The best way to describe Chris is through his friends' words. Here are some excerpts from hundreds of letters we've received. The amazing thing is most of the letters talk about the support and compassion Chris showed his friends, all while suffering and struggling with his own depression and anxiety.
Excerpts from letters from Chris' friends
Chris and I both arrived at Amherst in fall of 2015. The first few weeks and even months were really tough for me and I had trouble adjusting to the new environment. But Chris was one of the first friends I made on campus and was a tremendous help in not only making me feel comfortable, but also welcomed, and was a major reason I was able to stick it out... Chris used to play guitar for us in the common room while we all were stressed out doing homework...
Knowing Chris was a blessing. There is no other word to describe the kind of presence he had. A genuine soul, with the biggest heart and ability to make everyone feel heard and loved. I never saw Chris mad or sad, he only ever was wearing a smile that was infectious to those around him.
I befriended Chris (freshman year of college) 'cause I knew he was struggling. Having struggled throughout my adolescence, I figured Chris could use a friend like me. I would ask him to play guitar for me uninvitedly. Of course Chris always welcomed me in. It became apparent to me that as much as I wanted to be a resource for Chris, he was more of a resource for me. His music was a huge escape for me. I was going through a hard time sophomore year, mostly when the season turned cold and dark. I had clearly been crying late one evening, and was on my way out of the dorm to walk my support animal. Chris walked by me, looked at me, said hi, and kept walking. As we walked in opposite directions for about 5 seconds, Chris yelled down to me and asked if he could come. I said please. We walked together around the baseball field and campus late that night. We talked about our families and dogs. He told me about his puppy and sisters. We talked about school and music. He didn't ask me what was wrong, but he knew I didn't want him to. He knew I just needed the company. I didn't spend much time with Chris but I can confidently say that the time I spent with Chris was more meaningful to me than the time I spent with most of my closest friends. Chris was my guardian angel that night. I wish Chris had found his. He touched my heart in a way no one has. Chris is a true treasure.
... I had been struggling immensely ... I was aware of Chris's struggles and never would've thought he would burden himself with one more thing to worry about. But he did. He asked how I was constantly and even tried to teach me how to play some guitar to express my emotions. It was the hardest struggle of my life and he was the only person at Amherst I was open to talking with about my situation. It was a testament to how big of a heart he had, how loving he was, and how much he meant to me. He got me through last year...
... there were several times that I felt somewhat alone and outcast, and Chris was easily the most welcoming bridge out of that feeling. The most incredible part is that he cared about others in a way that I've honestly never seen. Even when I felt like I was checking in on Chris, I always felt that by the end of our conversations/encounters, Chris was always checking in on me. I know that Chris shared his gift of humanity with everyone he touched, and we are all better because of it.
Chris was unlike any other person I have I ever met. No matter what, he always had a smile that could light up the room, and often served as a friend when I myself was struggling. Five years ago, in class I was wearing a locket from my grandmother. I had worn the locket for months and no one had ever asked me what was inside of the locket- Chris was the first to do so. He was shocked to see that my locket was empty, so on a ripped piece of notebook paper he drew a stick figure self portrait of himself, signed it, and taped it inside. The locket still sits in my jewelry box at home. To this day, I will never know or understand why I didn’t take that self portrait out of my locket, but now it is certainly something I will never replace. I believe Chris will truly serve as a guardian angel to not only me but all of the lives he touched. Like putting the picture in the locket, Chris always cared for the others around him and took time each day to say hi to everyone he knew in the hallway and ask how their day was. His thoughtfulness, bright smile, and love of music will never be forgotten.
... Chris was not the type of person who wanted to be the center of attention in a room full of people, but he was the person everyone always gravitated to.
If there is one word I could use to describe Chris it would be generous. Chris was generous with his time, his things, his love and most importantly, his friendship. Chris was a friend to everyone. I've never met a person who didn't have a wonderful thing to say about him. I could count on him to be a friendly, comforting face in any crowd... Chris was a ray of sunshine no matter what. I can't remember a time he wasn't smiling. He had an adventurous spirit about him that instantly made anyone happy. I know I could go to Chris for anything and he would help anyone... He was truly a role model and an example of how we all should lead our lives.
Amherst College baseball wrote the following tribute to Chris:
We miss you. We miss seeing you in the halls and around campus and hearing your guitar; we miss all of the little things. But what we miss most is your big smile, your gentle heart, and the friendship that we shared. We are writing this letter to you as a way to celebrate the life you lived and its meaning to us. As we grieve as your friends, teammates, and classmates, we learn more about what you meant to so many people. On Friday, when we had the opportunity to spend time with your family, we learned from your grandfather how you fell in love with baseball and why you became a Yankees fan. We learned from your sisters that you were the most musical of all your family members. We learned from your uncles that you were always the first to welcome new members to the family, just as you were the best in welcoming new members to our team. None of this was a surprise to us because of the person you were. You were so gentle and kind in caring for others.
You taught us how to be courageous. When you confronted depression, you faced it with your best smile and by sharing with others the struggles that you faced. You managed to be a supportive friend while dealing with your own struggles. As your father mentioned, the depression that ultimately took your life wasn't who you truly were. The Chris with a big smile, who was playful, and had a big heart was who you were. You and your family's openness about depression helped us better learn about being strong in the face of adversity and accepting vulnerability in a world that too often attempts to mask it. We learned more from you than we could ever learn in a classroom or on a ballfield, and we will use these lessons to better our lives and the people who rely on us as friends. We honor your friendship, your fight against mental illness, and the wonderful life that you lived by making sure that the courage, the love, and the companionship you shared with us will live on in our lives.
At Amherst, you wore the number 21. This number was worn by Roberto Clemente, one of the greatest humanitarians in the history of the game. Clemente, like you, cared more about others than himself. You played the game like him too: with great joy and passion for the game. As one of our pitchers remembers, there is a gracefulness in the way you caught. As we all saw by your mammoth swings, you never held back from anything when you stepped on the field. And true to your spirit and the way you lived your life, you never held back in the love that you showed to others. Thank you for being such a great teammate and friend.
The Amherst College Baseball Team
What I'll miss and always carry with me - your selflessness, genuine compassion and kindness; your honest heart and willingness to be you. I know how much South Kingstown Town Beach meant to you and in my eyes, you will forever be there, in every ocean breeze, sunny day and stormy day too.
One thing I will always cherish - the warmth that you carried and how you spread it to others. Whether I was having a tough day at practice or school, you were always there and cared. You'd come around with that big smile and compassionate attitude to somehow always make things better.