Eulogy for Christoph Herpel

We have had several requests for a copy of the eulogy for Christoph Herpel by his husband, Dr. Joshua Farrier. Below is the full text courtesy of Dr. Farrier. 

Christoph Herpel Eulogy

—Dr. Joshua Farrier

Christoph Herpel was born on the 25th of April, 1975 in Jugenheim, Germany. He died on the 13th of March, 2024, at the age of 48. Chris had bile duct cancer. It was discovered nearly one year ago. He went in for an ultrasound, thinking that he had another kidney stone (as they had plagued him his whole life.) Instead of kidney stones, they found a giant mass in his liver on that day. A surprise. The doctors gave him 3-6 months. He lived for one year.

I had to travel halfway across the world to find the love of my life. I met him on the 2nd of December, 2003 while on an audition tour in Germany. We saw each other for the first time at the Hauptbahnhof in Darmstadt and we knew then “THIS is the one.” And we were right! Our paths aligned and we were in parallel for the next 20+ years. But now his path has veered into a different direction. And I don’t know what to do.

Death, especially the death of someone very close to you, is where the “rubber meets the road” for us, the followers of Christ. It is a moment when our beliefs are put to the test. Do I truly believe that God is good and that Chris was his belovèd child, that, upon the expiration of his mortal flesh, his spirit returned to the Great I Am? Yes, I do. I know this in a very deep way. And, yes, I think he is here today, celebrating with us, that giant wide grin and those light-filled eyes. Believe me, he is loving this just as much as we are.

In Christoph’s generation, military service was mandatory. But, men could volunteer at a charity instead of joining the armed forces. So, Christoph worked with disabled children in a home for that year. It was here that he first understood the beauty of service.

After his “social year”, as the Germans call it, he went to Berlin to study a completely new branch of the graphic arts: web design. When I met Chris in 2003, he had already completed a stint as a web designer in a start-up in Berlin, and was doing freelance work. He would go on to advance in his career, eventually being one of the main designers for the company Bosch. If you buy a Bosch electric screwdriver or other power tool, Christoph designed its packaging.

When we first met, Chris was at most an agnostic. A priest friend told me recently “And I am assuming that Chris led you to the Lord?” No. Other way around. Chris had been attending an Anglican church with me while we were in Berlin, mostly, as he said, to sit next to me and listen to me sing. I was happy that that was reason enough to “show up”. I knew that the rest would be in God’s hands, and that Chris would eventually understand. One day, after church, we were walking back to the subway and Chris said “I have to admit, I felt something when I took the Eucharist today.” I just began to weep, right there in the UBahn. That day marked the beginning of a spiritual journey that would lead him to be a volunteer youth minister in our church. He also made several flights to the US in the years before St. James, working with Forma (the Episcopal Church’s “Network for Christian Formation”) to organize and plan for EYE (the Episcopal Youth Event), held once every 3 years.

I cannot describe to you how the Holy Spirit molded Christoph into the man he was. I have never known a faith more sincere or more quietly fervent. There were times that I thought “I’m living with a saint!”. And, although I may have brought him to God, it was, of course, God that did all the work. Chris allowed God in to shine through him. And I can only assume that is why, in the many condolences we have received, the word most used to describe Chris was “light”.

But the second-most-used word was “goofy”, and I can’t agree more with that assessment! Christoph LOVED humor. He loved puns. He loved to make ironic or snarky comments. In the many months of caring for Chris, I cannot tell you how many hours I laid next to him, hoping that my love and energy could cure him, binge watching CSI, Chris making little comments à la Mystery Science Theatre, and me rolling my eyes, chortling, or guffawing. Even to the end, humor was an absolute necessity in our lives. Our humor could be very dark, and, in the year after his diagnosis, gallows humor was all the rage by us.

Chris was not perfect, and he would be the first to admit it. The man was messy, just messy. And he had no concept of finances; I feel he really didn’t understand money. He had a terrible temper, really almost a debilitating case. If you have never seen a German lose his “shoot”, then you really haven’t lived on the edge. But, he came to gain control of it, and his outbursts grew less and less in number. I cannot remember when the last one was…perhaps even years ago… I tell you this so that you know he wasn’t perfect, he was flawed like the rest of us. I also tell you because I wanted you to know something about him that you perhaps hadn’t before.

We finally were able to adopt our daughter Jazmine just months before Christoph passed. He LOVED that girl! Witnessing his steadfast, unwavering love for her, so unconditional and so pure, was inspiring to see. Jazzy had already lost her father at 12, and now she has lost another one just 5 years later, both to cancer. “It will be ok,” I told her, “you have a THIRD!”I want you to know that Chris never complained about his situation. The first round of chemo and immunotherapy destroyed his thyroid. That didn’t faze him. It had also destroyed his pancreas. His blood sugar went into the 900 range, placing him in the hospital, before we knew he was now diabetic (Type 1). So, he learned how to eat differently, how to prick his finger and test his sugar, how to give himself shots in the tummy. He was unfazed. I have to walk with a cane now? No problem. Onward! I have to walk with a walker? No problem. I can’t wait to decorate it. A wheelchair? I can learn a new skill. I used to grumble endlessly about his ability to see a silver lining in ANY cloud; I called him a Pollyanna. And he would just smile, happy to kill two burns with one stone: proving a point while simultaneously teasing me.

I want you to know that he never questioned God or God’s will. He loved God until the very end. On his last day here amongst us, he said “It is well with my soul. The Lord can take me when he wants me home.” His devotion was steadfast.

I want you to know that what happened to Christoph is not a tragedy. It is life. Christoph Herpel died a happy man, having achieved all that he had ever wanted in life: to have a husband, to have children, and to serve the Lord.

I often say that I love living in the South because there are so many characters here, and that they love a good story as do I. So, in closing, a story:

Christoph’s mother Monika is suffering terribly at this time, as you can imagine. (I ask you to keep her in your prayers.) Recently, in a moment of desperation, she cried out to Christoph. She felt his presence about her, and thought she could just make out his voice. It told her to go to the old playroom in the attic, find an antique wooden box, and, in it, she would find a paper outlining his wishes for his funeral.

The one page letter she found was entitled “Wie ich mir meinen Abschied wünsche…” (“How I Wish My Farewell To Be”) It had been written and tucked away before Christoph had ever met me. But it is pure Christoph. It contains very specific instructions on things like what font to use for the funeral announcement, what music to play (he wanted Erasure, Shostakovich, and “It’s Not Easy Being Green”.) Thankfully, my husband and I were in full agreement that “funerals are for the living”.

He also forbad anyone from wearing black to his funeral. He did not want this to be a sorrowful affair. “I am a fun-loving optimist without fear of the future. I am not a child of sadness.” He wanted people to wear their street clothes, mentioning again that black was verboten, saying, “But please not black! There are so many beautiful colors!”

For me, the last paragraph, though, was most poignant, explaining how he was able to endure his cancer:

„Sollte ich durch eine Krankheit ums Leben gekommen sein, so möchte ich betonen, dass Krankheiten mehr sind als ungeliebte Begleiterscheinungen des Lebens. Krankheit und Behinderung gehört zum Menschsein dazu und ist in meinen Augen ein wichtiger und auf seine Art sinnvolle Teil des Lebens und der Gesellschaft.“

“If I die from an illness, I would like to stress that illnesses are more than just unwanted side effects of life. Illness and disability are part of being human and, in my opinion, are an important and, in their own way, meaningful part of life and society.”

Christoph, rest well, good and faithful servant.

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