"When a child dies, no matter the circumstances, the pain and tears are always there. When a child is killed in a preventable tragedy, endless tears entwine with endless "What ifs" that do not even come close to matching the twisted knots in the parents' stomachs ...or their shattered hearts."
-- Candy Priano
Kristie's Walk with The Lord by Candy Priano
It was easy to tell that Kristie loved the Lord and that the Lord had given Kristie the gift of "Joy." Kristie did not hide (or show off) her special gift. She spread her joy throughout the Chico community by volunteering at her school, running in races to raise money for research to cure cancer and AIDS, helping out at Christian organizations and fund raisers, and taking care of injured animals at the Chico Creek Nature Center. She absolutely loved the time she spent at the Nature Center. It was this experience that brought her closer to nature, increased her desire to care for all kinds of animals and even brought her closer to Jesus.
My Kristie left behind many treasures, including a freshman high school paper.
In this beautiful essay entitled "My Life," Kristie writes: "Anyone who knows me would say that my family is the most important thing to me." And she is certainly the most important gift, along with her brother Steve, that God has given me.
I remember the two of us talking about our faith and the faith of those who had given their lives in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Kristie looked right into my eyes and said, "I am not afraid to die because I know in that instant I will be with Jesus."
My response to her testimony of faith was a happy one. I hugged my 15-year-old daughter and said, "Kristie, that's wonderful!"
Then after a second hug, I added, "But you aren't going anywhere because the Lord knows I need you too much, and I couldn't live without you."
Then, Kristie smiled and said, "Mom, you worry too much. Don't ya' know, Jesus tells us not to worry." She always said that to me, that I worried too much.
Kristie's Aunt Bev once said, "There is nothing ordinary about Kristie." ...and I'd have to agree with my sister, not because I'm Kristie's mother but because it is simply the truth.
In memory of Kristie, family friends purchased a brick at Caper Acres, a play area for small children. This saying is imprinted on the brick: "Kristie Priano, your joyful spirit lives on."
Now, this next thing is so Kristie. Someone must have purchased a second brick because not one, but two bricks are there, both with the same message. That's our Kristie. One brick just wasn't enough!
When asked, Kristie commented once that her green eyes were her favorite feature. While Kristie had sparkling, beautiful green eyes, it was that vibrant smile that caught most people's attention. Kristie's classmates write that she was kind to everyone and always had a smile for someone who was having a rough day. I've noticed that in about 95 percent of my photographs of Kristie that she is usually doing two things:?She has her arms wrapped around the other person in the picture, and she has a smile that lights up the room.
Kristie had been a volunteer animal caretaker and a junior naturalist for the Center when she was in junior high.
She loved volunteering at the Nature Center and fell in love with Aspen, a silver ferret. The Nature Center planted a tree in memory of Kristie. Next to the tree is a memorial plaque with a picture of Kristie holding Aspen. Here's a letter from Tom Haithcock, the director of the Nature Center, Kristie will be remembered.
The Center, located in Bidwell Park, has been authorized to build a new facility that will include an exhibit hall/information center and an environmental classroom for children in K-6th grades. The classroom will be called Kristie's Nature Lab and will offer school-age children the opportunity to learn about the natural wonders of Northern California and how to best preserve our environment. Update: Here's the Chico Creek Center video that includes video from Kristie's Nature Lab!
At Champion Christian School, Kristie kept busy during her sophomore year. She was an honor student, class officer, basketball player and member of the track team. A classmate's letter. In her freshman year, she also did cheerleading and was a stage hand for the school play. When she didn't get a part in the play, she decided to help out behind the scenes. She loved getting everyone dressed up for their next act.
In January 2002, Kristie was about one month away from going on her first mission trip where she would spend part of the time working in an orphanage in Costa Rica. Along with several other classmates and a teacher, she had planned this mission trip -- a trip she had dreamed about since the eighth grade.
Sadly, Kristie never did realize this dream. Her passport arrived in the mail just weeks after the deadly pursuit that took her life. Her classmates, who did go on this trip, brought back a beautiful ceramic butterfly and assured me that "Kristie did make that mission trip."
Kristie loves her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. About a month before Kristie was killed, she talked to me about heaven. With a simple question that wasn't a question, Kristie said, "Do you know what Heaven looks like?"
Without even taking a breath, she told me: "It's absolutely beautiful, Mom. The grass and trees are beautiful; the colors are so vibrant and not like the colors we see on Earth. Flowers bloom to perfection and plants don't get brown spots and they don't even need water!"
Kristie talked about Heaven for a few more minutes, and then I told her it was time to get some sleep. As I turned out her bedroom light, she said, "Mom, everything is so perfect in Heaven." ... and I cried, but Kristie never saw me cry. She was so happy.