Saturday, December 16, 2017

Christalena ♥


This is the hardest post I have ever had to write. How do you even sit down and begin to write about someone that was so close to you? Not just cousins, but sisters. My cousin Chrissy lost her battle with cancer December 3rd, 2017. She was only 33 years old.

I was two years old when my cousin Christina Joy was born July of 1984. Our mothers are sisters. From that moment, she was my best friend and sister.

Countless birthday parties, halloween, family parties, holidays, sleep overs. I spent many sleepovers at my Aunts house, even when we were very young. Close up toothpaste, & Mr. Bubble are in my memories as well. Chrissy and I would stay up all night talking and giggling. My Aunt would get woken up and come into the room to quiet us and I remember Chrissy and I pretending we were asleep! I'm quite sure my Aunt knew differently, as we would just start right back up after she left the room. 

Chrissy had a canopy bed growing up. I don't know why, but I remember being around 6-8 years old (Chrissy 2 years younger), and us pretending there was a candy shop on the top of her canopy bed. We would jump on her bed trying to reach the candy.

I remember one time I spent the night over and Chrissy & I had woken up early. We looked out the window and it was snowing! We were so excited to go play in the snow later. When my Aunt woke up we were telling her about the snow outside. She looked outside and there was no snow, she thought we were teasing her because it was April Fools Day. I remember she was watching the news a little later and they had reported on the light snow, that had melted later in the morning. I do remember the times it actually snowed and we would go to the park near her house and go sledding.

I remember playing Barbies, comparing our Lip Smackers & Super Ball collections, playing Super Nintendo, watching morning cartoons and eating cereal at my cousins house. We would always talk and giggle while eating and my Aunt would tell us, "Don't laugh and eat, you're going to choke!" of course as kids we didn't believe her until the one morning Chrissy did choke on cereal. I'm pretty sure that scared us both, though we laughed about the story later as adults. I remember we had these Ninja Turtle plastic cereal bowls and I was in love with Raphael, and Chrissy was in love with Donatello, lol!

Chrissy and I were always close, though I know sometimes over the years we would have little "sisterly" fights and not speak for a few weeks. As kids and teens we would talk on the telephone for hours. And we both were each others pen-pals. I have a box full of letters from her starting from when she was 11-12 years old, written on Lisa Frank stationary.


We would chat on AOL, and mess around with SmarterChild ask him stupid questions, (which was like messing with Siri or Alexa for 90's teens). We would send each other long email surveys to fill out to get to know each other. We had Xanga Journals and Myspace. I remember we even wrote a novel through email together. About two cousins named Christalena & Sierra who shared a dorm at college together and their silly romantic adventures as college students. I would write one part, leave off on a cliff hanger and Chrissy would write the next part, emailing back and forth over a few months until it was done. I still have it, it's hilarious to look back on now. 

Her nickname Christalena came from a MXPX song. It was a Christian punk band. She nicknamed me Sierra. We would even address letters, cards, or emails to each other with those names.

I remember being pre-teens we would get dropped off at the mall. Which we thought was the coolest thing ever, we felt like adults all on our own- (until we were picked up by her parents!) I remember us getting our ears pierced at Claire's or The Icing. Oogling things we couldn't afford from Delias*. Having Chinese food in the food court at the mall. 

We would walk around her neighborhood, and sometimes my Aunt let us walk up County Line Rd to the Mandee's clothing store, Hallmark, RiteAid drug store. We would spend hours there. Chrissy later ended up working at the Hallmark when we were teenagers.

I taught her to drive in that parking lot. I had gotten my license at 19. I picked her up there one evening after her shift at Hallmark. She was all excited because she had just gotten her learners permit. Since I had been driving a year or two already, I asked if she wanted her first lesson. It was pretty late and the parking lot was mostly empty. She got into the drivers seat completely excited, while I explained a few things. She slammed her foot on the gas and sent us up two parking spaces. After we laughed about how she scared me, I was like, "Lightly... you hit the gas pedal lightly!" I would give her driving lessons after that, around her neighborhood and in a school parking lot after everyone had gone home. She used to scare me on her sharp turns, though!

She had the best sense of humor. She was always hyper and joyful and funny as hell, her laughter contagious. We would have the best times together. She had a sore throat one time and started speaking in this hoarse smokers voice with a Brooklyn accent, a character she named, "Georgina". She would talk in Georgina's voice and make up all these crazy stories for the character. She would have me and her sister Jessica cracking up. The last long day I spent with her right before Thanksgiving, still fighting, but getting weaker- she brought the Georgina voice back. Her husband Matt was like, "Who is Georgina?!" and laughing we had to explain.

I played guitar in my teens and I remember us making up funny songs and recording them on cassette, and then cracking up afterwards.

I remember one time when we were teenagers I was over her house and she was laughing about how you could make any book sound dirty. She started reading parts of 'A Walk to Remember' & 'Jane Eyre' in this knowing voice, trying to make the characters words into euphemisms. We were crying of laughter. She was just so silly.

As teens we attended each others church youth groups, went to Creation Music Festivals. We still had sleep overs, only staying up late now to put on our Noxzema face masks and chat about the boys we had crushes on, or play MASH and Mad Libs. Hanging out at the mall was still big on our list, discovering new makeup or nail polishes together.

We drove each other places, hung out at the mall, went to movies, concerts together. In 2007 we took a trip. Chrissy, Jessica and I went to Florida for a few days. It was a fun trip, despite the humidity, the sun burn and Chrissy being afraid of sharks in the ocean, lol. We had fun hanging out in the hotel room, ordering pizza late at night, talking, inside jokes, listening to music, dancing like goofs, watching Futurama. I'm glad we have those memories. All three of us have been close from childhood into adulthood.

Chrissy and I were both married the same year. 2009. She in November, me in December. I remember in 2003 when I had just started talking to my husband to be (online). Chrissy and I were going out to eat at Applebee's. We were listening to Maroon 5's first CD in my car, and I mentioned to her that a guy I was talking to had recommended it. She was the first person I told. I remember us sitting in the booth at Applebee's giggling. I had ordered some stir-fry dish and being that the guy I was talking to was from the Philippines, we were both like, "I wonder if he eats with chopsticks!?" I don't know, we were weird... (I can, he doesn't- btw, lol.)

And then she met Matt. And they fell in love so quickly. He was serving in Iraq at the time they were dating. She would show me his Facebook photos, or when I was over her house I would be there when she was Skyping with him, while he was overseas. I remember the first time I met him, my first impression was "Who is this hyper dude?" Haha. They were married in November 2009. They were absolute soul mates and meant to be together.

Matt was being relocated to Georgia because he was still in the Army. So shortly after their wedding they moved down there. Right before she moved away I remember one night, Chrissy, Jessica and I were laying in her driveway in North Wales looking up at the stars, I remember seeing my first shooting star.

It was tough being away from my best friend for 8 years, but we became even closer while she was away. We talked pretty much every day. Skype, email, text, Facebook messenger. We sent each other letters and gifts. Matt often worked nights and she would feel nervous alone, so we would chat late at night on messenger, share our days, and have the silliest conversations, or sometimes the deepest. We learned new things about each other that we had never known. In 2011 she had her son Matthew, who is the handsomest, silliest, most clever little 6 year old, you've ever met. The first time I met him in 2015 he kept saying, "What the catfish!?" :)

Our silly late night talks....

We weren't really able to visit each other, because of finances. When Kayleigh, Jessica's daughter was born in 2010, Chrissy flew home to spend time with her Mom and sisters. We got to have another sleepover at my house and I remember driving her to the airport the morning she went back to Georgia.

In December 2015, I was finally able to fly down to Georgia and spend some time with Chrissy, Matt and little Matthew, and her dog Max. It was the best trip. She took me around her little town, we went to a museum, we looked up at the stars in the Georgia mountains outside her house. We stayed up late, talking, laughing, drinking wine, eating snacks. She showed me her growing nail polish collection. (We both had become bonafide nail polish addicts by then, especially with indie nail polish, and I was blogging and swatching for companies at the time).
In Dahlonega Georgia.

The end of April 2017 I got one of the most serious messages from my cousin. That a mass had been found. She needed a hysterectomy and colon surgery. It was cancer. A rare kind with neuro endocrine properties. Chrissy was always really private about her battle with cancer, she didn't post about it on social media, she only talked about it with close friends. She was always positive. She and Matt, and Matthew moved back home to Pennsylvania to be close to family in July. She started having chemo three times a week, despite this, the cancer had spread to her liver...

I would go to the hospital downtown after work to see her whenever she was hospitalized there. She always asked me to bring her gummi candy, especially Swedish Fish. I was glad she was home while she was battling this horrible disease, but it was hard watching her fight, watching her get weaker. She rarely showed her emotions, wanting to stay positive, even when she was in pain. I only remember her crying once, after worrying about test results for her feet. She was always laughing, always joking. I would visit her at my Aunts house. We would play mad libs together and crack up hysterically at the stories:

I would bring a big bag of Jelly Belly, jelly beans and we would try and guess the flavors. Her favorite was Popcorn. We talked and reminisced about being kids. She had a purple galaxy Nintendo 3DS, and I ended up getting the same one, so we could play her favorite game (and now mine), Animal Crossing. We would visit each others towns in the games. She showed me all the new Lynnderella nail polishes she had ordered and friends had sent her. She always apologized when she got sleepy, or that she was stuck in bed. We were both sort of introverts, so she knew that sitting with her in her bedroom, while we talked, played on the internet, etc, was just fine with me. We could spend hours together.

As she got weaker and bedridden, still she fought. One the last days I spent with her right before Thanksgiving, she stayed awake the entire day (8 hours!), which was incredible for her as she had been sleeping a lot. She told me how she had gotten all of Matthew's Christmas gifts while she was in the hospital. She told me how she would go shopping when she got better. We watched Friends, played Mad Libs with her family, talked and laughed. It was a good day.

Matt, her husband was by her side every second. He was her caretaker, there for her every need. Her soul mate. I remember the day we were all called down to the hospital. All of her family was there, Matt's family was there. She had had a couple of very bad nights and the doctors were afraid she might slip into a coma. 

She was mostly asleep that day, but I will never forget when they brought little Matthew into the hospital room to see his Mama. He curled up next to her in the hospital bed, and she put her arm around him. He had the sweetest little smile on his face, a smile I will never forget. Matt was there next to them too. Jessica, her sister and I started crying. The doctors had given her just days on November 18th. She lived almost three more weeks. She wanted to live and fight, and beat cancer, for her husband and son. We all wanted that. Cancer has unfortunately taken more than one of our family members over the years...

December 3rd, I woke up to a number of missed calls, from Chrissy's sister Katie. Chrissy had passed away peacefully in her sleep in the early morning, with her husband by her side. Katie, my Aunt, and Jessica told me the night before she had been seeing visions of our deceased grandparents, and her other Pop Pop around her bed. They were there with her, comforting her. I was told she was seeing me, saying "Sarah's here, Sarah's here." We were so close, I know she was probably thinking of me....

It's incredibly hard to say goodbye to someone you've known almost your entire life. Someone I was close to, as a sister would be. She was my cousin, she was also my sister. Our whole lives were intertwined. We had similar taste in just about everything, similar thoughts. Places, music, scents, are all wrapped up in memories with her. All of my childhood and adulthood have also been hers. So it feels almost as if a piece of me is missing now. And I know her husband, her son, her mother, and sisters, and all of our family feels the same way. She was our Joy. She is our Joy. Our memories of her... are Joy. She is not someone you will ever forget. I will always miss her...

If you can donate or share the following GoFundMe link, I would be so grateful. My cousin Jessica started it for Chrissy's husband and six year old son Matthew.

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