23 June 1996
Yesterday I attended Chris Borton’s “celebration”. I had never been to one of these and I thought I would let those of you who couldn’t make it know how it went.
Chris didn’t want a funeral or service of any kind. His request was for an uplifting party and gathering of all his friends and family, which is exactly what he got.
The setting was at a place referred to as “The Deck” in the mountains between Mountain View and the ocean. It’s about an hour drive from Chris’ apartment on one and two lane roads. Chris used to go to this place to do folk dancing and hang out with friends. In fact, he was there just last month for a special gathering and the start of the “the tile project” (more on that in a minute).
There were about 150 people there yesterday. It was a beautiful sunny day. Most people showed up around 2pm and stayed until 8 or 9pm. There were photo albums to look at, a guest book to write anything you wanted in and an enormous quantity of food to eat (it was a potluck).
Around 4pm everyone sat down on the deck to share memories. Chris’ dad, Ray, started by giving us the two-minute summary of what Chris had done and what he was about. Then he read a poem Chris had recently written. Chris’ brother, Ben, talked about how he had grown closer to his brother during the last several years. And he read a story he had written.
After that, about twenty of those present chose to stand and say a few words. All were upbeat and almost no-one cried. I had the privilege of announcing the scholarship fund (I also told the story of how I met Chris on the first day of college while moving my Apple ][ computer into my dorm room — after Chris saw the second box of equipment go by he introduced himself with “What’s that? My name’s Chris.”).
After an hour of sharing we all stood and sang a song together. Then we had a couple of group dances where everyone held hands and snaked around in a big line.
That was the end of the scheduled activities. From then about 1/3rd of the people (mostly the dance group, I’m guessing) danced to Hungarian folk dances while the band of 8 or so people (also friends of Chris) played on. The rest of us talked, ate and made tiles.
The Tile Project is really great. They have a redwood log that is about 10 feet long and 3 feet wide that has been planed on one side. They use it as a table there. Everyone who wanted to had a chance to paint a 4″x4″ ceramic tile. During the next week or so they’re going to fire the tiles in a kiln and then cover the top of this table with them as a dedication to Chris. The nice thing is that Chris knew about this project before he died. Last month the dance group had a gathering at The Deck, and announced the tile project. Chris made the only 8″x8″ tile and it will be the centerpiece. It says:
The Deck, like the Circle of Life,
constantly adapts and grows.
This round dedicated to the things
I hold dearest from it:
Love, Dance, Friendship,
Music, Community —
These are building blocks for a
foundation to last forever
Chris Borton, May 1996
The designs other people chose were varied — many people painted dancers, or signs of love/peace. One person made a e-mail smiley face 😉 and another did the Apple Computer logo. It’s going to be a really cool table. I plan to return at the next big dance gathering (labor day) and take some photos of the finished table.
The scholarship fund was well received. An hour before I announced it I was told that an anonymous donor had stated he would match all donations up to the first $15,000. So, if we can get $15,000 then this person will donate another $15,000. I’ve enclosed extra flyers so that you can give them to friends of Chris who I may have missed or other generally generous people you may know. Those of you with Internet access can find an electronic version of the enclosed flyer at: http://www.photolabels.com/chris.shtml
The “celebration” was a success. I’ve been to several funerals and now one celebration and I can honestly say the celebration is the better way of the two. Chris would have loved it.