Eulogy by Elwin Roach (Papaw)
Christopher Michael Restaino:
Let me begin by quoting from an unknown author: “If God brings us to it, He will bring us through it.” And today, He has brought us to an extremely hard place which is seemingly impossible to pass through. Nevertheless, by knowing our faithful God — He will bring us through it.
In the midst of this horrible hour, there seems to be a common theme — ALL IS WELL! Although death has spread its horrible shroud over Christopher’s short life, and those dark clouds cover our aching hearts, we can be assured that ALL IS WELL! Even so, we miss him so very much.
Christopher was, and still is, the love of my life, as it was for his mamaw as well. I suppose that due to his medical condition, and by him and his sweet mommy living with us the first two years of his life, formed a bond that was in some ways closer than it was with our own children. I suppose also that due to his continual life-threatening medical condition we cherished every moment and touch we had with him.
One thing that stood out with Christopher was that he was such a happy little boy, and he trusted every one and welcomed them freely into his heart and life. He also had compassion for others. When they were hurting he hurt with them. It distressed him to see their pain, and it mattered not who they were, he felt their pain, and his big heart went out to them. He would comfort those who hurt in any way his little hands and kind words could possibly do. This was Christopher during his earlier years. However, due to being so open to a harsh world, he was very often wounded deeply by those who sensed his sensitivity. His schoolmates saw his lamb-like, or Christ-like qualities as a weakness, and they often devoured him as lions would a defenseless lamb. By the time he entered high school, in order for him to escape the hurt, he had formed a protective shell around him that resembled the very ones who had hurt him so much in the past. Although he tried to be a lion and conceal the lamb that he truly was, all who knew him could still see the gentle, loving lamb with his big, infectious smile.
Christopher and I had some special things together. You may have notice the pen in his hand last night at the visitation and viewing. That pen in his hand was the end of nineteen years of a special thing we had together which started when he was about three months old. Every time I would take him into my arms, he would grab the pen out of my shirt pocket. It was not long before it was an automatic reaction, and he didn’t even have to look at his target as his tiny fingers would snatch my pen. He became a master pen snatcher. After he grew old enough to crawl I would chase him through the house with attempts to recover my pen, which often ended in a wrestling match.
This on-going game was played every time we came together, and as long as we were together. As his mamaw and I would visit him and the family, the game began as we walked through the doorway. Most of the time he would be successful in snatching the pen; but every once in a while, I could prevent it. Preventing him from getting the pen, of course, was to keep the game competitive and interesting. It mattered not how long we were together, or where if was, when he thought my guard was down, he would snatch my pen. It became a natural reflex for my hand to slap my left shirt-pocket when he came near me in order to protect my pen. I am surprised that my chest did not become bruised from slapping myself all the time we were with my little “Buddy Boy.”
This joyful game continued until the very last time we were together, which was New Years (2005) when we were with him and the family here in Albuquerque. I will miss that game with him so very much. However, New Years was not really the last time we played the game; for as you noticed the pen in his hand last night at the visitation, it was still going. You see, when we arrived, I took my pen and placed into his loving hand to carry with him on his journey. That is why the pen was in his hand.
However, even then the game had not ended. I went back to sign the visitors’ book, and without thinking, I reached for my pen, and suddenly realized that my little Buddy Boy had snatched my pen again! Therefore, I had to use another pen.
During the visitation everyone was given a card to write something about Christopher that was a fond memory of him. I reached for my pen once again to write what I had in mind only to find that Christopher still had my pen. I said to my brother Tim, “I am not going to let that little stinker get away with snatching my pen. I am going to get it back from him, even if I have to wrestle him for it. Get the camera and we will capture on film my victory of retrieving my pen.” We went to where he was laying, and as I lifted the pen from his hand, my brother took the picture. After writing my thoughts on the card, I told Tim that I had a feeling that Christopher was going to snatch it back from me for the last time to victoriously win the game that had endured for more than nineteen years. As I lovingly placed my pen into his hand, the picture was taken of that victorious moment. Oh, how I will miss those wonderful times with him!
Christopher had such a special, deep-rooted love for his family. It was a love he was not ashamed of in the presence of others. It did not matter where we were, in a busy mall, a restaurant, or a crowd of hundreds, he would hold my hand or we would walk with our arms wrapped around each other’s neck. There was something unique in the way our hands fit together. Our palms formed an almost air-tight pocket, and when we squeezed each other’s hand, it would make a special squeaking sound, and we would walk hand in hand squeaking through the mall or down the street. It did not matter to us what people might be thinking; for we loved each other, and we were having fun expressing it. Those are times of remembrance which will never fade from my mind.
I will also miss hearing him call me “Satchel,” especially while playing the card game, “Liverpool Rummy.” To appreciate that you would have to know about the dog named “Satchel” in the comic strip, “Get Fuzzy.” Although the dog is loveable and kind, he just doesn’t have a clue about what is going on. Of course, I would play the part very well for Christopher, and at times I wasn’t acting.
After Christopher slipped from this life to the other side, we are all having many regrets. One thing stands out so clear today that I regret is that his mamaw and I passed up the chance to be with him one last time. We received a call from Michelle and were asked if we could spend the weekend with the boys, since she was flying out to be with Sergio in Monterey, California where he was doing some research. We told her that it would not be possible, because we had plans of being in Big Spring, Texas for a ministerial conference where I was one of the guest speakers.
Due to what others expected of us, we turned down the final opportunity to be with our Christopher and Alex together as brothers. We would never see him alive again, and we deeply regret this.
However, although we all have regrets, let us not be overwhelmed by them. Let us not sink into the darkness and pain of those regrets; for there is no life of Christopher to be found in them. Rather than dwelling in regrets and self-condemnation, let us learn and become stronger and wiser from them. Let us put them under our feet and use them to build our future from those hard lessons. For whether or not we can see it at the moment, the theme of this day is ALL IS WELL! And I can say this with all assurance because of two major things. First, I not only know what the word of God says about tragedies such as the death of our dear Christopher; but I know our God and He does all things well.
This great loss has caused me to examine our values, especially my own. While returning from the store yesterday I cried out with question: “WHAT ARE OUR VALUES? WHAT ARE OUR VALUES? WHAT ARE OUR PRIORITIES?” It is sad that our values have been misaligned, and our busy lives have pushed aside those things which are of true value; namely, our children, grandchildren, husbands, wives, and family.
When Christopher was thirteen years old, he saw something that very few people are privileged to see. Sergio, Michelle and the boys were on vacation in South Padre Island of Texas, along with Margit and me. One evening after Christopher and Alex went to bed, they were talking as brothers do before going to sleep. Alex was telling Christopher something, and in mid sentence he stopped talking. That caused Christopher to open his eyes as he was going to have him to finish what he was saying.
Christopher said that he was startled to see the face of Jesus in his closet, and He was looking straight at him. At first he said that it really scared him, and he was wondering why Jesus was in his closet, and why He was looking at him the way he was. I asked him how Jesus was looking at him, and if it was a look of displeasure, anger, or perhaps joy. He said that it was hard to describe; but His eyes just seemed to pierce into the depth of his being, and that nothing was hidden from Him. Above all, he said, there was no condemnation seen in His eyes at all.
He said that while looking into the face of Jesus the most profound thing enlightened his understanding. He said that he knew everything there was to know about God. There was nothing that he did not understand about Him; but at the same time, he said that in his mind he knew nothing about God, which was very confusing for him. Nevertheless this enlightenment continued as long as he was looking into the face of Jesus.
Not only did he know everything there was to know about God, he said that he saw us from beginning to the end. I asked him who the “us” was that he saw, and if it was our family he was speaking of. He said, no, it was not our family, but everyone. He said that he saw humanity from the beginning to the end and everything between. He could see everyone and everything (good and bad) which had already passed, everyone and everything which is presently happening, and also all things and events in the future. He said that one thing that was as clear to him as knowing everything about God was that ALL BEGAN WELL, ALL IS WELL and ALL WILL END WELL! This vision and understanding remained until the vision faded and he was no longer looking into the face of Jesus.
After Christopher related this to me, I asked him about some of the mysteries of God that he saw and understood. He said that he wished he could tell me; but after Jesus was gone, he could not remember one detail. Only while he peered into His eyes did he know all things.
Let me now relate some things that have happened since our Christopher was called home. After we had left the hospital the evening of the 19th our daughter-in-law, Danyel, had gone into his room for her jacket. She came out and told Steven and me that she felt a strong presence of Christopher in his room. I immediately went to see for myself, and as I entered a blanket of energizing presence of Christopher enveloped my entire body. It is difficult to put into words; but his presence was more than just being there with me. He embraced me by his electrically charged life, and this continued as I slowly turned and viewed everything in his room.
The next day, Sunday evening, our family along with the Lopez family had gathered for dinner. An abundance of food had been prepared by Sergio and Michelle’s friends for us and all those who came to visit and give their condolences. Some of us were sitting at the dining table, my sister Sandy and her husband Ernie, my niece and her husband Bernie, and I. It was one of those times when the tears had ceased for awhile and we could talk and laugh while enjoying being together. It was not long before I felt someone pull up a chair close to my side. I thought it was Alex since it was so close to me; for only Christopher and Alex would pull their chair as close as this. I expected his arm to wrap around my neck as the boys would always do when they were that close to their mamaw and papaw, or their mom and dad. I glanced over to see Alex; but to my surprise there was no one there. I knew then that it was Christopher, and he was joining us in the family gathering.
After telling those at the table what I had experienced, my niece, Brandy, told us that she had received an email from a friend, and while praying on behalf of the family, she saw Christopher sitting at the dining table with us. The next morning Brandy’s ten year old daughter, Gabriella, who knew nothing about the email or my experience, said that she had a dream of Christopher. In the dream she saw Christopher having a wonderful time sitting at the table with all of us.
Although such things are comforting, there remains that stabbed, inconsolable sorrow and I are groping for the right words, yet failing miserably. It is impossible to express things of such eternal weight in terms of mortal space and time. While our darling boy was lying in a coma dying, I looking out the hospital window over the city and toward his home resting at the base of the Sandia Mountains. The sun was setting in the west, as my heart was be torn out, knowing he would never go back to his home and family, and would never again trek through those rugged mountains he love. He would never again climb to the place we call “Christopher’s Rock” and meditate as he often did while overlooking the city and across the valley. The only words large enough to echo the voice to my soul were, “The sun is going out, and our lives will never be the same.”
Nevertheless, although none of us well ever be the same, let us know that as it was with Christopher when he was thirteen
years old and looking into the face of Jesus -- he knew that ALL WAS WELL.
Christopher so clearly saw and knew this, and when we look into that same face
we can likewise know, and truly say -- ALL IS WELL. ALL IS WELL!