As I drove down the row of towers checking on the guards I heard some static and voices. Looking up I saw Chris Sanderson’s silly grin looking down at me. “Chris” I said, “you wouldn’t happen to have that police scanner up there again would you?”
Chris was with the Beach Patrol in one way or another for many years. He was hard headed, but he never got in too much trouble because he did a great job and somehow that lopsided smile seemed to keep his supervisors from taking it to the next level.
Tuesday at his funeral there were similar stories from his supervisors and buddies at the police department. There were stories about wrestling an alligator after he was told not to do it, putting duct tape over his chemo drip tube on his chest so he could go dive with the dive team, and worse. That stubborn, but amicable attitude may have been a big part of how he survived for 8 years battling stage 4 cancer. May have been a part of how he lived to 31 instead of dying several times earlier when his prognosis looked grim.
But it wasn’t just that. Chris was one of those magic people who committed. There’s a common understanding among big wave surfers that once you commit you have to be all in. Your life depends on it. Chris wasn’t a big wave surfer, but he could have been. He could have done anything he set his mind to.
From what I can tell he committed himself fully to three things. Galveston was his home, his culture, his love. He wasn’t one of those kids that wants to leave and doesn’t appreciate it until later. He was all in. Same thing for his job. He was 100% committed to the Galveston Police Department. He applied his swimming and lifeguarding background to the Marine Division and Dive Team. He was a K9 Officer. And much more. But nothing was done halfway. Ever. And he was completely committed to his family. Many stories Tuesday were about how he didn’t have friends. Only family. He would do anything for his family and his definition of family was all encompassing. If you know his real family you’ll understand why. They love him hard and he grew up with support from a lot of people.
I used to really enjoy talking with Chris. He’d sit in his patrol car with sunken eyes and that drip tube sticking out of his chest and talk about how great things are. I’m still in awe.
But the main reason I’ll never forget Chris, why he will always be my hero, is because he made the choice every day to live for his commitments. That’s why he got out of bed and put that uniform on when most of us would have rolled over and given up. That’s why there’s a part of him in so many of us whose lives he touched. Why he’s embedded in the very fabric of this island.