Farewell to a friend



I thought I had one good photo of her.

Not the one above, her senior yearbook pic, where Miss Kristina M. Baesman is all cleaned up and pretty and normal-looking. No, I mean a photo of Kris, just as pretty and freckled but wearing her Sharpie-marked-up denim jacket and jeans with the knees out and probably a cool hat of some sort.

My Kris.

Some weeks ago, I heard over FB that my high school buddy Kris Baesman was missing. She’d gone for a spring morning’s walk and never returned. It was some 48 hours later when she was found, unconscious and in a hypoglycemic coma.

She eventually woke, but had suffered such severe brain damage from the ordeal that, barring a miracle, she would not recover at all. So, just days after her 45th birthday, she was moved to hospice care and passed away Sunday morning.

It’s been more than 20 years since we last spoke, meeting by chance at some party we’d both been invited to by separate individuals. We’d already fallen out of touch over our respective college years; I suppose we’d outgrown each other.

I’m reminded of something my mother said about Kris when we were in high school. She said that Kris had clung to me for dear life. I didn’t know what Mom was talking about, nor did I then understand why she was a little concerned about the amount of time that Kris and I would be alone and unsupervised at Kris’ house after school.

Kris and I were buds, see. Completely platonic, at least so far as I knew. But you know about the old platitude that sometimes we choose our friends and sometimes our friends choose us? Kris was definitely in the latter category.

We met in 10th grade as members of the art club. While I was nursing a low-level crush on club president and senior Kara Walker (who’s gone on to do some big-time arty things), this red-haired metalhead chick sorta latched on and didn’t let go. At the time, I was gearing up to try out for a school newspaper slot and thought I didn’t need this sort hanging around.

But, of course, a friend like that was EXACTLY what I needed.

  • Kris introduced me to a new crowd. Some might say it was the “wrong” crowd — indeed, my mom once mused aloud wondering why so many of my friends were “from the fringes” — but they were absolutely harmless, at least when I was around.
  • Kris introduced me to Queen. She got me hip to the group’s “A Day At The Opera” and, specifically, “Bohemian Rhapsody” a full two years before “Wayne’s World” brought the classic back into the mainstream consciousness.
  • Kris took me to my only theater experience of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, which is the only way to watch that film, in truth.
  • When she shared the Queen album, Kris also shared her best of Duran Duran hits, though she was embarrassed about it.
  • Kris was also a fantastic artist. Having been accustomed to being the best at drawing in most of my classes, even Art class, it was refreshing to have someone who, along with mutual friend Amy Evans, could relegate me to being third best most of the time.
  • For all her subversive humor and somewhat disturbing love for horror movies, I never remember her being cruel. Kris was always kind to me and mine.
  • But most of all, Kris helped me become more comfortable in my own skin than I’d ever been up to that point in my life. The teenage years are all about finding out what kind of people we are and what we want to be. And she definitely aided in that process by being a fellow oddball who was more unafraid than I was to wear that oddness on the surface.

I feel as though Mom may have had Kris in mind when she wondered about my friends on the fringes. And the answer I gave then (though I can’t recall if I spoke it aloud) is the same as it is today: “Mom, your son is on the fringes, too.”

I have an enduring memory of Kris. Not the movie trips or the shared art projects or the late nights out or even the ready smile. It’s from early in our relationship. In this memory, I am circling the back of the school building, headed somewhere on some errand, and I spot her, in her trademark jeans, denim jacket and hat, trudging up the long hill that leads to the back exit way from school grounds. And I have an urge to call out her name, but I know that will delay us both from our destinations, and I, for one, cannot delay. I have not yet made up my mind about her at this point and I know I’ll see her tomorrow, anyway. So I let her continue, alone.

I sort of repeated this when I saw her at that party after our college years, and again when we reconnected on Facebook. But then the accident happened and I could only have one-sided conversations with her during her last few weeks of life.

I told her, in less well-considered words than you’re reading here, how much of an effect she had on my life for the better.

In the wake of the untimely death of Prince earlier the same week, a quote has been floating around:

“We don’t mourn artists we’ve never met because we knew them. We mourn them because they helped us know ourselves.”

Kris helped me know myself.

And so the only photo I have of her is the one that’s on my heart. And in the end, that’s the one that’s mattered most, anyway.

I love you, Kris.


6 Responses to “Farewell to a friend”

  1. Beautiful tribute to a friend, Khari. I pray she hears every word.

  2. Branham Jarrell Says:

    What an awesome tribute Khari. Though we may not have been in the same group of friends I remember her well from the library and can still see her wearing the hat, jeans and jacket (a book bag too if my memory is serving correctly) like it was yesterday. She was always very nice and helpful. As we go through life we will always have certain friends that have a bigger impact on our lives than others. Even if time changes the relationship itself, there will always be that place where it is preserved. I am glad that she was that for you, and it appears you for for her as well. Again, thank you for sharing!

    Branham Jarrell

  3. Tripper Allen Says:

    Fantastic tribute to someone who obviously had a lasting and deep influence in your life. Thank you for sharing and sorry for your loss. You carry the best of her with you, it sounds.

  4. K. Covington Says:

    Absolute words of beauty about your friend. You brought me into your memory of her and brought tears. I can feel how special she was to you. Soo sorry for your loss, hon. Thank you for sharing.

  5. erin monét Says:

    this is beautiful, khari. i did not know her, but your writing allows her to come alive. what a wonderful woman she is and her presence is still certainly felt in everyone who reads this and knows you.

  6. Asha Fotos Says:

    Your words make me see her. Shorten Hackett. I love her too. I remember trying to run away from her friendship and ended up running smack into it. She taught me so much. I can’t believe she’s gone.

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