By Kaitlyn Alanis and Jason Tidd
The hands of a hundred friends, family members and colleagues protected candle flames from a brisk north wind as they celebrated the light of Christina Chesvick’s life during a candlelight vigil on Tuesday.
Chesvick, a resident in the Veterinary Diagnostic Imaging Residency program at Kansas State, died by suicide on March 14.
Ramsey Meyer, Chesvick’s partner, said he loved Chesvick’s light.
“She had a beautiful, gorgeous light that I and so many other people loved deeply,” Meyer said.
Even the brightest lights can get tamped down by the mind, and Meyer said he feels that is what happened to Chesvick.
“Sometimes that light can get tamped down by something stupid, whether it was something stupid like a bad day, or it was just the weight of everything,” Meyer said. “But I want you to know she had a light in her life also. She saw the light in people, and I know that many of you here interacted with her as a teacher, and that was one of her greatest sources of light in her life.”
Joanna Wilson, fourth year veterinary medicine student, said Chesvick was the first resident she had rounds with.
“We were all terrified of radiology round, and she was kind,” Wilson said. “Even though she corrected us and taught us, she was wonderful.”
“Any time she would bring in food — cookies or weird cauliflower muffins that were delicious anyway — she always shared them,” Wilson said. “I know those may not seem like big things, but to us students it really means a lot. And I think it’s the little things you do for people that really show who you are.”
The cauliflower cupcakes were just one way Chesvick showed her students how much they meant to her.
“You guys really, honestly meant so much to her,” Meyer said. “She tried to show that to you by baking you cauliflower cupcakes and doing other things like that, but you truly were a part of her passion and your light showed her to her light.”
Meyer encouraged Chesvick’s students to use their lights to show her light, especially since she wanted to be a lifelong teacher.
“Accept the light from other people and tell them you need to see their light,” Meyer said. “I believe that wherever Christina is, that filter is now gone, and her light is shining brighter than ever and she can see our lights shining back at her.”
Julie Majka, second year veterinary medicine student, said Chesvick was a patient and kind teacher.
“One thing we always say … is ‘kindness is the new black, it looks good on everyone,’ and Dr. Chesvick wore it beautifully,” Majka said.
“She put the students first and taught kindness, empathy and humor,” Majka continued. “She made students feel comfortable talking to her about the subject material … or just about life. For all of us, she was a role model and someone we aspired to become.”
Outside of teaching, Chesvick had a light in the equine industry and a love for her horse, Max.
Kimberly Carr, fourth year veterinary medicine student, said she and Chesvick bonded over their love for horses.
“There’s a crazy bond between us horse people,” Carr said. “She definitely took the time to go through equine radiographs with me. She also took the time to give me homework … my homework was about 250 pages of equine radiographs and common injuries you might see … I’m still poking through them, but I’m definitely going to finish those for Christina.”
As she finishes that homework, Carr imagines Chesvick is riding horses in heaven.
“I don’t know where she’s finding her peace, but I have to imagine that she’s in heaven riding a really kickass dressage horse, and riding one of those horses that we both talked about wishing we had the money to afford,” Carr said.
To help bring Max back to California, Chesvick’s class and the College of Veterinary Medicine donated funds to help with transportation costs. The class also donated a memorial brick in Centennial Plaza in Chesvick’s name.
Centennial Plaza was the location of the candlelight vigil and is between the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Mosier and Trotter halls on the north side of K-State’s campus.
“Her memory will be here forever,” said Christian Eckert, fourth year veterinary medicine student and senior class president.
“I just think she was a bright, promising young woman with a great future, and she definitely meant a lot to us,” Carr said.
She said the veterinary medicine community should support one another and Chesvick’s family.
“We are all here for you,” Carr said. “Please don’t hesitate to ask if there’s anything you need, because we’re all family.”
Vet med suicide statistics
Suicide is not a new issue in the veterinary medicine profession.
A study by the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians, Auburn University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that one in six veterinarians have considered suicide.
“Suicide is something that plagues our profession pretty strongly,” Eckert said. “I just wanted to let you guys know you have 113 other people in your class … If you’re struggling … reach out and ask for help. Stick together, it’s something we have to do.”
“Christina struggled for a long time, and valiantly,” Meyer said.
Sue Zschoche, pastoral associate of First Congregational United Church of Christ and retired professor of history at K-State, prayed as the sun set during the start of the vigil.
“Dear Lord, we thank you for the life of your child, Christina,” the prayer began. “We commend her spirit and ask that you give her rest and peace.”
Zschoche said she understands that while searching for peace, some people may ask, “Why did this happen?”
“I’m not here because I know the answer to this question, and I don’t think any of us ever will,” Zschoche said.
She did answer another question, “Where exactly is God in all of this?”
“God does not promise to protect us from our humanness … (or) make the pain of that humanness just go away … (or) keep us from our choices,” Zschoche said. “But God does absolutely promise to be with us while we are in pain.”
Zschoche urged those in attendance to comfort each other.
“As human beings, we are given the privilege of enacting God’s love to each other,” Zschoche said.