If you’re a new reader of our blog, Tender Lions is about building the vital relationship between a father and son. On March 1 my son, Jeff and I released a brand-new book, Tender Lions. The book, among other things, contains interviews with very interesting men that Jeff and I believe have valuable perspectives on their relationship with their dads. Jeff conducted the following interview with his life-long friend, Kris Grahnke, just a few weeks before Kris died of ALS on July 24, 2017. Kris was a special education teacher in Rockford, Illinois.
Shortly after Kris was married he was diagnosed with ALS. At the young age of 27, newly married to his college sweetheart Michelle, their life changed dramatically. In just three short years Kris went from being like the energizer bunny to being confined to his wheelchair. Here’s the interview:
Jeff: Kris, tell us about the key principles you follow?
Kris: No risk – no reward, Live every day like it’s your last. This doesn’t mean, YOLO, jump out of a plane right now or go hard all day, everyday. It does mean however that I thank the Lord every morning when I wake up and give him praise every night before I go to sleep.
Jeff: What are your favorite quotes?
Kris: “A teacher affects eternity, he can never tell where his influence stops.” – Henry Adams “Kiss My ALS.” – Me (Kris Grahnke) – “Even though you are fed up, ya gotta keep ya head up.” – Tupac
Jeff: What Bible verse inspires you?
Kris: “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race, complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – – the task of testifying the good news of God’s Grace.” – Acts 20:24
Jeff: Tell us a bit about your perspective on life after being diagnosed with ALS?
Kris: I’d be lying if at first I didn’t think I was f*#@ed. I knew ALS was a death sentence, but I also am a dude who doesn’t give up. I dug deep with the Lord and asked him for His support, His backing and my social network exploded into finding Grace everyday.
Jeff: Knowing what you know now, if you could tell your younger self anything before being diagnosed, what would it be?
Kris: Give more. Reach out to the friends that got away. Say, “I love you” to friends and family. Hug more. Volunteer more of your time for the things that matter to you.
Jeff: How do you find your strength, positivity, and courage?
Kris: I find it in the Grace of God. I find it in my wife, Michelle. I find it in the Bible and Christian music.
Jeff: Looking back at your relationship with your dad, who died a few years ago of early onset Alzheimer’s, what are the 2-3 things that you most appreciate about your dad?
Kris: He taught me everything there is to know about baseball. His tough, grimy and tenacious attitude about baseball still sticks with me. His writing is inside of me. Those that read his news column and my blog, feel Lon (Kris’s dad) in my blog.
Jeff: What did he do that contributed to you being the man you are today?
Kris: He instilled in me that you fight for your point of view. At times this gets me up shit creek, but it does make me a great debater.
Jeff: What do you wish he had done differently?
Kris: I wish in the time I had with him that I could see him be more romantic with my mom. My young relationships with women would have been different.
Jeff: Did he do or say anything that drove you crazy, that now, you appreciate?
Kris: My dad had a temper. It came out at ball games that I was playing in. This was embarrassing, but now I have the same temper. Thinking back to these embarrassing moments helps me curb my temper and just breathe, that negative trait I now appreciate in hindsight.
Jeff: What would you like to tell him?
Kris: I would tell him, “I wish you hadn’t died.” Not that he could control it, and honestly my life would have been drastically different had he not passed. This could have been a bad thing. From a pure jealous stand-point, I wish he could have seen so many accomplishments his family made. And honestly, he’s seen them all from heaven. I just missed that physical touch.
Jeff: If you were a dad, what are 2-3 things you’d be sure that your son saw or heard from you?
Kris: Give it all to God. The worries, the questions, the guilt, the glory, tithing, it all comes from Him thus a relationship with Him should be priority number one. You will be showered with Grace.
Kris had an unrelenting love of life and people, and incredible faith that he demonstrated until his last day. Indeed, Kris demonstrated his faith even after he died. Kris’ funeral was a joyous celebration of his life, death and passing to life eternal.
As the service ended and people were getting ready to leave the church, Kris greeted the congregation one last time on the monitors with a powerful faith testimony. Kris videotaped the message just a few days before he died. It was classic Kris to let us know that death did not have the last word for him. Time matters!
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