Snow drifted high along the drive, the icy spindles of bare branches seemed to scrape against the winter sky on the stark morning of February 11, 1983, when we gathered to memorialize my father. Five days earlier we had stood around his bedside-my mother, who had come to tuck the hand-stitched quilts around his shoulders, his children, who stroked his magnificent mane of white hair with gentle care, and his grandchildren, who scampered at our feet.
We held him in our arms, warm against the chill of winter, as he slipped peacefully through death into the presence of the One who had guided him through life.
My father, John Raymond Christopher, did not die before the age of thirty-five, as the squadrons of physicians had predicted. His gentle practice of natural healing helped him overcome the chronic conditions he was born with, as well as the life-threatening injuries he sustained as a young adult. He succumbed instead at the age of seventy-three due to complications of a severe head injury. He had slipped on the treacherous ice outside his beloved Covered Bridge Canyon home, nestled in the mountains outside Spanish Fork, Utah.
Hundreds of mourners packed the church where we held his funeral, the same building where, a year earlier, he had stood for the last time to conduct his choir. The performance had been electrifying. There had not been a dry eye in the house that Sunday afternoon. There was not a dry eye now among those who crowded into the chapel for a chance to bid him farewell. Family members spoke to the congregation that gathered there. Friends shared their fondest memories. A profusion of little ones named Ray, John, and Christopher abounded, whose parents let us know that they were named after my father, without whose herbs they would never have been conceived. A church leader remembered my father's uncommon dignity, painting for us the reflection of dad mowing the lawn in his pinstriped suit. He shared the podium with the then vice-president of the prestigious National Health Federation.
How had such acclaim been earned by a man who had started out his life abandoned in an orphanage, a man who had been ridiculed in the courts and had been jailed? The acclaim was just. My father was considered the nation's number-one authority on herbal medicine, and tens of thousands of people owed their health and even their lives to his work.
If I were pressed to remember anything in particular about my father, it would be his extraordinary happiness. He hid his physical suffering with good cheer, making countless journeys into the blackness of night on his famed "house calls" I often wondered where he found such happiness. I know now it was from the people whose lives he touched. It was from the six-month-old blind baby whose sight was restored, and from the elderly asthmatic who was able to sleep in a bed for the first time in four decades.
My father's abiding happiness seems even more exceptional when I reflect on all the reasons he had to be unhappy. His life's work was dedicated to helping others, yet he was slandered by the judicial system that should have protected him. He was incarcerated on a number of occasions, left to grovel in the meanest of circumstances while those of us who loved him waited patiently for his release. Once, in what I am convinced was an effort to harass, a judge levied $50,000 bail for a licensing infraction yet I cannot erase from my mind's eye the gentle kindness of my father's perpetual smile.
He never retaliated against those who did him harm. He was counseled early in his life to love his enemies, and to pray for those who cursed him and persecuted him. That counsel became his clarion cry, and I have never seen greater love emanate from any man. We as his children were fiercely loyal to him, but he never coaxed any of us to follow in his footsteps as herbalists. He loved us deeply, and he knew only too well of the abuses and persecutions we might endure. I quietly came into the practice on my own, partly, I guess, out of my love for him, and because I watched first-hand the way his teachings changed people's lives.
He is gone from among us, but he leaves behind a legacy that will never be forgotten. He created more than fifty herbal formulas that have exacted almost miraculous healings. He spearheaded the School of Natural Healing, which found its way overseas to the highly touted Cambridge University. He authored many works on herbs, some of which are considered to be classics in their field.
I struggle daily to live a life that would make him proud. I cherish my memories of him, and I hold dear the hundreds of letters that still pour in, almost a decade after his death, thanking him for life itself. They come from every state in the union, and some from remote areas of the world, a poignant reminder of his powerful influence. Yes, he is gone...but he will never be far away.
As his son, I share his love and concern with all of those he so cared for-people he had never seen, but whose lives he prayed fervently for. I hope that this brief biography will stand as a fitting tribute to him.
Published and distributed by:
Christopher Publications, Inc.
P.O. Box 412 Springville, Utah 84663
(801) 489-4254 (800) 372-8255
Copyrightę 1993 Christopher Publications
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"Natural Healing with Herbs for a Healthier You"