The Greatest Gift

We can probably all remember what we would consider the ‘Greatest Gift’ we ever received.  Maybe it was a childhood toy you really wanted, or as a teenage getting a car or perhaps a scholarship to college. Maybe it was when someone you really cared about finally said to you “I love you”. But it was surely something that most probably changed your life.

We humans tend to best remember things given in a joyful sprit, but truthfully, not all gifts have a sense joy attached to them. Allow me to tell you about the greatest gift our Kohberger family has ever received.

As most of you know our son, Chance Reed Kohberger, contacted cancer in the latter part of 2021 and passed away on February 11th of this year. His was small cell cancer which is fast spreading (three and a half months) and horribly brutal on the body. When he was told he was in the terminal stage he asked to come home and live his last weeks with us on “the couch where I watched TV with you guys as a child

While other families might have wished for some sort of miracle to heal him after he was terminal; we all knew that was never going to happen. Instead, we four turned to face reality head on as a family and so shared our thoughts and memories, both good and bad, freely with each other.

Some of those conversations were tough to hear because at that stage Chance wasn’t pulling any punches to get what he felt he needed to say across. But for every hard truth he told there were many, many memories he shared that made us laugh and cry and feel thankful for every single day we had together.

Even while knowing he wasn’t going to survive his illness he had a most wicked sense of humor – and that alone made things easier all around.  Were his jokes and jibes small gifts given at a late stage from him to us? Yes, and we loved every single second we had while listening to him.

Chance’s illness spread so quickly and so dramatically that if you weren’t his close family and saw him at the end of his illness you wouldn’t have recognized him. His weight went from 180 lbs. to just over 80. His skin changed color, hurt so much and was so tightly drawn that the only place we could touch and kiss him was on his forehead. He couldn’t even wear clothes at the end because of the pain. It was that bad.

Even with all that the Greatest Gift I’ve received in my lifetime, and I believe I can speak for his mother Raejean and sister Pauli, was his final offering to us. After he rallied to sign his Will and Power of Attorney and address other legal issues, he knew that his responsibilities to others was over. He then could look forward. That may sound strange as ill as he was, but let me tell you why he felt that way.

When he knew he could let go of life he turned to me one evening and said “I love you both so much and I’m not going to put you through this any longer”.

With that said, and four days before he died, he turned his back to the room on the couch and did not talk, eat, drink or take his pain pills any longer. He knew exactly what he was doing and that was speeding up the end so that we wouldn’t suffer seeing him like that any longer. He was that strong to do that final thing for us.

Many give the gift of life to others; Doctors, First Responders and Mothers who have born children to name a few. But the greatest gift I have ever received was given by the bravest and most caring person I have ever known, and that was Chance’s earliest death possible – which was his alone to give.

When he drew his last breath we were with him and knew exactly what happened. Raejean and I put him in the hospital bed in the dining room (which he refused to be in before) and Raejean washed him from head to toe while singing Hawai’ian songs over him in her wonderful voice, then we dressed him in his favorite clothes. After that we called his sister, brother-in-law and girl friend over to our home and we all had a beautiful and loving breakfast together with Chance in the other room. We talked stories and laughed and cried but we knew that was what he would have wanted to happen at that time.

Why am I writing all this at this holiday season? First so that I always keep his amazing strength and kindness in the forefront of my memory, and it helps to remind me of his strength and love of Christmas. But also to let you all know that gifts can come in any size, shape, or meanings and Chance was the best gift giver I’ve known. He always seemed to know exactly what you wanted, or in this case needed, without being told.

And his final gift to us was just that. Something we would never have asked for but was just what we needed to turn to the living once again.

I thank him every day for that gift and when I really miss him I look to the sky and say ‘I love you my son’ out loud. We all believe that regardless of wherever he is or will be, he’ll always have a safe and loving home in our hearts and will be in our thoughts forever.

So I say thank you again for everything, son.  We’ll take our time with it, but I know we’ll all be together again someday…

P/S: One request from Chance was for me to take some of his estate money, and without telling his mom, buy all new kitchen appliances. When I told him how generous that was he said ‘Dad, my best and fondest memories is of the food mom cooked for us and how wonderful it tasted.” After the appliances were ordered and installed, I told Raejean what Chance had wanted her to have and why.  Again, just another wonderful and perfect gift from him to his mom.

Happy Holidays to all and please have a good and safe New Year. Hold your family dear and know that everyone of us have strengths that are not always apparent, but do brightly shine when necessary.

Reed Kohberger