June 2, 1987 - July 3, 2008
by Richard LeGallienne
I meant to do my work today,
But a brown bird sang in the apple tree,
And a butterfly flitted across the field,
And all the leaves were calling me.
And the wind went sighing over the land,
Tossing the grasses to and fro,
And a rainbow held out its shining hand,
So what could I do but laugh and go?
I haven’t known C. Ja. very long. I ran some errands on his behalf while he was in Florida at motorcycle mechanic school but I didn’t get to know him until he moved back to the Cape. I was lucky to have that opportunity. And I knew I was lucky when it happened. He was that kind of guy.
C. Ja. brightened my life when I was with him. One minute, he was a kid with a wicked grin and an endearing laugh. The next minute, he was a daring teenager with a passion for guns and motorcycles, and a bold wit. The next, he was a young man - empathic, caring, stumbling into his future caring for and teaching kids. But he was always C. Ja., the same little kid I can see in his baby pictures, the same kind, sensitive, intelligent, funny, beautiful person we all saw.
In a typical C. Ja. encounter last winter, I teased him on a particularly cold day because he had no coat and was shivering. I reminded him that he wasn’t in Florida anymore and that it would get colder. I suggested he grow up and go buy himself a coat. He said that a winter coat would “turn up.” That was so C. Ja. that I didn’t bother to retort. If he thought a winter coat would drop out of the sky, he could be right. He was C. Ja., after all. He did foolish things but he did them with enthusiasm. Enthusiasm on his level could grow a coat on a tree. The next time I saw him, he was wearing one. He smiled when I complimented it and modeled it for me. “My Mom bought it for me,” he said. “Isn’t it great?”
When I worked with him at the store, the banter was constant. We could have been brother and sister. Sometimes the customers were amused; sometimes they were mortified. He entertained me with stories of adventures with his friends, fast cars, lots of alcohol, camaraderie and laughter. We talked about guns and bikes and his family. He outlined his plans to marry a “good” girl – not one of those “raunchy” girls who didn’t dress modestly or who belched like a guy – he wanted someone who would behave like his mother. And he ranted about keeping his little sister Alexa away from the bad boys who would take advantage of her.
Most of the time, my little nephew came to work with me. He loved going to “Mrs. Sullivan’s store” and always asked, “Is that guy going to be there? C. Ja.?” On those days, I did all the work. C. Ja. played with my nephew, rolling on the floor, making paper airplanes, teaching him how to catch and throw a ball. Sometimes they had sword fights with wiffle bats. Sometimes they played hide-and-seek. C. Ja. was the perfect playmate – a grown-up who remembered the way to Sesame Street. It was a meeting of the minds. When the line at my register backed up, customers would pass the time by asking, “How old is he?” I always answered, “Which one? Well, it doesn’t really matter. They’re both five; one’s just a little bigger than the other one.” Penny, his Mom, told me that she promoted C. Ja. to six a few weeks ago when he did something with uncharacteristic maturity. I guess it had to happen some day…
When C. Ja. stopped working at the store, I missed him. He stopped in occasionally, most notably a few days after his recent car accident. He let me admire the gash on his head. When I exclaimed about his quick recovery, he quipped, “I heal fast” and hopped over the console to take the wheel of Penny’s open convertible. I didn’t look back to see if he’d finally heeded my latest lecture about wearing a seatbelt. It was too hard to be stern with him; too difficult to keep a straight face when he flashed that smile and he got that amused twinkle in his eye.
In Paul’s letters to Timothy, he wrote, “We brought nothing into this world and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” I don’t think that’s true. C. Ja. came into the world with the love of only his family. He lived every day of his life. He left this world with the love and admiration of so many people. He left this world with the legacy of touching so many lives, creating little differences here and there, brightening many dreary days. Twenty-one years doesn’t seem like much but, in the end, a man is judged by how many lives he’s touched. I know that I was not the only one taken by his charm and his antics and his kindness. He remains with us, within us, and he will go many places with the people who know they would not have been the same without his touch, however strong, however brief.
I cannot walk by day as now I walk at dawn
Past the still house where you lie sleeping.
May the sun burn away these footprints on the lawn
And hold you in its warmth and keeping
If I should die and leave you here awhile
Be not like others sore
Who keep long vigils by the silent dust
For my sake turn again to life and smile
And nerving thy heart and trembling hand
Do something to comfort other hearts than thine
Complete these dear unfinished tasks of mine
Perchance, may therein comfort you
from The Cape Cod Times
HYANNIS — All Christopher Sullivan wanted to do was help others, his grieving mother, Penny, said yesterday.
Sullivan, who was known as "C.Ja." to friends and family, died in a motorcycle accident in Hyannis Wednesday.
Although many people in the area knew Sullivan from his job at the Yarmouthport Village Store and as a landscaper, she said, the 21-year-old East Dennis man found his calling when he took a job as a YMCA camp counselor, working with troubled teens.
Sullivan had recently completed the background check required for a position at the Brewster Treatment and Detention Program.
"He had his own difficulties and then he decided to help other kids through it," Penny Sullivan said. "He was a very sensitive person and definitely a kid at heart."
Police said Sullivan was killed when he lost control of the bike and struck a tree while driving through the intersection of South and Sea streets.
Next to working with kids, Sullivan loved riding his motorcycle, his mother said, adding that he spent two years in Florida studying motorcycle mechanics.
Sullivan's friend, 19-year-old John Mather of Yarmouth, described Sullivan as "the best friend you could ever have" and said the two planned to live together in the fall. He said nothing could change his friend's love of motorcycles.
"If anything happened, he would just hop on his bike and ride," Mather said.
An investigation of the crash is ongoing, Barnstable police said.
Staff writer K.C. Myers contributed to this report.
C.Ja.'s Remembrance Book
click here: http://www.legacy.com/CapeCod/GB/GuestbookView.aspx?PersonId=112858300