My Sister Christine Louise Margaret Henry

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Christine was born on December 10, 1950 and died on June 20, 2014. I miss her. She had become my best friend. I hope I remembered her Confirmation name correctly. She had told me just a few weeks ago, but I can’t remember what she said. She did say that it was a name from Mary Lubinski, a childhood friend of hers.

Although I was five years old at the time, I don’t remember Christine coming home from the hospital. I guess I was too involved in being five. I don’t remember playing much with her either. I played with Jean but I guess Christine was just a baby to me. Like Jean I will just list the childhood memories I have of Christine and elaborate on any that I can remember more of. (The photo to the left is of me, Christine and Jean in front of the fireplace in grandma’s house on Sandusky Street.)

How is it that the memories we make of people we love so much are so small and so infrequent until we grow older and start consciously trying to remember? Those early days when we were forming our personalities were so important, and yet I can barely remember them. People came into and out of my life, important loving people, and I never noticed because I was so involved with just being me and trying to grow up.

  • My first memory of Christine is of her hair catching fire when she got too close to the gas stove in Pittsburgh. Mom grabbed her and put her head under the sink to put out the fire. I don’t think Christine even realized what had happened. I don’t believe we ever had a gas stove after that.
  • Mom used to hang clothes in the basement during the winter time. Once Christine climbed on a chair to help mom take down the clothes, fell and broke her collar bone.
  • When I was in the sixth grade – I think it was then – the nun who taught my class announced after recess that a little first grader hadchris- kissed a boy during recess. As Sister looked at me, I just knew it was Christine
  • Both Jean and Christine had gotten sick to the stomach one day at school. When Christine got sick, Jean was asked to clean it up. It made her sick, and so I had to clean up the mess as well as my own mess when the smell overpowered me as well. (The photo to the right is of Christine at St. Bernadine’s Catholic School in Baltimore Maryland.)
  • As children Jean and Christine played together. I usually played with Denise Garrison.
  • As they got a little older, probably by the time we moved to Baltimore, Christine and Jeannie were not getting along well. Christine could be haughty, and Jeannie was needy and emotional. Sometimes dad would make the two of them share a room, hoping they would learn to get along. It didn’t work.
  • Christine loved to ride the riding mower. She had lawnmower races with the girl next door – Laura McCarthy.
  • Christine’s first job at the age of 14 was at Enchanted Forest. She dressed up in a long dress as Snow White. Christine was paid 50 cents and hour. That job didn’t last too long, as the little kids kept pulling at her skirt. So Christine got a job slinging hamburgers in the “food court” when she was old enough. Later when she was 16 she got a job at “Lerners Dress shop” They were still in business the last time I was at the mall. Christine loved clothes and seldom brought any money home from her pay check.
  • chris and jean, patio in pittsburghOne day dad asked Christine to show him her bank account. He was preparing to teach her how to do her taxes, and he thought that was the best way to start. She still had the $5 in the account which he started it with – I can’t remember if there was anymore than that. He was shocked and wanted to know what she spent her money on, as she had her W2. Christine got out a list of multiple skirts, sweaters, stockings and other things she had bought. She knew where every penny went. (The photo to the left is of me, Jeannie and Christine on the patio that dad built on Mt. Troy Road.)
  • We had a car that dad let all of us drive – a 1960 Comet. Dad always took down the mileage after we drove it, and we had to pay him so much per mile. As Christine knew how to change the odometer, she often didn’t pay for the amount of miles she drove.
  • One day Christine and I decided to do something “cool”. We went up to the Safeway shopping center, stood on the sidewalk and smoked a cigar. Naturally people who passed us were shocked.
  • Her first boyfriend was Steve Simmons whom she married and had a child, David. Steve turned out to be an alcoholic and abusive. She divorced him within 2 years of being married.
  • For quite a few years Christine raised David, her son, on her own. Even though her former husband was supposed to pay child christine about 5 years copysupport, he never did. There were times when she was working three jobs to support her son and herself. Often she cleaned apartments at night after her regular job . She would take David and a play pen, so that he could play while she cleaned. (The photo to the right is of Christine in the pretty pink silky dress that mom made for each one of us. I loved that dress.)
  • I think it was Christine who thought up the nickname for the 1960 Comet that we all drove. She called it “the vomit”. We would say that it had two speeds, slow and stop.
  • When Jill moved out of mom and dad’s home, Christine allowed Jill to live with her. Jill went around telling untrue stories about Christine,  damaging Chris’ reputation at her job and with the man she was dating. Chris told Jill to leave and find her own apartment.

The list of Christine’s funny sayings – I often called them “West Texas sayings because I never heard them before Keith and Chris moved to San Angelo:

  • Don’t pee on my leg and tell me its raining.
  • Rode hard and put up wet.
  • Don’t want any puppies from that litter.
  • That dog don’t hunt.
  • It’s not my first rodeo.
  • Don’t have a dog in that fight.
  • Time to pee in the fire and call in the dogs.
  • She’s rougher than a backside of a shooting gallery.

There were a couple of others, but the language was even rougher and I don’t want to write them here.

As they grew older Christine and Jeannie didn’t get along. Jean had a habit of borrowing things but never asking if she could. Once she borrowed Christine’s stockings. Chris found out and demanded them back from Jeannie. Jeannie took the stockings and ran downstairs and locked herself in the laundry room. She laughed as Christine banged on the door. So Christine went to dad’s tool bench, got a screwdriver and popped off the hinges on the door. Then she lifted the door from the hinges. There was a look of shock on Jeannie’s face.

Christine had smoked from a very young age – Christine started in high school, but she would not have smoked at home, as my parents would not have permitted it. I remember when Chris was about 50 or maybe a little older, her husband had surgery on his nose. After that Christine stopped smoking to help him heal. After she broke her hip, almost a couple of years ago, Chris complained that she wasn’t able to get her strength back. She would exercise, but her legs seemed so wobbly and weak to her. I wonder if even then she was struggling with arterial blockage, as the doctor said that the blockage took a long time to form. I am sure Chris complained to her doctor, but I don’t recall them ever telling her anything useful about it. Even I counseled her that it takes time to recover your strength after her ordeal with her hip. I never thought that Christine might have heart issues, as her cholesterol and other blood tests always came back within desired limits.

Keith gave me the results of the autopsy. There was no blood clot. The final cause of Christine’s death was “ischemic heart disease with acute adrenal hemorrhage.” I asked my cardiologist about the diagnosis. He said the adrenal gland was the size of a lima bean, so he questioned that, although he said that the adrenals might have given off some hormone that shut down the heart. When I told him that she died when the balloon pump was removed, he said that that told him that the heart was damaged too much to recover on its own. While that scenario didn’t satisfy Keith, who must be aware of more than he is telling me, that did give me some comfort. Christine’s heart had been damaged in the heart attack too much to function on its own. I am grateful that the doctor was willing to speak with me. He even offered to look at Christine’s hospital records.

I sure do miss her. In all of my life, I have never known anyone so strong and yet so full of the joy of life and love. She was a kind person and even loved those who had hurt her.

There are other stories about the work and even fun we had together while we were helping mom and dad. Those later years  were the very best years, when as adults we came to know and love one another for the persons we had become. To be united to someone in a joint task of love  is the most valuable experience of all. Though I was older than Christine, I had no trouble with following her lead. She was full of common sense and the knowledge gained in many years in the workforce. Christine was near to mom and dad since she lived next door to them,  and she did more for them than anyone will ever realize – things that I saw and remembered that few would think to do. Christine’s  love and her dedication to our parents during mom and dad’s last years proved to me, more than any words that anyone could express, the greatness and the goodness that was in my sister. I thank God daily that He gave Christine to me as my sister and my very best friend.