath me. His loss is not just my loss or the loss felt by his partner, family and friends, it is a loss to the world. Christopher was and remains one the most amazing people I have ever known. I will continue to share my memories of him with my children, with my friends, with anyone who will listen. I will keep him alive by never forgetting and introducing him to others through stories and laughter and dancing to Quad City DJs.
Christopher Schmitt, thank you. Thank you for letting me be part of your life. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for letting me love you. Thank you for bringing me into your family for a little while. Thank you for shaping the person I became. Thank you for being you. I will love you always, forever, my friend.
More images by Linda Sierra-Parkes