Family and friends of Kris Byron Bond find it difficult to express their shock and pain over the sudden and unexpected death July 5 of the prison correctional officer.
But those close to the 27-year-old father of two aren't surprised that by dying, Bond literally saved the life of his brother.Kris Bond, they say, was "that kind of guy."
Because of him, Kevin Clay Bond will undergo surgery this week for a congenital heart defect - a weakness in the aorta that was discovered only because of his identical twin's untimely death. Kris' death was caused by an aneurysm of the heart. Blood for the surgery will be donated by Kris' co-workers in the Department of Corrections.
"Of course, I'd rather it had been me first. He was kind of my bigger, younger brother. I learned a lot from him; we learned a lot from each other," Kevin Bond said Sunday, a day after joining hundreds of Utahns in eulogizing his brother and best friend.
"He cared a lot about people. In fact, one of his favorite verses was about loving mercy, being good to men and walking humbly before God," he continued, swallowing the large lump forming in his throat. "That's how Kris was. He wasn't pretentious. He had a great capacity for caring. He was a giving person all the time, and this is just one more thing he gave. . . . "
It was on the Fourth of July, while checking the perimeter area of the prison's Young Adult Correctional Facility, that Officer Bond heard a ringing in his ears, felt a numbness in his left leg and became violently ill.
He was rushed by ambulance to Alta View Hospital. There, family members said, he underwent a series of tests, including an X-ray and electrocardiogram.
A host of lab tests were also conducted because prison officials feared Bond had been poisoned. A lockdown was enforced at the Point of the Mountain while officers investigated. But there was no evidence of foul play.
Nor was there evidence at the hospital that Bond was suffering from anything other than a "bad flu." He was sent home to his Bountiful apartment at 3 a.m. July 5 to nurse the suspected virus.
Five hours later, not wanting to awaken her soundly sleeping husband, Sue Bond bundled up their 5-week-old daughter Kelsey Jan and 21/2-year-old son Jasen Tyler, and took them to grandma's.
Sue, a beautician in Bountiful, was late for work.
She remembers thinking, "If I kiss him or hug him and wake him up, what if he's too uncomfortable to go back to sleep? I will just leave him."
It was the first time the young couple had left each other's side without a kiss or a hug.
Hours later, unable to reach her husband by phone, Sue rushed home. There she found her husband of five years sitting on the couch, his glasses off, his head dropped backwards. Despite the drone of the television, she immediately sensed that he was dead.
Attempts by a friend who knew CPR were to no avail. "We've been told that had they had a whole crew there, nothing could have been done to revive him," Kevin Bond said. "He had been dead a couple of hours."
Physicians told the family that even if the problem had been discovered in the hospital emergency ward, nothing could have been done to save the young man's life. The main artery had literally shredded all the way down to his ankle, where it burst.
After an autopsy confirmed the cause of death, doctor/friend Phillip Spjut recommended that Kevin also undergo tests. The twins, identical down to the cowlicks in their hair and similar teeth that didn't fully develop, might also have an identical heart problem, he warned.
The hunch paid off.
Two days after his brother's death, Kevin underwent an angiogram, a more sophisticated X-ray examination of the heart's blood vessels. It showed that the blood vessel at the top of Kevin's heart had ballooned to double its size. Surgery was recommended that day. But because Kevin wanted to attend his brother's funeral Saturday, it was postponed until this week at LDS Hospital.
Family members said there had been subtle signs of possible problems. Simple colds had kept both men bedridden. Both had frequent sore throats and difficulty swallowing. "But the docs chalked it up to small throats - big mouths, but small throats," Kevin quipped.
Kevin had what a general practitioner termed a "heart infection" last year. When the problem subsided, he didn't go to a specialist for further tests. Nothing was discovered in physical examinations throughout their lives, including Kris' four-year stint in the Marine Corps, that hinted of a serious health problem.
"And who would think that a man with a bad heart could run six miles a day?" said Kevin. Both men weighed 155 pounds and exercised regularly. They were epitomes of good health.
They were alike in many ways, even though their parents, Donald and Constance Ann Bond of Bountiful, always tried to rear them as individuals. They dressed them differently and sent them to different high schools.
"They were well-liked on their own. They were esteemed by their friends because of who they were, not because of what they were," Constance Bond said of her talented boys, who both excelled in art, music and poetry. The mother, a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, learned of her son's death upon returning from the choir's Asian tour.
Kris and Kevin, always best friends, even married best friends. Their ceremonies - Kevin to Michelle Easton, and Kris to Susan Lawrence - were just months apart.
It's to Kevin that Sue Bond now turns to muster strength to face the understandable feelings of anger, guilt, and the gnawing worry about finances now that the bills, including funeral expenses, are piling up.
And there's the loneliness.
"I used to think, `What would I do without him?' I really didn't think I could take another breath or my heart would take another beat if I lost him," said the petite widow, dabbing the tears from her eyes.
Because of the loving bond the couple shared, Sue now says she's even more determined to be strong and rear her children in the Christ-like way her husband lived.
"I do have a feeling of being cheated as a wife, especially with my two kids being so young," she said. "They are too young to remember him, and I want them to. Maybe they can remember their daddy through Kevin."
The entire Bond family has found comfort in the realization that they still have Kevin, and through him, Kris' memory will live on.
"We have a great deal of love and respect for each of our seven children and it's a great shock to lose one of them," Donald Bond said. "We have all grieved deeply over the loss of Kris, as we would any of our children.
"But as a father, I am honored that Kris, in some quirky way, was in a position to save his brother's life."
The father said he is also grateful that if they had to lose one of their children, "we could lose one and yet we can still have him with us because he looks so much like our other son who's going to continue growing older and maturing.
"We can still have that image of what our other son Kris would have looked like had he been alive."