10 Years Later: Remembering Our Friend, Chris


February 22, 2004: I woke to a call from my mom.

“Chris Jagodzinski had a stroke last night. They are moving him to St. Luke’s in Milwaukee, and he’s in critical condition.”


It had been an especially hard year for the WLHS class of 2003. Just two months earlier, we’d lost two of our classmates: one to suicide, and one to a tragic complication after surgery. My first thought was “please God, not again.”

I couldn’t believe it. Chris had suffered a stroke.

Throughout the weekend, our group of friends united, though hundreds of miles apart. Some made the trip home to Milwaukee from our various colleges, and relayed messages from the hospital. Chris was critical, but seemed to be turning a corner. Because of the affected part of the brain controlled his speech, it was hard for him to get the words out, so the speech therapists encouraged him to sing. We thought he might just make it.

Over the next few days, things were getting better, and then they got worse. He suffered a seizure and another stroke, and did not recover.

On February 25, 2004, our dear friend Chris passed away.

Chris was magnetic. He was active, athletic, everybody loved him and wanted to be around him. He was incredibly talented at seemingly everything, and just an overall great person.

As I sit here looking at the title of this post, I can’t believe it has been ten years. Since we lost Chris, we have all changed and grown. Graduated college. Got married. Had children. Started businesses. Lost jobs. Moved away from home. Got divorced. Made friends. Lost loved ones. We have grown and moved on. But very few days go by that I don’t think about Chris and wonder what he would be like today. Or wonder what we would all be like if this hadn’t happened.

Chris helped to save dozens of lives through organ donation. He improved and enriched the lives of thousands of people who knew and loved him. The impression that he made will not ever fade, and I consider myself blessed to have known him, even if only for just a few short years.

Today, I am a nurse. My specialty is Neuro Intensive Care. Every day, I take care of patients in the same situation as Chris. Some of them survive, many of them do not. I truly believe that the experience of knowing and losing Chris has shaped me into the nurse that I am today, and has given me a difficult but unique perspective on how I can best care for my patients and their families.

Today, my thoughts and prayers are with Chris’ family, friends, and everyone that was lucky enough to know him. We love you Chris, we can never forget you, and we are so grateful to have known you.


4 responses

  1. A beautiful memorial, Lesleigh. I didn’t know you then, but I feel that by your words I know your friend a bit better. You’ve become a lovely and compassionate, caring nurse. Maybe you see Chris’s face in those you treat… God’s blessings.

  2. I will never forget the day that Mr. Goede came over the PA towards the end of 8th hour to announce that Chris had passed away. Once the bell rang to end the day the hallways felt surreal, you could hear a pin drop! The halls that were normally filled with laughter and excitement to celebrate the day being over were silent. The most amazing part to me, which just proves how much of an impression Chris made on EVERYONE, was that even the freshmen and sophomores were silent, kids who had never even met him, only knew of him, knew just how special he was. Thoughts and prayers to Chris’ family and friends. Forever in the hearts of those who were lucky enough to had known him.

  3. Thank you so much to everyone who read and shared this post. It was a tough one to write… after sharing it, it was so meaningful to read people’s comments, stories, and memories throughout the day. Over 1,000 people read this post in the first 2 days — that speaks volumes to the impact that Chris had on everyone. I consider myself blessed to have known him.

    Thank you!

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