On April 14, 2016, my friend Tony Krzysik suddenly died. Tony was a scientist and one of those larger-than-life characters who had a range of interests as wide as the river of life itself. He was a retired professor who had taught college chemistry, biology and physics among other things (his Ph.D. was in Bio-Ecology). Tony was a gourmet cook, lover of reptiles, fly fisherman, Audubon naturalist, car nut, Steelers fan, and something of a Mr. Rogers to the kids who found their way to the Highlands Center for Natural History in Prescott, Arizona. He could, and did, do everything.
My friendship with Tony was based upon our common interest in trying to raise awareness about the destructive effects of human activity on the global environment. We shared the sad view that the collapse of those systems which support much of life on this planet is immanent if we do not make rapid and radical changes in human life and culture now.
Shortly after his death, Tony's body was cremated and a Celebration of Life was held for him in the amphitheater of the Highlands Center on April 24, 2016.
The following is a reflection shared at the Celebration by Thomas Atkins, who knew Tony professionally and personally for many years. Tom describes himself as a "retired bio teacher". He might be a descriptive minimalist.
I was deeply moved by Tom's reflection because it managed to say something central to my theology. I believe it demonstrates better than anything I have found, that factual, even scientific narrative can be as much the basis for profound meaning as the greatest myths or stories of supernatural powers and heroes, depending upon how it is presented. It is the surprising product of the simple chemistry of combining truth with love.
I share Tom's words here in honor of the extraordinary life of Anthony J. Krzysik and in the hope that you will experience something extraordinary in this bio teacher's courageously honest reflection:
I had to ponder this as a biologist… What exactly HAPPENED to my friend Tony?
Biologically, what is the end of life?
TO UNDERSTAND DEATH, ONE HAS TO UNDERSTAND LIFE!
Life is funded by utilizing food to produce trillions upon trillions of protons… naked hydrogen nuclei… each second!
These protons are produced… dammed up… and pass through an enzyme called ATP synthase.
They are tiny Nano motors which reconstruct ATP... Adenosine tri phosphate!
Thousands of ATP synthase molecules are found SPINNING AT 7000 RPM IN EVERY LIVING CELL WITHIN OUR BODIES.
Tony’s marvelous Nano motors, living within his 60 trillion cells, worked tirelessly for 73 years +9 months.
They made their final production delivery of ATP molecules shortly after his fall to the living room floor.
Without oxygen, these Nano motors slow… then come to a stop.
ATP, the energy molecule of the cell, can no longer be constructed.
The complex biochemical reactions in each cell that depend on ATP slowly ebb and cease as the last remaining stores of this ubiquitous molecule of cellular respiration are deconstructed for the last time…
BIOLOGICAL LIFE, THE CONSTANT BATTLE AGAINST RANDOMNESS, AGAINST ENTROPY, is finally at an end in our Tony, our dear friend.
It is not the end of his memes.
People we most love, do literally, become a physical part of us. They are integrated within our brain structure, in the pathways where memories are created and stored!
His intellectual essence lives in us all; it lives on in the minds of people that have had contact with this man’s remarkable intelligence.
His memes live on in papers written late at night.
They reside in scientific journals.
They reside in the Internet’s electronic cloud.
All these have changed the future in ways yet unknown.
It is not the end of his matter.
The Earth Mother, warmed and powered by the sun, is infinitely patient. But always in the end… FOR ALL OF US… this mother of our matter quietly and gently re-collects her elements.
Tony’s matter, his stardust, IN THIS LAST WEEK, has already lifted into the sky!
Upon their RELEASE… these tiny elements… these molecules… were IMMEDIATELY swept away by the wind and PHOTOSYNTHESIZED INTO THE BODIES of the mother’s PLANT LIFE!
It is Tony’s GATEWAY into the GREAT CYCLE!
Tony’s stardust currently… literally… is residing in THE MOTHER'S FAVORITE PLACES … her vast oceans… her great forests… her grasslands… her endless deserts!
They also reside in TONY'S FAVORITE PLACE, a quiet pond filled with waiting trout.
The Earth mother needs Tony’s universal Stardust for HER body for HER SOMA to use again… and again… and again… and again… and again… …and again……
Thank you Tony for having become an important part of my environment and my brain. I miss you!