Christian had a presence that was palpable. Besides his good looks, 6’2” frame, striking green eyes, and athletic physique (some say a cross between Tom Brady and Brad Pitt) he had a great sense of humor, an infectious laugh, and an intelligent and caring demeanor. Christian exuded a confident aura that attracted everyone as soon as he came into a room.
His mother recounted some examples of his loving heart. “On occasion when he was young, he would be out on a sports field and would see a small group of Down’s Syndrome kids. He made a point to go over and include them by asking them how it was going and connecting with them with a winning smile. He never judged.”
Always a star athlete in Little League, he had the nickname “Hot Dog.” This was not because he showed off, but because after every home run the whole team got a free hot dog. This motivated him to make home run after home run! Christian delighted in food. He loved teriyaki chicken, his grandmother’s beef stew, and candy. Interestingly, his mother never liked candy until she was pregnant with him, and then she craved it. One Valentine’s Day, his sister got him a duffle bag full of candy. He was in heaven! He loved acting, music, singing, and dancing. “At Christmas, we would put on music and dance. It was all about having fun together,” his mother, Tina, said.
He also had a hidden side to him, born from early childhood abuse. The abuse manifested into deep anxiety and anger. His mother and sister, a therapist, got him help, but he didn’t want to take the medication the psychiatrist prescribed. Christian was careful not to allow his pain to affect his family and friends. He focused on working hard, playing hard, and loving his family.
Christian was a caring brother to his sister Taylor, close in age, and a brother eight years younger. He loved them both deeply but was inseparable from his sister. “I called them my twins.” His death devastated Taylor.
“We were in the dark about his addiction,” his mother said. “Looking back, we noticed some mood changes. He was in college, enjoying his fraternity, making all A’s as usual, planning a great internship, and we were happy because he was away from his abusive father and had the whole world ahead of him,” Tina added. After the fact, they learned from his girlfriend that he was taking Xanax and would show up to class looking “loopy.’” He was also vaping and seemed to be self-medicating. Christian bought what he thought was Percocet online, but it was pure Fentanyl.
Since his death, his mother has become a powerful advocate for addiction treatment reform, and awareness about the Fentanyl crisis. She offers help to anyone who needs it at any time. “I believe that is part of my purpose in life now. It brings me joy to talk about him, to keep his spirit alive,” Tina stated. “I think it’s disgraceful to look at addiction with stigma. It’s a disease,” she added. “In a lot of ways, I feel like Christian saved me. He brought me closer to God.”
Christian’s mother, Tina Burke, provided the information for this narrative.
March 3, 1999-July 19, 2020
Age 21-Lived with the disease of addiction for two years.