Chris Lazo was my wise ass brother in law and a favorite Uncle of my kids. He died of cancer October 11, 2021, way too early in life. I wrote most of this shortly after his death, trying to sort out my feelings and emotions. Since then I’ve added reminiscences from friends and family.
Chris was one of those people you could never quite put your finger on why you enjoyed his company so much. I finally realized the answer was so obvious I couldn’t see it: he never let himself get too big to fill his own shoes, never had a harsh word for anyone and usually had a smile on his face.
He never took himself too seriously and usually had a joke or quip, often delivered in his formal British accent to make us laugh and forget what we were mad about. If that didn’t work, he’d resort to jokes about the metal plate in his head from a Breckenridge skiing accident long ago. He wasn't afraid to be silly, relishing his silliness even more whenever he managed to get the rest of us to join him.
He held strong opinions but also an ability to keep them in perspective while drawing others into conversation. Our current world is desperate for more like him.
He was often content to be alone with his thoughts and nature but his easy laugh and natural ability to put just about anyone at ease made him a great conversationalist, something of a lost art in our present world. He had no discernable ego, but was proud of his work with first generation and adult students as a counsellor at the Colorado Mountain College. He was a go to guy both organizationally and in the field for the state Audubon Society. Unusual for a volunteer, he was accepted as an equal in the local Colorado Division of Wildlife office, identifying a local Gunnison Sage Grouse lek that was posthumously named after him.
My adventures with him rafting the San Juan, Green and Grand Canyon, skiing New York Mountain, exploring Belize, watching a shuttle launch in Florida and a solar eclipse in Chaco Canyon remind me to live life to the fullest.
I will both laugh and tear up whenever I remember his chasing a tumbling tent in a wind gust on the Green River, stubborn crusades for what was right, putting my telemark turns to shame, picking up trash at some remote campsite to celebrate Earth Day, Sunday morning classical music show on the local radio station, standing on the back of my skis to launch me on the Front Bowls poma lift, years spent learning to play the flute purely for his own enjoyment, knowledge of the stars, deer still jumping over the barb wire fence we had just removed on his Fruitland Mesa property and even scoring a corner suite at Hospice for his final days.
He didn’t find love until later in life and didn’t have children, which in my selfish view, left more of him for the rest of us. He was the glue that held his extended family together, a collection of siblings, in laws, nephews and nieces as disparate as one can imagine.
It's called a telemark turn, a skill and joy few who use modern backcountry equipment could appreciate. Chris used a 3 pin binding with leather boots and
was good, very good, even on the wind blown, hard pack snow
above timberline on New York Mountain.
During a walk shortly after he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, Chris told me that he wasn’t afraid of dying. It wasn’t that he didn’t regret his life ending early, or that he was rushing to embrace Jesus, as he wasn’t a religious person except in his deep reverence for nature. He simply wasn’t afraid of change, even the ultimate change all must face. I celebrate his courage and wisdom, and miss him terribly….
There’s an old saying that people die twice: once when you stop breathing and the second when somebody mentions your name for the last time. Go in Peace, Christopher Lazo, knowing that you leave behind many who love and miss you. Your second death is long off.