Christian Redman, 50, sits on the edge of the couch, hands slightly trembling — a side effect of the chemo — as he clasps and unclasps them, a melancholy shadow in his eyes.
For as long as he can remember, Redman — the former Army cavalry scout, the retired police officer, the can-do construction entrepreneur who finds a solution to every problem — has been the one giving to others.
Raising money to help bury a fellow officer’s daughter. Shopping for toys for needy children at Christmas. Helping organize fundraisers too numerous to count to help a firefighter’s family, a World War II vet running out of money, wounded soldiers.
“It seems like someone was always needing help,” Redman says. “You can’t say no.”
But the past year and a half have hit Redman hard: A sudden diagnosis of stage four colon cancer and the subsequent needed medical care have upended his burgeoning construction business, wiped out his savings and left him unable to work and pay his bills.
And now, he finds himself on the receiving end of the good will he so generously gave to others.
For him, it’s not an easy place to be.
“It’s hard to accept help,” Redman says, his voice low and quiet. “I’m used to doing everything on my own. I never thought I would need one for me. It’s humbling, very humbling.”
‘We all go through hard times’
The “one” is a fundraiser, held Dec. 9 at Takoda Tavern in Parker. Redman’s friends, Ron Meier and Bob Nobles, no strangers to doing for others, organized the benefit when they learned of Redman’s predicament.
Meier is president of the homeowners’ association of the Parker condominiums where Redman lives. Nobles owns Takoda Tavern, a well-known hangout for veterans tucked in a nondescript, small shopping strip.
The decision to “Call out the Cavalry for Christian,” as the sign on the placard advertising the fundraiser reads, was easy.
“He’s got a heart of gold,” Meier, 58, says of Redman. “We all go through hard times, right? Any one of us could end up with unfortunate circumstances.”
Meier, Nobles and Redman, along with Aaron Davis and Mac McCrory, organized a benefit two years ago for Jack Frank, a WWII veteran who was running out of money.
Extending a helping hand, building community, they said then, is what matters in this world.
Today, thanks to the money raised and a careful financial planning strategy, Frank and his wife no longer worry about having enough to live on until they die.
“We live in a time where there’s a lot of negativity going on,” Nobles, 57, says. “But there’s always something positive in helping people out.”
Nobles’ passions are evident in the American flags and Native American art that cover just about every inch of the tavern walls. He was deeply influenced, he says, by a Native American friend who treated everyone with dignity and kindness. He named his bar and restaurant Takoda, which means “friend to others” among the Lakota Sioux. And although he didn’t serve in the military, he considers all those who did — or do — his family.
“He’s a good man,” Nobles says. “He served his country and he’s getting dealt a really tough, tough hand. . . . We can all do a little more to help out our kids — they’re all our children.”
During the fundraiser, Meier stands by the donation table near the entrance, thanking people, writing down names and amounts in a dog-eared booklet, meticulously documenting the generosity.
Jack Frank, 92, the WWII vet walks in, cane in hand, and pulls out $75 from his wallet.
“Appreciate that, Jack,” Meier says.
“I wish I could do more.” Frank recounts how he fell recently and injured his ribs. But, he says, “I had to make sure I could be here.”
‘The motto: never quit’
Redman remembers the exact moment his life veered.
5:33 p.m. June 10, 2016. The phone rang. He didn’t really want to answer it. He knew hernias, his first suspicion, weren’t causing his troubles.
The unanswerable questions flooded his mind. Would he die? Would he wither away to nothing as he’d seen happen to others fighting cancer? He didn’t want to be that person.
A month later, he was in the hospital, undergoing emergency surgery that saved his life. Doctors removed his colon. When he woke, he had an ileostomy bag outside his stomach area to collect the waste products from his body.
He was devastated.
Redman has always been a burly man, 230 pounds, jovial, outgoing, committed to being the best at whatever he did. A cavalry scout for the Army, he was stationed in Germany near the border with the Soviet Union when the Chernobyl nuclear explosion occurred. He later taught armor operations warfare and was called up in the reserves during Desert Shield/Desert Storm. He spent 23 years as a police officer in Kentucky before moving back to Parker, where he grew up, to help care for his aging parents. Here, he began working in construction.
After years of being in charge, he didn’t want to get out of bed.
Then his 16-year-old daughter, Alexis, who lives in Kentucky with his ex-wife, called. “You can’t leave me yet, Daddy,” she told him.
Nine days later, he walked out of the hospital.
The fight has been unrelenting. Chemotherapy, every Tuesday, leaves him breathless, nauseous, trembling, prone to infections and insomnia. Complications have sent him to emergency rooms more than 20 times. He lost 90 pounds. The stress has revived panic attacks related to PTSD from his Army days.
He is quieter. His shoulders hunch slightly when he stands. There is a heaviness, a worry, in his gaze. The battle is depleting. And it forces what matters most into focus.
“You learn to forgive a lot when you’re sick,” Redman says. “I learned never to say never — it’s a humbling disease. As they say, pride goeth before the fall. I used to be laser-focused on being the best. Now, I just want to see my little girl graduate college, walk down the aisle.”
His father, Dave Redman, 77, a retired Navy command master chief, is his constant companion. He has accompanied him on every doctor and hospital visit. And when Christian’s spirits dip too low, he helps lift them back up.
“It’s a fight,” Dave Redman says. But “there’s a light at the end of the tunnel — it’s there.”
The disease can’t be cured, Redman says, but the hope is that he can live in remission someday.
So, he prays. And he draws on his military training: “I will win. I will survive. You can’t give up. I’ve never given up, never quit. That’s the motto: Never quit.”
‘Pay it forward’
At Takoda Tavern, a silent auction table hugs the front wall. A few bottles of aged, expensive whiskey. Several beer bar signs. A Benchmark knife. And more.
Jason Adamson, 37, a Takoda regular from Highlands Ranch, is sitting at the bar. He has bid $500 each for two of the whiskey bottles. He doesn’t know Redman.
“Why not?” he says about his donation. “It’s for a good cause. Bob tells me it’s a good thing. That’s all that matters to me. I feel there’s too many stories out there nowadays that are more sad than happy. That’s what people tend to focus on. Sometimes, the good stories go unmentioned.”
This, the rallying of a community for one of its own, he says, is a good story.
Sam Treat, 54, walks up to Meier at the table, $40 in his hand.
“How does this work?” he asks. An Air Force veteran, he has come from Aurora with his daughter. He, too, doesn’t know Redman.
“It’s a good cause,” Treat says. “You’ve got to take care of people, always pay it forward. I just hope he gets better.”
Air Force veteran Bob Barns, 84, walks through the door. He hands Meier an envelope that says “from Bill and Jane.” He can’t stay — his grandchildren are visiting — but he had to stop by to support a fellow serviceman.
“I’ve had some medical problems myself, and I just wanted to help a little bit,” says Barns, who also has never met Redman. “I have been very lucky . . . but I may be here someday.”
A belief in humanity
Perhaps the most difficult part of this unwanted journey has been losing the ability to support and take care of himself, Redman says.
His monthly insurance premium is about $950. He spends about another $500 a month in co-pays. Then there’s the medicine, the monthly rent, food, other basic living expenses. His $40,000 in savings quickly disappeared once he had to stop working. His business crumbled.
He is in the process of pursuing veterans’ benefits. But for now, his only income is about $2,000 a month in disability pay, which is enough to cover either medical or living expenses, but not both.
When Meier became aware, through other sources, that Redman was falling behind in his rent, he approached his friend about holding a fundraiser. Aaron Davis, the condominium complex’s property maintenance manager, also set up a GoFundMe account. The goal altogether: $15,000 to cover Redman’s rent for a year.
As of Dec. 18, a little more than $15,000 had been raised — $10,000 from the Takoda benefit.
The amount humbles Redman. He is amazed at how many people showed up to support him and, of those, how many he didn’t know.
“I am,” he says simply, “very blessed.”
But maybe this blessing is for everyone.
For Meier. And Nobles. And Davis. And Frank and Barns and Adamson and Treat and all the people who looked into their hearts to try to make life a little better for someone who was hurting.
And all of us who share in this story that shines a light on the goodness of humanity, reminding us what matters most: Love for our fellow man, woman and child, especially in the toughest of times.
Ann Macari Healey writes about people, places and issues of everyday life. An award-winning columnist, she can be reached at ahealey@coloradocommunitymedia or 303-566-4100.