Christopher Jordan Manning left this earth on July 22, 2015, taking his life, after a long battle with various forms of depression. In spite of these challenges, Chris lead a life full of love, adventure, ambition, humor, generosity, kindness, and selflessness. He loved and was loved deeply. His family and friends are heart-broken by his early departure, but find peace and hope in their faith and the belief that he is in the arms of his loved ones.
Chris was born on June 11, 1984 in Chicago, Illinois, where he and his family lived until he was five. In 1989 his family moved to Provo, Utah where he made cherished friendships and found much happiness. His family returned to Chicago for his sixth grade year, during which he reconnected with old friends, and gained a strong bond with his siblings. When he was 13, his family relocated to New Canaan, Connecticut where he attended New Canaan High School and developed relationships with many people who would shape the way he felt about himself and his future. He earned the rank of Eagle Scout and participated actively in the youth activities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Beyond high school, Chris studied Journalism and Communications at Utah State University and completed an MBA at the University of Utah – excelling in both programs. Upon completing his MBA he was recognized in the U of U Alumni magazine for his extraordinary work and creative ideas organizing fundraising for the University
Chris was passionate about his career and threw himself completely into every task he took on. Most recently, he worked for the start-up company, Power Practical, and was proud of the work he did with that team. Chris also specialized in establishing crowd-funding campaigns and was passionate about helping new, innovative companies succeed.
In stark contrast with the depression he battled, Chris had an incredible sense of humor, and was frequently making those around him laugh with crazy antics, hilarious home videos, quick wit and clever jokes. He was also extraordinarily kind, generous and tenderhearted, particularly to those whom he believed were in need of a friend or special attention.
Chris shared a special bond with his dog, Scout, whom he rescued 4 years ago. He took great pride in training and rehabilitating her from what seems to have been a rough past. He frequently stepped away from social outings and activities to make sure he had spent enough time with Scout. Together they took daily walks, road-tripped, hiked, and were nearly inseparable.
He is survived by his mother and father, Richard and Rochelle Manning, his grandmother, Verda Page, his siblings, Rachel Allen (Shiloh), Arrin Barton (Marcus) and Benjamin Manning, his niece, Harper Allen and nephews, Samuel Allen, Jonah Barton and Magnus Allen and his beloved dog, Scout. He is preceded in death by his grandfathers, Elden Page and Leon Manning, and his grandmother, Gwen Manning.
The funeral will be held on Friday, July 31 at 5pm at the LDS Church located at 1885 N. Summerwood Drive in Farmington, Utah. A public viewing will precede the funeral in the same location, from 3 to 4:45pm. The burial will take place the next day in Pocatello, ID.
Rochelle’s Reflections on Christopher
Christopher entered this world with enthusiasm. Our beautiful, smiley boy was always on the move. He seemed to skip the walking stage and choose to run instead. When he was 2 years old he had a hernia repair. This didn’t slow him down, the night after having the surgery he was jumping on and off of couches, despite our encouragement that he should rest. Chris loved running, climbing, fishing, legos, playing with his dog and being funny. He often would be found doing fun happy dances with his own unique style. He made us laugh. When he was about three years old, we were visiting my parents and decided to join their congregation in an overnight campout. We packed things up and arrived at the location. Chris was so excited to get outside that as soon as the door to the van was opened, without looking at what was in front of him, he jumped out. Unfortunately, he jumped onto some sharp sticks that were growing around the tree and one of them punctured through his cheek. He was so heartbroken that we couldn’t stay for the campout.
A lot of the time he was happy. And a lot of the time he was sensitive. He took it really hard if he thought that we thought he might be doing something wrong. I learned from Chris that life can sometimes be silly, full of adventure, often unpredictable and tender.
Chris was a great example of being accepting and loving. In Chicago, we had a sweet friend named Jackie Shoto, who babysat Chris and Rachel occasionally. Jackie’s skin color was black but Chris was certain that she was his grandmother. Nothing could convince him otherwise.
After moving to Utah, Chris was in elementary school. We were reminded of how smart he was and what quick wit he had. We also watched him feel loneliness and disappointment as he tried to navigate through school with attention and self-worth problems. I learned empathy and learned to cry with my son as we both tried to figure out strategies to cope.
On a happier note, Chris was an extraordinary athlete. Through the years he played soccer, t-ball, participated in track, football, lacrosse, and basketball. In his early high school years, his rec basketball team was very successful, our friend, reminded us that they would put Chris in the game and everyone would wonder where this guy came from. He was so fast, jumped so high, and played so well that he always took everyone by surprise.
Then when Chris was a Sophomore in High School the youth from our Stake in Connecticut went to West Point Academy for a youth track event. Chris had, just the day before, had surgery for a deviated septum and was cautioned to not exercise or overexert himself. He wanted to go, but for some reason he didn’t want to wear shoes to the event. I was fine with that since I thought not wearing shoes would keep him from being tempted to run. I learned when he got home that not only did he participate in the events, but he took first place in the 100 meter dash, 2nd place in long jump and 3rd place in high jump. He was passionate about working hard in sports and doing well.
The summer before his Junior year he had to have surgery on his jaw to extend his lower jaw out further. Chris handled the challenge of eating soft food like a champ. Instead of losing weight as the surgeon expected, he proudly gained weight, with his idea to grind up hamburgers and lasagna in the blender. His jaw on both sides had swelled so much that he called himself Mr. Peanuthead and he put together a website called “Does your head look like a peanut?” He was so funny and optimistic in getting through weeks of not being able to talk or eat normally.
I learned from Chris that life is more fun if you find humor while going through challenges.
Chris was in a rock band for a short time, after teaching himself how to play the base guitar. He later found a beautiful tender touch with playing the acoustic guitar. And I loved to hear him play.
After graduating from college, Chris lived with us for a short time. At that time I decided to join with my friends in a Biggest Loser contest to lose some weight. We were in the kitchen together and he saw me reach for a cookie. He said, ”Mom, you’ve been talking about wanting to lose weight for a long time. If you’re not going to do it now, when are you going to do it?” I realized he was right and, with that statement lingering in my head each day, I ended up winning the contest. He taught me that if you really want to achieve a goal you should take it seriously. I often saw lists or signs taped to the wall of goals that Chris had.
I have learned through Chris, that it takes a village to raise our children. We have been extremely touched by the acts of love and interest in our son that we have found from incredible friends and family throughout his life. It was a friend that reached out to him to encourage him to pursue an MBA at the University of Utah. He and I talked often about how fortunate he was to have friends who were there for him. He recognized your efforts and felt your love and would say “Yep, I am lucky guy.” Just the Sunday before he died, he told me he felt lucky to have current friends that helped him talk through his troubles.
Throughout Chris’s life and especially in the past few years, I have learned to be humble and have empathy at seeing him confront the challenges of depression. I have grieved for him as he combated unhappiness. And rejoiced with him as he had happy times.
I have learned the all-encompassing love of God as I have understood more fully God’s trust and hope for us to choose to follow him and the joy that can be felt when we choose him.
So now we are left with trying to understand this awful thing called Suicide. So here we have more to learn from Chris.
What I have learned so far is that I feel that Suicide wasn’t a choice he made, but a choice he happened onto when his pain was greater than his ability to cope.
Someone who had lost a loved one in a similar way had a clarifying experience—an experience that helped him to understand suicide a little better and led him to believe that it is really an expression of the deepest human desire to survive.
His family was watching a documentary on the 9/11 terrorist attacks and for the first time, he saw footage of someone jumping from the window of one of the twin towers. All at once, he understood that the person was not jumping from the building to die, but rather to escape the intense and consuming flames. Nobody would accuse that person of being selfish or of giving up on life.
Chris was inside a figurative burning building and he happened upon an exit. His deep need to survive caused him to take it. Many who turn to suicide are in physical, emotional or spiritual pain. I don’t think they seek death. Instead, they seek escape, so that their identity and intelligence can survive.
I share these thoughts not at all in support of suicide, but rather to encourage loving remembrance and complete forgiveness of those we have lost to it. And to inspire us to reach out and touch with love each person with whom we interact, for God’s love spread through many hands may quench a fire we cannot see.
Our faith, leads us to believe that Chris is in the present, that he now has actively moved onto a new journey where he can learn and progress. We believe he is in the loving arms of an understanding God and with friends and family who have gone on before.
Romans 8:38-39 states, “For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, or things present, nor things to come. Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This belief gives us great strength and hope for which we are so grateful.
We will miss Chris. We love him so very deeply. We are sorry that he has felt such pain and loss of hope. I have felt him with me this week. I know in my heart that he knows how much we all love him and is sad to see us all so sad. In thoughtful regard for his life, we can continue to cherish those around us and love more. This is my prayer.
Richard’s Reflections on Christopher
As I’m sure you can understand, I’ve had a lot of complicated thoughts and emotions over the past few days as we’ve approached this event. As we’ve heard this afternoon, Christopher was a kind, soft hearted person who did a lot of good in the world.
Let me offer some of my favorite memories:
1. Christopher’s first Christmas (1984) taught me about the power that a little baby boy had offered the world nearly 2000 years before. I remember one night in particular looking into his small, peaceful face while he lay sleeping in my arms, and a few lines from Robert Southwell’s poem coming poignantly to my mind:
This little babe so few days old
Is come to rifle Satan’s fold
All Hell does at his presence quake
Though he himself for cold do shake
In that season, because of my baby boy, I was taught a new and more complete understanding of the redeeming power of the Lamb of God.
2. I remember the combination of bravery and tenderness he had as a very young boy. On one of the several times when we were with him in the hospital, I remember trying to help him be brave under very hard conditions for a little boy. There were many unknown people, many strange rooms, many unfamiliar sights, sounds and smells. During a pre-operative process they had to take him away from us for a brief time. I remember seeing the effort to be brave on his young face as he walked hand in hand with a nurse, and as they came around a hospital partition, returning to where I was standing, he saw me. As I went to him, he collapsed in tears into my arms as he couldn’t be brave any longer.
3. When Chris was about 5 years old, I guess he wasn’t as happy with the name we had chosen for him, or for that matter with my name. I guess he would have preferred the name Matt. Many times, he would ask me to play a pretend game with him. He would enthusiastically say, “Dad, you be Matt Sr. and I’ll be Matt Jr!”
4. Chris played little-league baseball for only one year, when he was 9 years old. He was not the largest of the kids, he didn’t really have the patience for the game and was not the most skilled player on his team. However, in his most memorable game, he came to bat with the bases empty, with the score tied in the bottom of the game’s final inning. I’m sure the coach hoped he could just get on base so a better player would have the chance to drive him in. To everyone’s surprise, however, he connected with a pitch and hit the ball far over the outfielder’s head. The field did not have a home run fence, so the outfielders were able to chase down the ball as Chris excitedly ran the bases as fast as he could. As he approached 3rd base, the coach signaled to him to stop, but he ran on. As the ball was relayed from outfield to the infield and then on to home base, Christopher slid into home and was called safe. He had hit a home run, (which, by the way, is one more than I ever hit in my 4 years as a little-leaguer) and he had won the game. His team was ecstatic; Christopher’s face beamed with pride.
5. Chris had a sharp mind. When we lived in Chicago during his 6th grade year, our family was assigned to speak in Sacrament meeting in the Hyde Park Ward. Chris prepared his own talk and although I don’t remember what the subject of his talk was, I do remember sitting on the stand watching from behind as he stood confidently and read his talk, and I remember seeing the face of Cathy Stokes, a dear friend, sitting near the front of the chapel as she listened. She looked with intent, and apparent amazement at the thoughts and capable delivery of boy who in her experience was just a funny little guy.
I also remember many conversations with him while he was in graduate school (and since then) about the ideas he had for new businesses and ways he could use new technologies and new ideas to help businesses succeed. He always had sensible answers to my questions and gave me a clear sense that he was just as talented as any other young man I saw succeeding in the world of business.
6. I have many other memories of fun times with my son. Just a couple more:
a. He had a mature sense of humor and enjoyed listening to NPR programs that most kids wouldn’t find interesting. Whenever we happened to be driving on a Saturday morning, he would want to listen to Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers talk about car repair; and he had a lot of fun with Prairie Home Companion. Once on a drive up Provo Canyon with just the two of us when Chris was in about 5th grade, we heard a segment on Prairie Home Companion of The Lives of the Cowboys, with Lefty and Dusty. There was a conversation between the two of them about why Canadian Geese are called Canadian if they spend so much time in the US. It was just a clever marketing ploy, the other responded, because people like Canada more than the US. Chris thought that was really funny and we laughed about it many times since then.
b. I enjoy playing golf more than Chris did, but he did play with me occasionally. Because of his impatience for the game, he would look for different ways to entertain himself. Once, several years ago, he decided to play an entire 9 holes with just the putter. It was an adventure, especially off the tee. He would take a full swing and I feared the putter would break as he teed off. It didn’t, fortunately, but I did get the message that playing golf was not the way he wanted to spend time with me.
Another set of thoughts that have come to me involve the more difficult issues surrounding Chris’ life. We’ve not heard a lot about those, and this is not where I want to dwell, but accepting those and recognizing what they mean are important to coming to terms with Chris’ life and his passing.
In our church family in Connecticut, there was a family who had a boy who was born with a fairly severe disability. As a result of his condition, he was physically small and fragile, and it was understood that he was unlikely to live into adulthood. This boy was greatly loved by his parents, his siblings, the church community and others that knew him. As I recall, when he was about 10 years old, this little boy passed away from his condition. His father said something profound at his son’s funeral that has remained with me, and that has been the foundation of how I have dealt with the complications of Christopher’s life and now his passing.
This little boy’s father said that over the course of his son’s brief life, people had often expressed sympathy for his son’s condition and the difficulties it presented for this man and his family. His response was that he truly did not feel that there was misfortune in his son’s condition, and there was no need for sympathy. He said that, on the contrary, he felt sorry for those that did not have the opportunity to raise a child with special needs because of the blessing his son had been in his life. He had learned so much from life with his son about love, compassion, innocence, beauty and grace, that without those experiences he would have been a lesser man. He was grateful to God that he had been given the opportunity to be father to such a son.
Over the years of Chris’ life, and now at this point, I’ve at times thought that we also have had the blessing of having a special needs son. Now, Christopher’s affliction was not easy to see – and given how talented he was, most people did not and would not have seen his need. However, the feelings of self-doubt and depression that he lived with, and hid from most, were deeper and more recurring than any of us really knew. I know he felt great pain many times, but I was always optimistic that a breakthrough would happen and he would be able to see and appreciate his great worth. Rochelle and I, and others said and did what we could to try to sooth that pain when we knew he was feeling it.
A friend of mine recently wrote that depression is a disease as fatal as cancer. Many people succumb to it, as did Chris. If circumstances were such that Chris had succumbed to cancer, we would be here with somewhat different feelings, but we would be here nonetheless.
In this life, Christopher’s disability, as I understand it, was an inability to completely understand the love that his family, his friends and his Father in Heaven had for him. He was a deeply feeling young man, and in the depth of his feelings he was often unable to see the large picture. He was deeply affected by the here and now. He was in many ways deaf to the whisperings of the still small voice coming from his Father in Heaven, and blind to the peace and joy available to him from the love of Christ.
As I reflect on Chris’ life, and on his passing, I am moved to the conclusion that my son has more than a past. He has a present in the loving arms of his grandparents and other friends and family that have passed before him. He has been embraced by the love of the Savior, Jesus Christ, and now, freed from the disabilities that he carried through his mortal life, he sees and hears, and understands that love in a way he was never able to in this life.
I am confident in my belief of eternal progression, and I am persuaded that there will be a time, in another realm, in which I will once again embrace my son, tell him of my love for him, and that he will be able to hear and understand that love and the peace that comes from the love that flows from our Father in Heaven.
As a result of Chris’ life, I am moved by a desire to be less judgmental, to criticize less, to love more. As he concludes the Book of Mormon, Moroni entreats us to “pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart” that we may be filled with the love of Christ, that we may be like Him. I pray for that, and hope that the lasting grace of a loving Savior will help me show a greater measure of goodness to those around me.
Finally, I, with Rochelle, am truly grateful for the outpouring of support, friendship and love that has come from so many people we have known across the spectrum of our lives. I am humbled to know that Chris had so many good friends, and that so many people recognized his talents and his goodness. I am grateful that he touched the lives of many for good.
I also want everyone to know that I love Christopher, as does Rochelle and all of our family. And I know that Chris loves me. And I am, and always will be, proud to be Christopher Manning’s father.