Good evening. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Catherine and I am one of Michelle’s best friends since grade school. My husband Nick and I were dating at the time Michelle first introduced us to Kris, and since then, we became especially close to Kris and will always remember the times we have had building our relationship alongside theirs.
I knew Kris was the perfect partner for Michelle from that first time we met him, and witnessed Michelle drunkenly throw a pencil at his eye during a heated night of board games and beer. In that moment, I figured most guys would start to have second thoughts about my crazy best friend, but in some goofy way, that was a metaphor for the kind of relationship Kris and Michelle would have. Fun, fast-paced, forgiving, and patient. They married just two years later. It was meant to be – God surely had a plan.
It’s been inspiring and humbling to see Kris and Michelle’s love grow from the very start. Nick and I have been lucky to spend time with them at bars and breweries, out in back yards and playing board games, and most memorably, on a trip to New York City last summer where we agreed Chicago deep-dish is infinitely better than New York-style pizza, which Kris called “just normal pizza”. I’ll always remember Kris and Michelle’s wedding entrance, which involved them dancing to and twerking to hip hop in sunglasses, or seeing Kris slow dancing with Michelle at our wedding, with Michelle in his lap, arms around him in his wheelchair.
I am most thankful that he showed Michelle, who means so much to me, what it is to be a great man, husband, and friend. Michelle told me that Kris was a thoughtful listener, and I always considered him to be genuine in conversation, and able to tell it like it is. Kris’s intentions were always real and his love unwavering. Even in these last weeks, he planned ahead to his and Michelle’s upcoming 4th wedding anniversary, and surprised her with an early gift. Despite the unexpected difficulties in his life, Kris always managed to put others first.
Reading through people’s reflections online in these past few days, the words inspiration, determination, courage, strength, confidence, ambition, and optimism are used consistently to describe Kris. The one word I feel that summarizes all of these, is GRIT. The dictionary describes grit as a firmness of mind or spirit and unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger. Grit is a trait based on an individual's passion for a particular goal, coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve their objective. Kris embodied grit, and never lost sight of his goal of ending ALS, advocating for and in the community, and to continue to be a positive, optimistic person despite facing an unimaginable challenge and battle. He lived with a purpose, and spent all his days living up to that.
To close, my vow and call to action for the Gronk’s Grace Army, is to not let our passion and the fight against ALS die with Kris. His life here on Earth may be over, but Kris’ legacy is far from settled. His legacy isn’t defined by just the times we’ve shared together, or the memories we have of him, but the impact Kris has made on us that changes who we are. Kris’s name is not etched on a tombstone, but is carved on our hearts forever. Kris, you’ve showed us what we need to do – it’s our turn to lead the fight now. Love you and God bless you.