My name is Angelique La Fon-Cox and today is April 26, 2020. Right now our world is in a quarantine due to the Covid19 Pandemic. It is a time of suffering for thousands all over the planet, but today, my husband, Josh, and I have a reason to be joyful.
Today was our friend, Chris Wood’s birthday. He would have been 53 years old today. As I write that number it is hard for me to fathom that so many years have passed since he left us.
I am thankful to have had Chris as a friend, as I know hundred of others are as well. He was a special guy. He had a great gift of joy and was always wanting to make you laugh. The boy could dress and had style, but everyone knew his greatest gift was music. His voice was powerful and anointed and he could play a bass guitar with the best of them. I loved how he chose to always use his gifts for music for glorifying the Lord, perhaps with the exception of the original song he wrote “There’ll Be No Beans Up in Heaven”. I’m just kidding, that one was Classic Chris.
I first met Chris when I graduated from my elementary Sunday School class to the Jr. High/High School Sunday School class at the 44th Street Church of God. I was really nervous my first day there. Most of my church friends were younger than me. But by the end of the class, Chris had me giggling and made me feel like I was part of the group.
From that time on we were friends. We sang together, hung out with mutual friends together, traveled together, ate out, saw movies, shopped, and always laughed our heads off.
I can’t quite remember how old he was when he became ill. He had been traveling with a family Gospel singing group The Brashears and had to come home from being on tour.
After much time of extensive testing, pain and suffering, he finally had the diagnoses of
Myelodysplastic Syndrome, which is a pre-leukemia condition. His brother, Scott, was a perfect match for bone marrow donation and they went through the process four times to try and help Chris get well. Chris’ condition continued to deteriorate. His skin became tight and hard, he had to walk with a walker, he lost so much weight that he looked thin and frail. These were just the symptoms would could see, although he wouldn’t share it publicly, his pain was great.
Yet, though it all. Chris’s spirit was strong and his desire to sing, play his bass, and use his talent for the glorification of the Lord only grew stronger.
It was during this time that he was having trouble sleeping and since I am a night owl by nature, I had no problem in staying up til 2am most nights to be there for him to talk to when he couldn’t rest.
I tried not to call him because I knew he needed the rest, but I have to admit, when I heard the phone ring around midnight, it made me happy. I loved our talks.
There were some things that had been going on in my life during this time that I had not shared with Chris. Another mutual friend of ours, Josh Cox, who was also good friends with my brother, Nathan, was at my house on a weekly basis. Actually, once Josh got his truck, he quite often spent weekends at our house. He would come over Friday night, watch movies or play video games with my brother and another mutual church friend, Brandon Cecil, who lived on our street. On Saturday they would all play basketball or go hang out, then Sunday they would all go to church and after that Josh would go home.
This had been going on for quite a while. It hadn’t bothered me in anyway, our home had always been a popular place for friends and cousins to hang out, but things were changing. Josh was interacting more with me and I was seeing a new side of him I hadn’t seen before.
At this time I was a full time college student, I was working between my private voice/piano music studio at home and working as the music director of our church among other small jobs I kept. Josh had asked if I had a spot for him to take piano lessons. I did and so we had been spending time weekly together as I taught him how to play.
It was during this time that I began seeing something new in Josh that I hadn’t seen before. Yes, he was an attractive young man on the outside, but it was his heart that I began to see on the inside that changed how I felt about him. Although what I was seeing in Josh were good and beautiful, I was struggling with how I was feeling about him because… I was started to like him… you know like him like him.
Now let me help you understand the struggles I was having.
First of all, he was six years younger than I was. I was twenty-five and Josh was nineteen.
I remember the first day I met him. I was seven and he was a year old baby.
As we grew up together in the same church there were actually times when I taught Josh. Once, I was a helper in his Sunday School class and before I was the music director, I was the teen drama group director of which Josh was a member.
Then there was the fact that he was close friends with my brother who is almost ten years younger than I am. Josh, my brother, and Brandon were always together and had grown up together in the same church and youth group. The same church that I was now the music director of… do you see my struggle here?
Then on top of all that, Josh and I were asked to be in Chris’ brother’s wedding. Some of the wedding party were taking ballroom dance classes together and because I had already been studying ballroom dance for school, Josh and I also started taking classes together.
So there is even more time being spent together, but now, instead of me sitting in a chair next to him on a piano bench, he is holding me in his arms.
Swoon! Yes, the word is swoon. Josh made me swoon.
Now, back to Chris. Our talks at night had been wonderful. We had talked about how good God is, old times together and new dreams, SNL skits, struggles and challenges, girls he had crushes on then… he asks me about my current love life.
I was quiet. I really had nothing to say because I wasn’t seeing anyone, but instead of saying that I said nothing.
I should have been prepared with something quick to say because Chris paid attention well and when I paused and didn’t answer he knew something was up.
After about a thirty minutes of him coaxing me to tell him who I was now interested in, I finally decided to suck it up and deal with the consequences. I told him that I was a cradle robbing, almost cougar-like lady who was crushing on my little brother’s buddy, Josh, who was almost like my younger brother that I had known since he wore diapers. Diapers.
But Chris didn’t freak out… not badly anyway. Much to my surprise he freaked out in a good way! He was thrilled and told me, “No! Don’t think like that! This is great! You and Josh would be perfect together!”
I was stunned. I couldn’t believe it. Really? Me liking Josh wasn’t something weird?
It was a good thing?
Chris spent the rest of that night and almost every night after that building my confidence that Josh and I would make a great couple. He had formed a friendship many years previously with Josh and knew him pretty well. He too had seen the “diamond in the rough” that was Josh and because he knew us both so well, he just kept filling me with reasons why it was a good thing and why it would work.
These talks with Chris only made me start liking Josh more and I was really enjoying just liking him secretly with only Chris knowing about it until… April 26, 1997.
It was Chris’ 31st birthday.
I had him a gift and called to sing to him and ask if he would be at church the next day but he said he didn’t think so. He wasn’t doing well. I was very sad to hear it and since Nathan and Josh were in the living room watching tv and laughing, I went in my room to talk to him quietly.
He asked me, “I hear Josh in the background. Is he staying the night?”
“Yeah, that’s usually the Saturday night plan,” I replied with a laugh.
Chris then told me that while he was touched that I got him a birthday gift, there was only one thing that he wanted for his birthday, “I want you to tell Josh that you like him.”
My eyes bugged out of my head, my heart started racing and I stopped breathing,
“I CANNOT do that! NO WAY! You’re crazy!”
He chuckled but calmly said, “I really want you to do this. You and Josh should be together and I want to know that I had something to do with bringing you two together.”
I then began my long list of why I couldn’t tell Josh my feelings, when he gently interrupted me.
“Ang, I’m serious. I think this will be my last birthday and this is what I want you to do for me.”
I can’t quite describe the emotions that flooded over me after hearing him say those words. There was sadness to know he was suffering so much and in so much pain that he couldn’t see life continuing. Then there was fear. First, the fear of losing him. Fear for his family who adored him to be without him and for the rest of us too. I was completely afraid of not having him in my life. I couldn’t imagine it.
Then there was the fear of telling Josh.
I sighed, “Chris, please don’t say that.”
“I know it isn’t something you want to hear, but I really think it is the truth,” he said.
“I just… I don’t know how to tell him. I have no idea how to begin or conduct that conversation,” I said.
He then began to give me advice on things I could say to Josh, of which I noted and of course, he added his mischievous humor to the ideas which then lightened things back up– but only a little.
“You’re a big meany,” I said, “I can’t believe you went there just to get me to tell Josh how I feel about him.”
He said, “I know, but you wouldn’t have me any other way. I just really know that you and Josh need to be together and I really want to be part of this while I can. I need you to promise me that you will do this for me for my birthday.”
“Okay,” I said softly, “I promise.”
That night, after everyone else was asleep, I told Josh that I liked him.
That conversation and how we got married are a blog for another time. But this blog is about Chris.
Twenty-three years ago today, on a Sunday like today, I had this conversation with my best friend. A friend I loved with all my heart. A friend I still love and miss today. A friend who gave me one of the best gifts I have ever received in my life, he brought me together with My Love, my husband, Josh. I am the one who got the gift and it was on Chris’ birthday.
Chris was thrilled that I told Josh my feelings and even more thrilled when we married!! I give all the credit to Chris for being obedient to share what God showed him about Josh and I being together and for being so persistent for me to share my feelings with Josh. He truly did bring us together.
So here we are twenty-three years later right smack dab in the middle of a Covid19 Pandemic and we are celebrating and not just celebrating that we have been together for twenty three amazing years, but celebrating the blessing that we were able to be friends with an amazing guy named Chris Wood.
Happy birthday in heaven Chris! You left us far too soon. We love and miss you always!!!