A Farewell to Christine Thomas
Christine was a Hello person—not a Good-bye person. She wanted people to remember her for the way she had lived. How do you remember her?
I was absolutely shocked and saddened to hear the news about Christine’s passing on Friday, February 22nd. Christine was my next-door neighbour—and my friend. She was also the pulse of our Mono neighbourhood. She was the Diva of the Town Line (by her own description). She was a ball of fire. She was a force to be reckoned with. She was a planner—a doer—the one that made everything happen—the one that made the mundane into an adventure.
I first met Christine eight years ago. The moving trucks had just pulled away from our lane when Christine was on our doorstep, to welcome us. She was dressed in spandex pants—an oversized hoodie—and her famous wellies. She had a wild mane of “bedhead” hair and a huge smile on her face. She was accompanied by her black lab, Kelly. Christine introduced herself as the “neighbour up the hill”. Her first words to me were, “Do you have a dog?” and then her face filled with relief as she spotted our aging Golden Retriever, Duke. She went on to explain that the previous neighbours who had lived in our home had owned a dog, and that her dog Kelly often came down for visits. She wondered if it would be okay with me if Kelly could continue these random visitations. When I assured her that I would certainly welcome Kelly, an instant bond was forged between us.
A week later, Christine called and invited me to bring Duke up the hill to her place. She was getting ready to take Kelly for a walk and she wanted to take me on a hike through the trails on the neighbouring farmland. I was thrilled to be embraced by a new friend so quickly. Duke and I walked to the edge of our new property, ducked under the cedar-rail fence and made our way across the acreage of Christine’s property. The land was covered in spring growth—tall grasses, weeds and reeds. I realized that I was unfamiliar with the “lay of the land” but I forged onward. The ground beneath my feet became slippery – and the next thing I knew, I was gasping for air! I was armpit-deep in the ice-cold water of a brook. I hauled myself out of the water by crawling up the muddy bank … and continued to trudge up the hill. I knocked on Christine’s door and the look on her face was priceless. “Now you know why we named our property Twin Brooks,” she laughed. We headed out onto the trail. I was sloshing, she was talking, and we discovered that we had a lot in common.
We both admitted to being wannabe novelists. I told her my novel synopsis—that took five minutes. When it was her turn to summarize the idea that she had for her book—it took her an hour and half! We talked and laughed until my clothing had dried and the dogs were exhausted. This was to be the first of many “dog walks” that we would take together. I discovered that we had a similar sense of humour and we both enjoyed laughing and howling. You could hear us coming for miles and the wild turkey vultures would fly away in protest.
Over the years, I learned to appreciate Christine’s wild and reckless sense of adventure. She was obsessed with Bruce Springsteen, the Twilight series (she read every book and watched every movie several times), and she was the consummate Harry Potter fan. I am not a Twilight fan but I happily joined in when she hosted a Girls’ Only Twilight Party. The menu and decorations had a vampire theme—including the wax fangs we all wore. I am not a Harry Potter fan but she convinced me to attend a midnight premier of one of the movies (don`t ask me which one it was) and she insisted that we wear pajamas to the event!
She was an organizer. It there was an event going on in our neighbourhood—Christine was the one that tirelessly planned and executed it. She was responsible for keeping the annual Town Line Picnic alive. She was forever planning Barn Sales and Barn Dances and setting up neighbourhood get-togethers at the local Loretto Tavern. She attended Town Council meetings when she felt there was a need for her opinion and she was a fixture at Mono’s Big Day Out.
Christine was a chef-caterer-baker-party planner. She was a master at navigating the St. Lawrence market and knew where to find the best breads and cheeses. She was well-travelled and could tell you where to find the best restaurants in many different countries. And – she could also speak with an impeccable (and hilarious) German accent.
Christine was an animal lover—a female Dr. Doolittle. She was always surrounded by an ever-changing brood of dogs and cats, both her own and the many additional pets she welcomed into her home. She took care of many pets – young ones and old ones and pets with special needs—and she loved them all. I trusted her to care for my pets on many occasions and she loved to retell the story about our storm-phobic dog, Duke. Apparently one night, as the thunder and lightning raged, Duke broke down their door and sought refuge in her bed. When she and her hubby Wendall retired for the evening they were surprised to find that the sheets were covered with wet mud! They turned to one another and announced, “Duke!!”
Christine did not have children, but she was a loving Aunt. She would often take road trips to see her nephews in Philadelphia and they enjoyed visiting her farm. They would camp in tents and shoot golf balls into the surrounding fields. When her nieces came to visit, the kitchen would become a fun-filled room. There would be crafts and baking and stories and lots of love.
When Christine learned about an opportunity to go to Afghanistan she was excited and intrigued. Volunteers were being recruited to work at the Tim Hortons at the Kandahar Air Field. Her application was accepted and she was required to attending several boot camp training sessions. She was undeterred, even when she discovered that she was the oldest recruit in attendance. Before she left, she raised money to buy Tim Horton gift cards—and she took these cards with her—to hand out to the troops. While Christine was away, she wrote about her experience and sent the news back home. She did not write about bombs and jets and gunfire and helicopters. Her news was always about her personal experiences and the many people that she met and befriended. She would talk about her bunk-mates and the weather and the food. She would talk about how it felt to be the oldest and slowest server behind the counter. She would talk about the dog that hung around the base. Her reports were always full of optimism and humour.
Christine had many “jobs” over the years. She was always active, always moving. I was surprised to discover that she was able to sit still long enough to write a blog for In The Hills. Her blogs were about the joys and sorrows of country living and they were written with her signature optimism and humour.
Christine`s last “work for hire” was, she said, her “ultimate job”. She served as the Fair Coordinator for the Orangeville Fair. She was truly in her element as she worked alongside animals, farmers, exhibitors, and volunteers. She put her organizing skills, people skills, and her sense of humour to good use. She introduced many new ideas and she made many new friends. In her December In The Hills blog, she enthusiastically reported, “I have already started planning for next year and can hardly wait.” Little did she know when she typed those words that she would not be returning to the job she loved so much.
Christine became seriously ill, quite suddenly. She didn’t have time for long good-byes. Wendall told me that Christine would not have wanted them anyway. She was a Hello person—not a Good-bye person. She wanted people to remember her for the way she had lived. I will always remember her for her eclectic and wild sense of fun, her willingness to try new challenges, her carefree laughter, her wild mane of “bedhead” hair and her huge smile.
I would like to offer my condolences to Wendall, to her many family members, and to her countless friends.
~ Laurie May
Do you have a Christine Story to share?