I had the daunting task and honor of writing my brother’s obituary last week. I did my best to do him justice and sound professional. But then I got tasked with sharing a life sketch for Collin’s memorial and knowing it would be just in front of family, I felt like it could use a rewrite. So many of you are aching with us, to feel connected in this darkness. This is the obituary I wrote for friends, and that’s what I, and I know he, considered you all. This was my experience with Collin, the brother.
Collin Stanley Kartchner was born a mere 14 months after our sister Charity, two weeks early, but still at an impressive 10.5 pounds. He started walking at 8 months. He was racing to this world. Ready or not here he came. He ran at this pace his entire life, and put 100% and 100 mph into everything he did.
From an early age he excelled at most things he tried. Swimming, cello, piano, baseball. Even his baseball socks were the #1 worst smelling thing ever. A born winner!
Collin was the biggest tease you’ll ever meet, whether it was lynching my barbies over the diving board, or giving me a complex about my chicken legs. He could dish it all day, but he could not take it in return. All his feelings were always so close to the surface. He’d cry at commercials, hold and coo over all the babies, and pet every dog in a mile radius.
He used humor to get him out of uncomfortable situations and his wit was like lightning. He could also cut you to the quick just as fast, and if you ever had a tongue lashing from Collin you know. And you’re probably shuddering right now.
Collin cared deeply for his family. He taught me to ride a bike when no one else could seem to. When I totaled his Jetta, he never even got mad at me. Just wrapped me up in a hug and asked if I was okay.
He made everything more exciting. He’d wake us all up at 3 am on Christmas Day basically squealing for us to get up and open presents. I’m guessing that’s why Santa started leaving stockings on our beds, trying to satiate Collin and give the elves a little more sleep. Opening stockings in a pitch black night is one of my favorite memories. When we would doorbell ditch gifts for less fortunate families he would dress in all black and cartwheel, army crawl, and do all his ninja moves to the door and back. The rest of us just ran and laughed.
When Collin was in high school one of his friends, Camille Brown had just lost her dad and he went to her house to check on her and help out. He could always seem to cheer her up, so she thought she’d send him to her little sister Elizabeth to see if he could do the same for her. Sure enough Liz was quickly laughing and brightened right up. Her megawatt smile and her green eyes captured his heart and he took her on her very first date. They dated after high school until it was time for him to go on his mission to Taipei, Taiwan. The very same place both our brother Chad and dad went.
I was devastated. I cried for weeks. But he was the best missionary, he changed the hearts of Taiwan and baptized many. When he got home he and Elizabeth got married and ventured to college. Collin struggled in deciding what he wanted to do, what to be. Nothing seemed to fit, or work out, and I remember wishing the right thing would come along for him, something he truly loved.
Despite being at jobs he hated, he still worked so hard and gave it his all. He always made sure to pursue things he loved on the side, and he even had a stand up comedy phase. He made us all laugh til we cried. He loved being active. Cycle classes, triathalons, swimming laps, goat yoga, he’d even go with me to my high fitness classes, saving me a spot every morning. One dude in a room of 75 women and of course he “woot-wooted” louder than us all.
He supported his growing family as Avery, Quincey, Lola and Myles entered the scene. Of all the things Collin is good at, being a dad is #1. He is their world. He made them each feel so incredibly loved and special. Whether it was cheering the loudest at Avery’s choir concerts, bringing a cowbell to Quincey’s soccer games. He knew every step of Lola’s dance choreography, and the very last thing he did on this earth was cheer on the Dodgers with Myles. He was everyone’s favorite uncle, too.
The last day we spent together, he met me at the pool and helped me with my kids, I was still overwhelmed with 4 and didn’t dare go alone. Taking Raleigh down the slide 15 times, swimming with the baby, chatting about life with me. And then prepaying for 50 snow cones. News traveled fast, and soon the line was out the gate of kids suddenly craving shaved ice. He just laughed in the corner to himself.
As my dad so perfectly put it, Collin didn’t choose his ultimate career, it chose him. In fact we couldn’t have handpicked a better one if we tried. Everything about his life thus far led him to that moment, prepared and qualified him, and he took the challenge. His tender, at the surface heart, his quick wit, his deep love and care for others. His generosity, and his love of what is right and good. He perfected his public speaking at the comedy club. He saw firsthand what social media and smartphones can do to a person, as the first person he had to change was himself. Albert Einstein said “the measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” Collin course-corrected in so many ways the last decade or so, aligning himself more closely with who God knew him to be.
For all the amazing things Collin was able to accomplish, he carried the weight of the world on his shoulders. And he paid a great price in return. Long hours, days, weeks away from his family. Devastating losses, heartbreaking stories at every stop, he took on the darkest parts of this world head on. It wasn’t uncommon for teens to message him that they were thinking of ending their life that night. He’d reply by offering to send them one of his merch hoodies and that he needed to get their address.
The kids must have been confused, it’s not really the answer you’re hoping for when you’re crying for help. But he’d use that address and he’d send the police to check on them, alerting their family of the issue and saving many lives.
I remember one day Collin called me in tears, he didn’t give me any details he just pleaded “Em, promise me that you won’t give your boys their own smart phones. Promise me.” He saw the effects first hand every single day. And he is the voice of reason and love we all need.
If there are any perks of Covid, one might be that Collin was given the gift of several months at home. No traveling, just time with his family. Time to help Liz pursue her own dreams and going back to school for her Master’s— she was taking an online quiz the day before yesterday. 💪🏼 She will be able to support their kids and change the world, too.
This gift of time changed Collin into an even better version of himself. I’ve never seen him so present, engaged, and with such laser-focused priorities. His kids got the very best of him. He was at peace. He’d spend 12 hours a day this Summer fishing at a local pond. His feet balanced on sharp precarious rocks, he didn’t even flinch. He was so zen, just smiling and fishing with his kids.
If there is one of so many, many things he taught and I want to carry with me, it is to be unafraid of who we are called to be. To become aligned with what God knows of us. As a wise man said “Pray to see things the way God sees them and then see what happens in your life. I dare you.”
Photos by Hayley Kaze and Hunter Fowler
Jen ParisOctober 28, 2020 at 10:13 pm
So, so beautiful, and heartbreaking. Thank you for sharing.
Yvonne DrakeOctober 28, 2020 at 11:32 pm
Thank you for sharing this beautiful tribute. Hold on to those precious memories. Love to you and your family.
Allie KowallisOctober 29, 2020 at 6:48 am
Emily, I’ve cried along with you for days and this made me cry even more. The words you’ve written about your brother are so incredibly beautiful and heartbreaking. This world has lost a precious soul. I pray that throughout your life, and your family’s, that you feel his presence.
Tracy LeeOctober 29, 2020 at 6:53 am
Such a wonderful tribute of a beautiful soul! Continuing to send so much light & love to you and Liz. So heartbroken for you all, well, all of us. This dark world needs more Collin’s, let us all continue his legacy and be more like him. 💕
CharityOctober 29, 2020 at 6:58 am
DelbarrOctober 29, 2020 at 7:04 am
The words you wrote to describe your brother, who I didn’t even know outside of social media, were such a perfect illustration of a man who lived with every ounce of the life he was given. He was truly inspiring and very simply, his work online, what he would share, changed so many lives including my own. He was your brother tho, and you are so lucky to have lived out these memories. Your words, your heart are so beautiful. Praying your family finds peace…and his kids and Liz always know he’s near.
Sara JaneOctober 29, 2020 at 7:04 am
You have the gift of words just like your big bro. I love the details you shared. He is inspiring and so are you. Thank you for the challenge of becoming MORE! You’re in my every thought and prayer! XOXO
Melissa MearsOctober 29, 2020 at 7:16 am
Such a tender and heart felt tribute. He was an amazing man and touched so many lives.
LaurieOctober 29, 2020 at 7:24 am
Purely beautiful. I’m just devastated for all of you. Our world defiantly lost a critical key player for the Light. Please know so many prayers are with you and yours. His kids are going to be absolute giants (in greatness) raised in his memory and honor.
Megan FisherOctober 29, 2020 at 7:30 am
This was so beautiful! I just sobbed through it. He was an amazing man doing so much good and leaving an impression on us all. ❤️
KariOctober 29, 2020 at 7:36 am
Beautiful tribute. Thank you for sharing.
Crystal GilliamOctober 29, 2020 at 8:00 am
Wow. Tears are streaming. Emily, you are a beautiful writer. I love reading more about Collin’s life and personality. Your last paragraph though struck me so hard. Collin has truly left such an inspiring legacy.
BryndeeOctober 29, 2020 at 8:05 am
What a beautiful tribute. I talked to Collin at that fishing pond this summer and observed the same thing. No phone, just totally content to hang and laugh with everyone around him. and he said they had come 3 times that week. Collin acted genuinely interested in my kids every time we talked to him. He was a delight to talk to. He makes me want to be a better person.
Mari SpikerOctober 29, 2020 at 8:06 am
I laughed but mostly just cried. So beautiful. Such a devastating loss. The world will never be the same.
KristenOctober 29, 2020 at 8:51 am
Beautiful. Every word. Love you girl
BekahOctober 29, 2020 at 8:53 am
This is the most beautiful, descriptive and heartfelt tribute to him. He was such a light in this world. My Dad passed away when I was 14, leaving 6 kids behind. He was larger than life like Collin. I can unequivocally say 20+ years later that he lives on in all of his loved ones. I feel him near often. I know Collin will be near all of you and will be able to lift your heart at times when no other worldly person will even know you need it.
EmilyNovember 13, 2020 at 6:34 am
This is beautiful thank you ♡
KandiceOctober 29, 2020 at 8:53 am
Oh goodness, I ugly cried through reading this. So beautiful and so devastating. I’m going to miss him so much and I only know him through social media. I will remember him and honor him in the way that I raise my children. All my love and prayers to you, Lizzy and your families. 🤍
Hayley BaumOctober 29, 2020 at 8:59 am
You did this perfectly. ❤️✨ Thanks for sharing an insiders glimpse at his amazing heart.
Erin VeyOctober 29, 2020 at 9:34 am
Wow. What a life. I am just being introduced to Collin and his message. This tragedy will stick with my for many years to come. It has cemented my decision to not give my girls smart phones. What a legacy. Your writing is beautiful and much love to all of your family.
katyOctober 29, 2020 at 9:35 am
Beautiful tribute to a beautiful life! 🤍
MattOctober 29, 2020 at 9:38 am
God bless you and yours. Great man, great mission. Such a profound loss to the world.
VickieOctober 29, 2020 at 10:03 am
This is a beautiful tribute you can feel the love and respect you have for Collin. Those of us who “met” him because of social media are forever changed. I am personally grateful God placed him in my path.
Teri WatkinsOctober 29, 2020 at 11:12 am
Wow! Just bawled all the way through this! What a brother! What a man!! So sorry he isn’t here on earth anymore…but so grateful for the example he set! Happy to see how he aligned himself with God and that truly is how he impacted so many! Love you and I’m so sorry for your loss. Thanks for sharing this with us!
Lindzie hOctober 29, 2020 at 11:18 am
That ha the obituary we all needed. Thanks for sharing and letting us be in your grief. The world needs more Collins but honestly there won’t be another like him. So we go forward and try to emulate as best we can. Hugs to you all. 2020 is not the year we wanted but I seeing becoming one we might have needed to slow down and really appreciate what is right in front of us. ❤️
Bri GoodsonOctober 29, 2020 at 1:07 pm
This was so beautiful. Collin left such a great impression on so many lives and what a great example of a parent loving and living life to the fullest with their family. ❤️
KatrinaOctober 29, 2020 at 1:20 pm
Thank you for sharing this. 💖 Beautiful stories and memories of this man who had what matters most figured out. 🙏🏻 Still praying for all of you to feel peace and love in this heartbreaking time. I had the wonderful opportunity to take my daughter to one of his firesides last year and it was incredible. From afar and within that one hour, I knew He was truly someone who knew who he was and knew his purpose and didn’t look back. Imagine how good this world could be if we could all have so much courage and faith and if we prioritized the things that matter most. 💖 Love and prayers to you and your family.
Ashley LofgreenOctober 29, 2020 at 2:59 pm
I didn’t know your brother personally. I heard about him a couple of years ago from a friend and became a quick fan of his and his movement. A mom of 2 young kids, he opened my eyes to the dangers of devices, and the importance of being present. I attribute so much of what I’m trying to accomplish as a person to him. Every IG post, podcast, talk, etc kept me riveted and I shared his message with more people I can count. The news of his loss gutted me more than i would have expected, especially for not knowing him personally. Your words have left tears streaming down my face once again this week. I like many others have wondered “why?!” He of all people would be taken from this earth. The only comfort I can find is trusting that God needed him more on the other side and that his mission will only continue on tenfold. Thank you for letting me feel loss with you and for sharing your amazing brother with me and the rest of the world. His influence will go down in the books.
KristenOctober 29, 2020 at 7:59 pm
Thank you for sharing your grief with us, it’s often such a private thing, but your openness and stories have allowed all of us to truly “mourn with those that mourn.” Sending so much love and comfort to your family!!
Lisa BradyOctober 29, 2020 at 10:56 pm
I’m so touched by your words Em, have so much love for you and your family.
CarlyOctober 30, 2020 at 5:18 pm
Wow! What beautiful words! What a great rarity that the man we saw “online” is the same man in real life- he’sa rare gem, and I’m honored to have learned from him!! I will continue to carry out his mission! Sending all the love.
AnonymousNovember 5, 2020 at 3:07 pm
This so sooo so beautifully written. I am in tears reading. As many, I did not personally know Collin, but oh did it feel like it. I have been following him about a year and would look forward to his funny, educational, brutally honest and eye opening posts ever day. Man he was an incredible human! You’re right, his career path couldn’t have been more perfect for him. He changed my life as a parent and my children’s lives, along with thousands of others! I am forever thankful for his passion and love to #savethekids and will continue to share his message!
Thank you for sharing your heart and stories of your brother with the world ❤️
Sofia from argentinaNovember 11, 2020 at 11:36 am
I am here and I am new getting to know your family. And I am already thankful. Thanks for sharing yours and your brother story. I am learning a lot. All the love sweet woman. I hug you 8 seconds and more from the distance.