The Silence That Changed Our Lives Forever

I had planned to write about appreciating things you don’t quite understand before I knew what I wanted to say. My message, I thought, would be about appreciating people different from yourself. And then, early Monday morning, my beautiful young nephew, my Godson, was struck and killed by a train, and I found the message.

Chris Muldoon August 30, 1993 - August 17, 2015

Chris Muldoon
August 31, 1993 – August 17, 2015

Chris was a young man of few words with a heart so big that his passing has left a huge sinkhole in his community of family, friends, neighbors, teammates, and fellow-camp counselors. It takes a special person to quietly leave such an unforgettable impression on everyone he touched. Fellow-counselors who knew him for less than two months stopped by the house this week choking back tears. They told us that the children returning to camp next year were all jockeying to get in Chris’s group, and his supervisor said they are going to plant a memorial tree in Chris’s honor at the camp where he worked. Chris connected with people in his own special way.

My sister Jeanie shared a character sketch that Chris wrote about me when he was in high school. If my name hadn’t been in the flattering narrative, I would have sworn Chris had taken up fiction. Yet in typical Chris style, he made his mom swear she’d never share what he wrote with me. Sometimes you don’t know the impression you leave on another person, and Chris left an indelible impression on everyone he touched.

We keep those who pass from this life alive with the stories we tell. A measure of a full life and a life well lived, in my view, is not simply the number of stories, but the passion with which they are told. It’s impossible to talk about Chris without smiling. During this difficult time with family and friends in shock, a landslide of stories about Chris have emerged, stories accompanied by smiles and tears, many followed by hysterical laughing by scores of young people remembering Chris’s life and the happiness he left behind.

Chris connecting with one of his campers.

Chris connecting with a young camper.

Chris was a four-year All Catholic cross-country runner in high school, and went to the state championships all four years as well. Chris ran the Crusader Classic 5K with me a few years ago. Like a good nephew he ran the first mile or so with me until I said, “Chris, you don’t have to run with me.” Chris smiled, said, “Okay,” and went on to come in 1st place in his age group. I don’t think I could have cycled the 5K in the time it took Chris to run it.

Chris would have been a senior at West Chester University this year. Many years ago I would run the WCU track after I dropped off two of my sons at the university. I told Chris that one day I would visit him to share a run on the same track I ran with his cousins, but I let life get in the way and never made it. I guarantee you this, Chris, you will be with me on every run I take for the remainder of my days. Promise.

Life’s short; tomorrow’s not guaranteed. Don’t let it slip by. Don’t keep anything inside. Tell the people you love how you feel about them. It will make a difference. Hug your kids, hug loved ones, hug your friends. Don’t let the chance to share yourself get away.

Chris led a full and meaningful life in twenty-one short years. Fortunately, he left a huge piece of himself that we can carry with us forever.

We love you and miss you Chris, all of us. Aunt Jo, Jimmy, Jason, Danny, Colleen, Gina, Alice, Monty, Jason, Carley, Lucy, and Jane (and of course, Bella.) You will be in our hearts forever.

To read more about Chris and the mark he left on the lives of those he touched go to In Memory of Chris Muldoon.

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About Jim Brennan

Jim is a Philadelphia-based writer, author, poet and editor for the Schuylkill Valley Journal.
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25 Responses to The Silence That Changed Our Lives Forever

  1. I’m just catching up. I am so sorry for your terrible loss. What a beautiful soul he was. I’m sure this is all still very new and very difficult. All my best.

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  2. I meant to write this sooner, Jim, but I wasn’t sure what to say. I am so sorry to hear of this tragic loss. Please know you are in my thoughts.

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  3. Mark Mangan says:

    Jim,
    I’m struggling for words. Too young! So sorry! But there must be a reason we just can’t understand…yet!

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  4. Sophie33 says:

    A wonderful beautiful written tribute to your beloved Godson. He will be in your heart forever. I am so sorry for your loss. Hugs! x

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  5. diawalker says:

    Beautiful words for whom sounds like a beautiful young man, inside and out. I’m so sorry for your family’s loss. Sending prayers of strength to your fsmily.

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    • Jim Brennan says:

      Your strength is greatly appreciated by the family. Chris was a great kid. He was unique and did things his way. He’d drive his cross-country coaches crazy, never tied his running shoes and would get onto the bus for away track meets with a Five Guys bag with burger, fries and large soda, then go on to run a personal best. He’s watching over all of us runners. Be well.

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  6. Brittany says:

    Oh my, how very sad. Sending all the love to you and your family.

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    • Jim Brennan says:

      Thanks Brittany. Chris was a special young man. The outpouring of love from family, neighbors and hundreds of friends, teammates, fellow-camp counselors and campers has been very moving. It makes you think how very short and precious life is. I’ve followed your posts on Mount Rainier and remember planning to hike to the summit more than ten years ago and let life get in the way. You are smart to grab life while you can. I plan to go up in the spring. Keep exploring and keep writing. I appreciate you taking the time to write. Be well.

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  7. So sorry to hear about your loss, Jim. You are absolutely right when you say that we have to treasure what we have today, because tomorrow might never happen…

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  8. LB says:

    Jim, thank you for introducing us to Chris, and thanks also for sharing the link to the FB page. What a fine young man he was. Your story of the young camper was incredibly touching.
    I’m so very sorry for your loss. Peace to you and the rest of Chris’s family

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    • Jim Brennan says:

      I’ll never forget the tiniest camper, all five-feet of him, all alone. He touched an entire congregations lives simply by his presence. Thanks for writing, LB. You’re the best.

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  9. TartanJogger says:

    I’m so very sorry to read about this, but you have written a lovely tribute.

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  10. runner500 says:

    So sorry to hear this Jim, I hope that you are bearing up at what must be a really tough time for you and your family. I’d echo your advice at the end – I was perhaps a centimetre (or less padded coat) away from death or life changing injury at the beginning of the year – it has made me recognise how lucky I am, but we all need to reflect on it before it is too late. Paul

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    • Jim Brennan says:

      I remember your injury, and am happy when I read about your treks around London. I’ve lost some close friends the past few years, but never anyone so close, so young, and so loved as Chris. I’ll miss his smile, his bear hugs, and his stories about ski trips and hanging with his boys. I was with Chris tonight, and we will say goodbye tomorrow, but he will be with us forever.
      Be well, Paul, and the best of health to you.

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  11. Anonymous says:

    Jim, this is a heartbreaking, but beautiful, tribute. I only met Chris a few times, but I do know that he came from a truly kind and loving family. God bless all of you.

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  12. Patrick says:

    So very very sorry for you and your family’s loss Jim….

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