face Kent Schulz and Christy Conard
By James E. McEldowney

What do you want to be when you grow up? You probably think I must be very happy because I have lived 90 years. Can people be happy who do not live that long - people like Kent and Christy, who lived such a few short years? Well it isn't the number of years a person lives that makes them happy. It is what they do to bring happiness to themselves and others. Some of the greatest poets, writers, public leaders, athletes, actors and actresses have died when they were very young. Their secret of happiness is that early in life they discovered what they were good at and liked doing. They began doing it and did not give up until they were able to use that gift to make themselves and others happy. I hope you will be happy all your lives.

Some boys and girls are good at drawing. Others love rhythm and music. Some have a gift of gab and can talk a mile a minute. Some are little business persons. Every one is very good at something. Find out what you are cut out to do and go to it. Let me give you a secret: You will never be really happy until you are doing not only what makes you happy but what makes others happy, too.

Kent was a superb athlete but to earn his living he was also an unusual fine young business man. He not only became owner of video stores but he trained young people who were eager to become good in business. He helped them grow. His interest didn't stop with his own stores. He gave leadership in the community to see that those in business served people.

I think down in his heart the most important and precious of all was his family. Kimberly was in every way a partner in business as well as in the home. Then came Erik and later Logan - two lovely boys. Although you might think Kent was so involved in his business and in the community he would not have time for his family, that was not so. Time after time during a busy work day I found him at home, doing a bit of rough-house or playing games with the boys. They were tiny then. One of the very sad things is that they were so young they probably will not remember Kent, but he put love in their hearts before he died. He was a great father. He shared so much of his life with them. If they do not remember anything else they may remember the way his smile light up his face as he told them how much he loved them. They will carry that throughout their lives.

Kent did not live long enough to see his boys grow up. One day he found a sore on his leg that turned out to be worse than he thought. It didn't hurt. But when Kimberly's brother, who is a doctor, came and saw Kent's sore, he told Kent to get to a hospital quick and get treatment. The whole family did all they could to help Kent get better. His father and mother and Kimberly's family all tried to help him, but the sore could not be healed and Kent died when he was only 34 years old.

There was a memorial service for Kent. His father and I were two of twelve people who spoke to let others know what kind of a person Kent was. Each of us spoke of his remarkable manhood. The memorial service was a true celebration of his life. We rejoiced that he had been such a fine fellow. The service reminded all of us that everyone is given a chance to make the world better and at the same time find joy and happiness all the days God gives us to live. How I loved Kent. How greatly he was loved by so many. In his 34 years how wonderfully he touched so many for good.

I want you also to remember Christy. She was only 26 when she died, but those 26 years were wonderful - not all of them easy, but last Christmas I never saw her more at peace. She bubbled over as she came home to be with her family. Then shortly after she returned to Memphis, Tennessee where she had her horses, she died. She died quietly and peacefully one afternoon after she returned to her apartment and after she had finished her day's work.

Kent was a good business man. Christy would have found business boring but she was superbly good at what she learned to do.

When she was only a very little girl her parents noticed how she loved dogs and cats and other animals, and the animals seemed to respond to her. Her father was also very fond of animals and always had dogs and horses to satisfy his interest. It may have been he who discovered Christy's special attachment to animals. Both her parents encouraged her.

When she was only 4 or 5 she began riding her little pony, Midnight, not only riding it but taking care of it. When I first saw her ride in a meet she seemed so very tiny perched on the back of Midnight. On that occasion she was riding what they called "western style." Up and down the course she would ride going full speed and at the end, with dust flying, she would swing the horse around the barrel and race back to the starting post. She was always among the winners.

That was the beginning. Her father, Dick, had a very large horse, Buck. Buck was so restless it was difficult for Dick to mount him. Sometimes when Dick had to be away he asked me to exercise his horse. Frankly I was somewhat afraid of it. Buck would shy at almost anything and I was constantly afraid that when he pranced around he would land on top of me.

One day I went to find Christy. No one seemed to be at home. As I came out the door I heard a little girl talking. I followed that voice and found Christy. She was in the horse stable, lying on the back of Buck, talking to the horse. The horse looked around at me as if to say, "Get out of here, we're having a good time."

Only the other day my neighbor who lives across the street talked to me about Christy. When I told people the same story he told me, they looked at me as if they didn't really believe me. But now he told it to me not knowing I had seen it myself many times.

Christy was only about as high as Buck's stomach. Yet she could lead or ride him wherever she wanted to go. It was even more remarkable that when she wanted to get up on Buck's back he would lower his head. Then in a way she had learned she would step on the reins and hold them against his head, and he would gently lift her and swing her around until Christy grabbed the mane and pulled herself up on his back. He was as gentle and as patient with her as any horse could be.

That was only the beginning. All the horses she ever rode or trained seemed to feel a oneness with Christy. She could get them to do remarkable things. Christy became a champion rider - winning trophy after trophy and ribbon after ribbon. She must have a thousand ribbons and countless trophies, each one telling of a ride in which she competed with others. That was what earned her a national reputation as a rider and as a trainer of horses. She was still at it the day she died.

Christy's whole family shared her enthusiasm. I have never seen her mother, Betty, more excited than when they were leaving for a meet - whether in Vermont or Madison Square Garden or places in between. Betty would drive a large motor home with the horses in a trailer behind, up and down the eastern seaboard. Memories of those eventful years still animate Betty as she celebrates Christy's life. Christy was a national champion at age 14 and that was just the beginning. The strenuous hours of training, the joy of her triumphs are all part of what made Christy famous and what remains a matter of pride and joy to Betty and Dick.

The family asked me to arrange for her memorial service. I was glad to make it a time of celebration. Christy was my granddaughter. She had become a very lovely tall and beautiful girl, so full of enthusiasm. But she was not privileged to live out her years. How eventful those years had been. She found genuine joy in her work with horses and people. She was so graceful as she jumped high over the barriers in meets, the horse holding its head high and seeming to share her enthusiasm. I think the horse had as much delight in winning as Christy did.

Our memories went back to her early childhood. She was born with a heart condition that at times sent us racing to a doctor so he could control her rapidly beating heart. Each spell was life- threatening. But by the time she was four she seemed to have outgrown it. In all the years of her strenuous participation the condition had not returned until the last few months immediately before her death, then her heart began to give her concern. But she did not think it serious enough to inform her parents. Then one day her heart gave out. No one was there to help her get the treatment that would have saved her. Her heart must have stopped suddenly for when she was found there was no sign of distress.

Now as I sit at my computer and write these words I cannot understand why Kent and Christy were not given a longer time to live. Such understanding is hidden from me. We know death is a part of life. Both Kent and Christy lived life to the full during their brief journey. We are grateful for the ways they showed us how a brief life can be both exciting and have meaning. Knowing this we will treasure our own days even more. I hope you will find the special gift God has given you so it will be said of you as it has been said of Kent and Christy - You lived all your days bringing happiness not only to yourself but to all those whose lives you touched. [by James E. McEldowney, Spring 1997]

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