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Remarks by Patrick Smithwick, A&S '73
Christopher B. Elser Memorial
Tuesday, April 20, 2004 | Keyser Quadrangle

[Prepared text. Not checked against delivery.]

Let The Spirit of an Angel Fly

Wonderful beautiful boy
Young man who had a future

A future to burn and spin and soar
a blue-skied, bright-eyed future
in business or economics or
entrepeneurial ventures —
whatever the field he entered.

A future of late-night horse sales at Saratoga
with his dad by his side
hearing the glorious intonation,
and the gavel slamming down.
A future of quiet summer evenings in Camden,
in South Carolina, the state he loved,
listening to country music with his mom.

A future of kicking the soccer ball
and perhaps getting passed once in a while
with the sister he always talked about
bragged about
doted on
and tried not to spoil.

Young Hopkins man
Athlete with quick feet
and a touch of a temper
we ache for him, yearn for him, wish he were here.

His grandfather,
81-year old veteran of war,
said, "Why not me?"

Beautiful boy who loved a prank
came out to my farm
built the fences
rode the ponies
played the trick on his girlfriend.

Laughed in my truck
shot sparks from his eyes
when he looked at Kyra
sparks of heat and love and wonderment
excitement at all that lay ahead.

Laughed at the absurdity of
bouncing in a 30-year-old truck
around a field
putting up fences
for a gray-haired
Hopkins classmate
and running mate
of his father.

His father
With whom he wrestled
To whom he strove to prove himself
Against whom he measured himself.
His father
Whom he loved.

And we loved Christopher's Energy —
Thoreauian, Whitmanesque, Kerouacian
Devoted to the study of economics?
That's Hopkins for you.
The economics that Christopher engaged in
Would not have been Keynesian...
Would not smell of the chalk dust in Gilman Hall
It would sparkle and sizzle and dazzle.

The Johns Hopkins University that
Christopher's father, godfather, and I,
classmates here three decades ago,
respect and take great pride in,
will take this tragedy
and transform
the tears and sadness and despair

The wretched irony
of being murdered in your own fraternity house

The horror
The emptiness
The reality of murder in Baltimore
of living in a city in America
where one can't sleep safely at night....

The alumni and students of Hopkins will convert this nightmare
Make it a catalyst
Allow it to ignite a passion in their lives
A desire in their studies
An ambition in their vocation
A loyalty to their family, friends
A tenderness for their lovers.

We will most honor Christopher
by living
every shimmering moment
to the fullest.

By exuding
positive energy
and creative ideas

By appreciating every electric moment of life

That's what Christopher did so well....

That sometimes, when I saw him, when I spoke to him
and looked into his wide-awake eyes

Whether it was at 1:00 a.m. at the Parting Glass in Saratoga Springs
or 1:00 p.m. in the cafeteria here on the campus
or at dusk throwing rails out of a pick-up truck

I was jealous, envious,
and even in awe.
Christopher grew and learned and loved here
He ran and kicked and played hard here
He refined his quick wit here
He laughed and studied and made plans here
And now, he's gone...?

We mustn't let him leave.
We must allow his spirit and example to hover,
to be an inspiration
to every one of us.

That's what I'm going to do.

I'm going to remember that smile
Remember those sparks in his eyes
Remember that way he could walk, bounce,
light, agile, athletic,
giving off a sense of dynamic good will
at any time of day or night.

I'm going to take that
distill it in my soul

and when a dark day comes along
I'll reach down,
uncork it,

And let the spirit of an angel fly.

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