Kris Risk October 5, 1968 – April 2, 2008
I’m sure we all know of someone who is brave and heroic despite debilitating circumstances. You know, those people who make you feel like an ungrateful whiner because you had a rough day, yet every day for them is a challenge, you admire and honor them but have no idea how they do it.
I know such a person, she inspires and at same time terrifies me because I don’t know if I would have that kind of strength were it me. I can only hope I would. I didn’t know Kris Risk but those that did were touched, inspired, and awed by her.
Kris is described as ” brave, strong, fun, courageous and determined” by her friend Dr.Karen Jongedijk. They attended U of T together studying Physical and Health Education and then went on to Teacher’s College.
“She never had the opportunity to teach as she became ill while at school. Amazingly, she managed to complete Teacher’s College, taking an extra year, as she had her first double lung transplant surgery in between.” remembers Karen, “She had an incredible spirit which took her through a decade before her next double lung transplant, and many years after that.”
Never one to feel sorry for herself, Kris lived life to the fullest, giving to others and sharing in their lives with a curious and interested attitude.
Karen elaborates, “She probably had to dig deeper than anyone I’ve ever known, to find the fortitude to live into the future each day. She really was an inspiration to everyone, as she managed so much loss with so much grace. She was quick to laugh and generous. People loved to be around her and she had an expansive network of friends.”
Kris had a love of animals and swimming
Kris’s mom Ivea Risk and I sat on Kris’s bench one chilly Sunday morning in March and she remembered Kris’s spirit.
From a very early age Kris would take in cats and dogs. The family’s first dog was a Basset hound named Watson. Kris was a volunteer at the Humane Society and fostered and nurtured a variety of dogs from Tea Cup Poodles rescued from puppy mills to Bear, an aptly named Newfoundlander. According to Ieva he was the largest Newfoundlander dog ever, Bear lived with Kris for eight months before he was adopted.Her last rescue was Dixie a racing Greyhound with a broken tail, scars, ticks and rotten teeth. Dixie was at Kris’s side until she died.
Kris was a competitive swimmer in high school but she hated being first so she participated in relay type competitions, preferring to be part of a team. While sharing stories of Kris’s will and challenges Ivea would say, “Kris would hate that I’m telling you this”. A testament to her character, humility, and determination to overcome.
Ivea referred to herself as a ghost several times, painting a painful image of an emotional purgatory.
Kris’s sister Koren Murray talks about Kris’s love of animals and how they would visit CB with their family dog Terry, the Staffordshire terrier , enjoying the calmness and freedom she felt there. Terry was adopted from the Humane Society as a puppy, he had cigarette burns on his ears. The visits continued after Terry passed with her rescue Greyhound Dixie.
“Kris was sicker at this point but loved taking Dixie to CB even though it tired her out and she really appreciated the one or two benches that were there at the end point. I remember sitting on the benches with her and reading the plaques but not really discussing them because although we both knew how things were looking for her we were still hoping that she would continue to defy the odds.”
Koren has not yet found the strength to visit her sister’s bench.
Memories from Ieva
Cherry Beach regular Diana Griffin RMT treated Kris, “I would go to her house to give her a massage, she had 3 debilitating auto immune type respiratory conditions and was too weak to work or go too far from home but she seemed to remain light hearted and had such a light and bright spirit. She loved visiting her neighbors and playing Mahjong, I didn’t know what that was but now play that game against my computer. She was never depressed and never complained.”
Robert Kolatschek, Kidney Recipient, Ontario Director, Canadian Transplant Association writes:
“Many of us first met Kris in Sherbrooke at the first Canadian Transplant Games in 2000. Ask anyone who had the fortune of spending time with her and you will hear about her positive energy and how day in and day out she would bounce around greeting everyone with that infectious smile. Kris was a great supporter of organ donation awareness and someone who kept family and friends close to her heart. All who knew her will dearly miss her.”
Kris’s friends got together and provided the bench
“We all like that her bench has such a beautiful view of the lake and the sunset everyday. The bench feels like a place that represents her spirit and where we can sit quietly, or noisily (surrounded by the everyday buzz of dogs barking and people’s conversations), and be with her.” – Dr. Karen Jongedijk