“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” –Christopher ReeveI&Cr  

I met Christie in 2003, the same year I was diagnosed with progressive multiple sclerosis. Our interracial gospel choir was performing at an educational venue in New Orleans, when after the singing we broke up into small groups with the audience and spoke about racial issues and how they affected our lives. Christie was a delicate beauty as she spoke about her parents having been activists during the civil rights movement during the 60s. She felt particularly drawn to the mission of our choir.

Each person in the breakout session added more facets to a subject wrought with passion and heart breaks, bringing a sense of solidarity and mission. Christie admitted she liked to sing and would love to be a part of the choir, but she obviously held back. When I encouraged her, she disclosed that she had been in treatment for ovarian cancer for quite some time. This is a cancer that remains hidden and undetectable until it’s too late, the elusive killer. It seemed almost unimaginable that this vibrant, passionate young woman with her life in front of her could be undergoing an unseen struggle just to stay alive.

Christie clearly wanted to join the choir and when I told her of my recent diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, it seemed like more of a possibility to her. It was decided that she would come to rehearsal one Thursday evening at Loyola University to check out the possibility. Christie was met with great enthusiasm and welcomed into our impassioned singing group with a mission.

One of our CDs is dedicated to Christie who sang with us and lost her battle a couple years later. When Christie came to my farm to prepare for our performance at the St. Louis Cathedral, she acknowledged that she had been at my farm before. I didn’t consciously recognize her, but she and her boyfriend purchased cabinets from me a few years before. There was much Christie and I shared that evening in our discussion group that would unfold as crescendos and decrescendos during our truncated lives; truncated in quantity, perhaps, but long in quality.

Christie and I shared a passion for music, social justice and we were BOTH confronting catastrophic illness. When embarking on a journey involving life-threatening illness, we face our greatest fear, that of our mortality. I don’t know if anybody is ever ready for this ordeal, but it offers a particular challenge this early in life. One no longer has the luxury of being immobilized by the fear; illness requires that one’s values are assessed, which then requires action. Healing modalities will need to be strategized along with loved one’s input. By facing this Call, courage is the likely end product.

The connection between Christie and myself was instantaneous, like looking into a mirror. I felt her fragility and was able to reassure her that she could do it; she could join our choir and sing in solidarity. Christie was a fellow heroine.

Illness happens for many reasons in one’s life. It can be a catalyst to move forward, if one has been holding back. There can be agreements made on a soul level to move the individual and the soul family forward in their development. Making assumptions based on one’s own limited perspective as to why a person is ill can be very reductive for the person experiencing the illness or injury.

For people who knew Christie, she changed people’s lives for the better. The world is a better place because she and her family are/were in it. She is no longer in her body, but she still is. Almost 10 years later, she still lives in my heart, and for that I wanted to Honor her.

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