Laugh, Think and Cry

Christian & Candace OsterhoutWitty, English literature buffs. Maybe not the words you’d expect when describing the two seniors voted as Homecoming King and Queen at Crossings Christian School. Of course, Candace Osterhout and her twin brother Christian defy ordinary.

She’s quiet, he’s not. He’s sporty, she’s artsy. She was accepted to Vassar University. He was handed free tickets to the Super Bowl.

To hear them joke and laugh together, you’d never know that they are dealing with the recent grief of losing both of their parents to medical illnesses. Candace said that learning to laugh through the tears was something their mother taught them.

Candace reflected on that in a recent essay. “It’s part of my nature, a part I got from my mom while she was sick, something that annoyed me while I was going through it but I appreciate now.”

Likewise, Christian relies on laughter, choosing to live by the motto of the late sports celebrity, Jim Valvano, who was known to say, “If you laugh, you think, and you cry—that’s a full day.”

By that definition, the twins have had many full days recently. Besides facing their senior year at Crossings Christian School, they‘ve received a lot of media attention since the National Football League (NFL) came to Oklahoma City with a film crew. Christian’s football coach, Chris Roberts and his wife Sarah, nominated him for the “Together We Make Football” contest. They told the story of how Christian bonded with the Roberts family after his dad’s death, and how Christian then moved in with them at the time of his mother’s passing on September 3rd, 2014.

“My dad died two-and-a-half years ago from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). Then my mom got sick with scleroderma, and I asked coach that, if something happened, could I live with his family—so I live with them now,” Christian said. 

Christian’s story captured hearts. Football legend Deion Sanders surprised Christian by coming to the school to announce his finalist status. What followed was an appearance on the Today Show where Christian told his story. When Sanders visited the school a second time, he was holding eight tickets to the Super Bowl—Christian won!

Meanwhile, Candace was telling her story in a different way—through writing and art. The school counselor encouraged Candace to pour her raw grief onto paper in the form of a scholarship essay. She wrote about the “increase in casseroles and lasagnas” when her father died. She wrote about the “mountains of monitors” in her mother’s hospital room. And she wrote about how “writing…has saved me. I use it to escape.”

Candace’s essay and artwork earned her a full-ride acceptance into Vassar University, an elite and highly-selective liberal arts college in New York where she’s planning to major in English. Christian has his sights set on business, or ministry, or maybe public speaking. He hasn’t quite made up his mind yet.

Christian & Candace Osterhout with a picture of their parentsFor teenagers with such different personalities, Candace and Christian still have that innate “twin connection” going on. When the two were asked to describe their personalities, Christian didn’t miss a beat in saying, “Okay, I’ll describe Candace. She’s reserved and shy around strangers, but she’s witty and funny. She has a high intellect when it comes to conversation. She has a friendliness about her. I guess you could call her an Art Nerd.”

“And Christian is much more outgoing,” said Candace. “He’s not as responsible, but he makes up for it by being fun-loving and people oriented. He’s sporty, funny and he’s always joyful. I’d call him a Smart Jock.”

Keeping a close relationship is important to the twins, but one that is becoming more challenging since Christian is living with his coach’s family and Candace is staying with her aunt and uncle. In August, she’ll be moving out-of-state. “We’re invested in staying in touch and making sure that we’re doing all right,” Candace said.

“We have to stick together, because we are all that we have left of our immediate family after 17 years. We loved our parents. We love each other, and that helps a lot,” Christian said.

“We’ll always miss our parents, but I’m ready to move on. To grow up,” Candace said. “I guess everyone starts a new journey after high school, but it’s enhanced for us.”

“I think we’ve had to mature quicker; maybe that’s why we’re ready to grow up more than other seniors,” Christian said.

“I’ve tried to put on a happy face and get through it, to laugh at bad situations—but I’m ready to be out of the spotlight,” Candace said. Then she laughed. “Not Christian, though. He’s like ‘Bring it on! People should be begging to talk to me.’”

A little humor to cope with the pain. Whatever journey the twins might face next, they know they’ve already faced two of the toughest losses—together.

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