"You were a presence full of light upon this earth
And I am a witness to your life and to it's worth."
--The Mountain Goats, "Matthew 25:21" The Life of the World to Come
This blog is technically our family's, but everybody knows it's really Chrissy's outlet. I've written a few guest posts when she was too tired or busy to get one out, but I never thought I'd be writing this post, for this reason.
Yesterday was another very crummy morning. Chrissy has always had hard-to-get veins, and an added IV in her right arm ended up having to be pulled, and her arm was swollen from shoulder to hand and very painful. But she was in good spirits for my evening visit, all things considered. I brought her an oreo milkshake, which she ate about half of (which is pretty good for how her appetite had been this week), and we sat together and enjoyed watching the first half of the Wake Forest baseball game. We laughed, talked, and cheered on the Deacs. When her eyes started to get heavy, I came over and kissed her buzzed head and we prayed together: for her arm to feel better, for good rest, and for her to continue to be spared from the nausea and mouth sores that this chemo cocktail often creates. We said our goodnights and I told her I'd see her tomorrow. It was one of the best visits I've had with her since she was admitted 3 weeks ago.
This morning, about 4am, I was awoken by a telephone call from an unknown number. In my sleepy stupor, I didn't get to my phone in time to answer. I remember being vaguely annoyed that maybe some spam call or wrong number was waking me up at this ungodly hour. But when the same number immediately called back, I snapped out of it and realized this was something important. The voice on the other end of the line informed me that Chrissy had paged her nurse to complain of a headache, and then become unresponsive when the nurse came to check her vitals. They could not rouse her, and she was immediately taken to the Cancer Center's ICU to be intubated and to do a CT scan. The urgency in the caller's voice--coupled with the early hour--made clear the seriousness of the situation. I threw on the closest clothes I could reach and tore down I-40 to the hospital.
Chrissy's platelets were being chewed up and spit out, first by her leukemia, and then by chemotherapy as well. Extremely low platelets make for high risk of bleeding; it's the reason why she'd been bruising so easily in the week or two before she was diagnosed. This morning that risk became a reality, and the CT scan revealed she had developed a very serious brain bleed. With her platelets at rock-bottom, it was not an option for neurosurgery to go in and drain that blood; they wouldn't be able to stop bleeding from an incision. The ICU staff tried everything they could to get around this problem by pushing multiple bags of platelets as quickly as they could, but her levels were just too low.
Some things just can't be fixed. This was one of them.
I was informed of the situation when I arrived at the ICU, and the unbelievably caring team escorted me to Chrissy's bedside. She was still unresponsive, but her excellent nurse, Travis, told me it was possible she could still hear me, so I talked her poor ear off over the gentle, rhythmic sound of the ventilator. Soon, Chrissy's mom arrived, followed by her dad shortly thereafter. We all spent time holding her hands, talking to her, crying, and praying over her. When the time came, we left the room briefly for them to extubate her, and then returned to hold her hands, kiss her head, and sit with her for a last few sacred minutes. Chrissy left this world peacefully, surrounded by overwhelming love. And our faith leads us to believe she entered into a Love even more profound.
This world had 42 years of Chrissy. I was fortunate enough to be able to spend 20 of those years head-over-heels in love with her. The avalanche of calls and texts and tributes we've received today is a testament to how much Chrissy packed into those years. And yet they were nowhere near enough. For all who knew and loved her, another 50 years would still be too soon.
What a woman. What a blessing to have witnessed her life.
I love you all of it, Chrissy. With everything I am, for as long as I live, until I see you again.