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Christopher Lewis

July 18, 2009|By MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail publishes "A Life Remembered." This continuing series takes a look back -- through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others -- at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Christopher Lewis, who died July 10 at the age of 9. His obituary was published in the July 12 edition of The Herald-Mail.

When Becky Sweeney was home schooling Christopher Lewis, she said she was struck by the love his parents had for their son -- a love that never wavered.

Bill and Judi Lewis had equally high praise for Becky, a teacher who gave much more than just knowledge to their ailing son, who suffered from a brain tumor, from the time she came on board in 2007.

"Becky would teach Chris or just read to him and then end the day playing either Hungry, Hungry Hippos or Connect 4 with him," Bill said.

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Jan Young was Chris' first-grade teacher at Hickory Elementary School, when he still was able to attend regular classes.

"Kindergarten and first grade were great for Chris," Jan said.

The parents knew of Chris' tumor, but only his vision was affected at that point.

Jan said Chris brought joy and happiness to school with him each day.

"In his too brief nine years, Chris had so much to teach us," Jan said.

The tumor that claimed Chris' life July 10 had been a part of him for 4 1/2 years -- half of his young life.

Judi said Chris died on the fourth anniversary of his Make-A-Wish fulfillment of meeting and playing with Brooks & Dunn, a country music duo.

He also met NASCAR driver Tony Stewart in February -- talking for the first time since November, according to his mother.

"Afterwards, Chris started saving money for the Make-A-Wish foundation in Ohio -- it was his own idea," Judi said. A 3-foot high plastic jug is the repository for the loose change, which now exceeds $250.

An only child, Chris was diagnosed with his brain tumor four days after the family moved to Hagerstown.

"We didn't even know where the hospital was," Judi said.

Originally living in Washington state, the family first came to Laurel, Md., to be near Judi's mother.

"Chris kept her going," Judi said. "Every morning, they would dance to the Beach Boys."

Music always was special to Chris, even at a very early age.

"At less than a year old, he would keep saying 'my my,' and finally, we figured he was referring to the Brooks & Dunn version of the song 'My Maria,'" Bill said.

Hospitalized more than he was home in the last months of his life, Chris nonetheless spent a lot of time caring about the other children.

"When they'd cry, he'd want them picked up," Judi said.

Sometimes, Chris would sing to them, too.

Moved by these and other reports of Chris' bravery in the face of his brain tumor, the Washington County Commissioners declared April 30 as Christopher Lewis Day.

The ceremony was publicized and photographed, one of the treasured memories Chris' parents are left with.

Now that they are alone, Judi and Bill are pondering what life will be like without their only child.

"I'm exploring the idea of writing a book," Judi said.

Bill said Chris spread so much joy to everybody he met that his presence will be felt for a long time. Bill, an employee of Lowe's in Hagerstown, still is contemplating where life will take him now that Chris is gone.

For now, Bill has his memories.

"Chris met a man once who was afraid of radiation treatments," Judi recalled. Chris simply told the man of his own radiation experiences and explained he went through the process because it was going to allow him to grow up.

Family and friends will gather Saturday, Aug. 1, at 11 a.m. at Tri-State Fellowship at 13153 Cearfoss Pike to celebrate Chris' life.

Just a year ago, Paul Ostoich, one of Tri-State's pastors, was videotaped with Chris, who broke into song when encouraged. He sang "God Is Good All the Time."

One thing for which Bill was very grateful was that Chris made it to Father's Day this year.

"That was my gift," Bill said.

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