By James Palmer
Reprinted with permission from Macon Magazine, December 2002.
Christen White Cranford, 1979-2002
This is a very special issue of Macon Magazine. In fact, it is probably the most unique issue in the magazine's 16 years.
Why? Because it was published by hundreds of people, all of you who have been there for Jodi and me, especially Jodi, during the past month. Without the outpouring of love and concern expressed by so many of you after the death of Jodi's daughter, Christen, I honestly don't know what we would have done.
I have started and stopped writing this several times. I want to say things in the right way, and I'm not sure I know how.
Christen died in the first hour of All Saints' Sunday, Nov. 3, lying in her bed on the seventh floor of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
We were with her: Jodi and I; Christen's husband, David Cranford; her father, Stephen White. And during the course of that night, we watched the unwatchable, bore the unbearable. Those of you who know us understand the struggles Christen faced these past two years. She suffered from a rare disease, primary pulmonary hypertension, and faced it with a courage and determination that words fail to describe.
She was born a fighter, and she fought this, literally, until the last breath left her body. She met it as best she could on her terms and in her own way. She was Christen to the end. On Saturday, now extremely ill, she declined further pain medication. She wanted to stay awake to see her brothers, sister and grandmother, who were on their way to say goodbye.
During much of that day, she struggled between consciousness and sleep. Once she stirred and said her sister's name. Jodi told her Leyna was on her way. Late Saturday afternoon Christen awoke. She got to see her brothers, sister and grandmother. A few hours later she was gone. She would have been 23 on Dec. 10.
Christen had hoped for new lungs and a new life, one that would free her of dreading long hallways and stairs because she couldn't summon the breath to walk. For two years she lived with an infusion pump and a life-giving drug that allowed her to graduate from college in two and a half years, get married, start a career and have a life.
One of our dearest friends said it best: She lived her life in fast forward, as if she were afraid that she needed to cram decades into mere months. Her fear was well founded. The drug Flolan, which had been a lifesaver for her, stopped working.
"We don't know why it works, and we don't know why it stops," her doctor said, downcast and standing in a hospital hallway on what would be Christen's last day with us. Now, we're thankful that it worked as well as it did for as long as it did.
Growing older means loss. That is as much a part of life as anything else. Death is a grim lesson learned, and it never becomes less painful, no matter how many times you have the ill fortune of experiencing it.
But losing a child is a burden no one should have to shoulder. It has been the most awful experience imaginable. I don't know how Jodi has held up through it.
I do know she - we - could not have done it without the people who stepped forward to show us how much they care. You get into trouble when you start trying to thank people. You always leave someone out.
Having said that, I do have to note how grateful we are for the way Macon Magazine's staff - Beth, Carla and Lu, along with our designer, Alan - carried on and helped carry us through. I also have to say a special thank you to all of the good people at Mulberry Street United Methodist Church, especially the Rev. Creede Hinshaw, the Rev. Chip Strickland and the members of the Becomers Sunday school class. And to Judy, Barbara, Donna and Libby: God bless you. Your love for Jodi has a special place in my heart.
If I tried to thank everyone else who has offered us a kindness, reached out to us in true compassion, and the hundreds who attended her memorial service, the list would be too long. So I won't do that. I'll tell you that the affirmation of your friendship, care and concern has been the rock anchoring us for many weeks now. It doesn't make this most awful of life's events better, but it makes it bearable.
I don't know that we could ask for more. M