The final days of my adventurous, independent sister Christine Louise Manhart
|When I was 6 years old, I saw my baby sister Christine climbing out of her playpen.
It was a scary moment for me, and I still remember how my heart was pounding with panic.
I was in the right place at the right time. I was heading upstairs to use the bathroom,
and I saw her in her playpen near the stairs in the upstairs sitting room.
She smiled when she saw me, and quickened her climbing pace. She was always a rascal.
I raced up those wood stairs, tripping and smacking my mouth on the steps.
Christine was scrambling to make it over the top of the playpen rail and I
raced up the stairs to reach her before she fell out.
As I reached the top of the steps, and the playpen just a foot away from the stairs,
She fell into my arms. I caught her, thank God. Thinking back on this memory,
I not only wondered why anyone would place a playpen near the stairs,
but also that I was always there for my sister if she needed me.
After that, our Mom moved the playpen farther away from the stairs, into the middle of the room, A smart, but quick-fix.
But life isn't that easy. As Christine got older, I couldn't just move her playpen or present geological location to catch her,
whether it was emotionally, spiritually, or physically. And she put distance between us, for whatever reason.
I married young, and Christine became the doting Aunt to my children. When my oldest was born, my daughter Joy,
Christine was support person while Joy had colic, bringing me hot tea while I fought to stay awake and nurse and
comfort my crying baby. Christine became Joy's confidante and sharer of secrets and dreams,
something I felt hurt about, as my daughter would never share those things with me.part of me reasoned that as
Christine had no children of her own, that she found comfort in being close with my children.
I was glad she had someone to dot on and love. And all three of my kids loved their Aunt Christine while growing up.
When Christine passed, my daughter Joy said at Christine's bedside that Christine was her best friend.
Throughout life, when she made not-so-good life choices, I was there for her.
And near the end, I was by her hospital bed that also had safety rails, catching her tears, countering it with jokes, laughter, and prayer.
My baby sister had a good heart, and an adventurous spirit, as well as a wicked sense of humor.
She put up a tough facade, but that is what it was...a facade. Deep-down, she just wanted a home of her own,
a man who genuinely cared for her, and a place to grow her flowers and live in domestic bliss.
She loved proving how independent she was too. She fought many battles and faced many betrayals
and disappointments from people she gifted with her trust. Some of those people she gifted with her trust were unworthy.
It was hard not to judge them or intervene. Her personal relationships became a series of free-falls into despair.
I think she misread my love and concern as criticism, And so she backed off to live life w/o my support or guidance.
I never said the phrase, "I told you so", no matter how I was tempted.
It became a fight to stay in touch with her. I had to be very aggressive to get her to return calls, etc.
I am glad I persevered though. When she became ill, she had no one willing to stay with her or comfort her.
She was being evicted due to a lack of paying her rent due to being unable to work. She never took unemployment or welfare her entire life.
Even though she could have used the help. Always a fighter, always working to prove she could do it alone.
I did my best to protect her against the imbecilic doctors who were in charge of her care as well. Malpractice and carelessness
committed against her was terrifying and infuriating me. She begged me to stay with her in the hospital, As she laughed and
said she feared they were trying to assassinate her.
It was at that point, Christine told them I was "her person",
and that all medical decisions went through me.
Christine had a blood platelet disorder known as hemolytic autoimmune anemia,
a condition she was born with. We knew what her condition better than they, as we dealt with her condition through a top-notch
hematologist for over ten years. The asshat doctors in St Luke's Bethlehem campus knew NOTHING about the condition.
Even St. Lukes Hematologist was an uninformed dunce. So much for teaching hospitals.
It got to the point that I actually took out a copy of my pharmacy diploma and showed it
to the uneducated medical staff. I asked them, "Where's does your pharmacy knowledge come from?
Because I have a diploma in pharmacy and you don't. Buh-Bye now."
My Mother said that Christine had called her from the hospital and told her how it was so good that I was there to take care of her.
Christine didn't say this to me, and I was stunned to hear this from our mother.
However, I wasn't looking for a gold star, I did it because I loved her.
I felt she deserved to have someone to fight for her and be in her corner.
When Christine was put on a ventilator after having respiratory shock after the dimwit doctor turned off her oxygen,
I made sure she had a communication board, a marker, and paper to communicate with. Her hand signal was to
smack her left hand on the bed rail or pillow. She was left-handed.
When I came to find her without her communication board, I had another meltdown, as she was trying desperately to communicate to them.
The ICU nurses, who were snippy and too busy, tried to say it was I who was upsetting her!
I said for them to get the nursing director to come at once. I got her doctors, the nursing director, and patient advocate all a conference
room. I schooled them on bedside manner, and voiced my complaints.
I also told them I didn't appreciate their medical students who were not treating her circling her room. They were joking, laughing,
and acting like spectators at a football game. No consideration, compassion, or bedside manner at all.
They tried to deny this, but then I mentioned that this took place while one of the pastoral staff
was talking with my husband and me and we had the pastor as a witness.
I offered her a place in my home for as long she needed and wanted for free, telling her how fun it would be.
I said she'd be doing me a favor, as I am the only female in my house, and having her would be good female company.
We talked about taking little road trips, gardening, getting a little goat and some ducks to add to our little farm.
She always wanted a goat. Growing up we always had all sorts of pets. We reminisced, and she asked if I remembered
the fanciful gingerbread houses she made for Christmas. I said I remembered how professional and beautiful they were,
with the melted lollipop stained glass windows. lacy icing, and sugar cube fences. She was big on details.
She was so talented. I said we should make one when she gets home with me. Dreams.
Christine made holidays special and made everyday occasions seem like little holidays. She put Martha to shame.
She took pride in decorating her Christmas tree, which she bequeathed to me. She was a florist,
and while I love gardening and growing flowers, I could never arrange them as expertly as she did.
My rustic country floral arrangements are nice, but could never compare.
Christine loved animals, which brings to mind her little dog named Jasmine.
She was very concerned about what would become of her dog,
She was relieved when I said that I brought her dear pet to my home.
After a gradual absence of her owner to not seeing her for a month, Jasmine was making friends with our little dog Freddy.
Now Jasmine is overly-attached to me, sounding like a train whistle when she cries at my departures and returns.
Dogs know sincerity and can spot a phony a mile away. This is probably why her dog Jasmine hated Christine's last excuse for a boyfriend.
The guy was a jailbird, dope addict, deadbeat dad, and still married to his second wife, Even though he involved with my sister for 5 years.
He moved right into the house my Mom and sisters were renting together. He never paid a dime while living there,
prior to going to jail again. All he knew was Christine was an enabler who was convenient for him.
He had the gall to ask her for money so he could buy beer, trying to play the victim as usual,
after she told him she was in the hospital, having surgery for blood clots, and had $20 in the bank.
He cheated n her with crackhead prostitutes, made her feel like dirt, all the hallmarks of a toxic narcissist loser.
She deserved so much better than that, He wasn't fit to lick her shoes.
He never was there when she needed him most. He was not there while she was dying, he was never there for her.
That thought both hurt her and gave her closure. But Christine was a fighter, and she talked of leaving her ex to God's wrath
and moving on without him. But the reality of it was that she was living life without him in every way.
He was only an albatross who pulled her down in life when she allowed him. And Christine flew best on solo flights.
Those of us who loved her knew this. From the time she was a baby, she was trying to prove she could do it alone.
I was so privileged to have been able to pray with her, reaffirm Jesus Christ's deep love for her, and tell her how much she meant to me.
I sensed a peace in her spirit near the end. One week we were celebrating her birthday in the hospital, with a hazelnut torte cake, and
eighteen days later, she died. She knew I'd make good on my promise to have her cremated as she wished, As he despised the idea of a
funeral with people staring at her. We spoke of later on spreading her ashes at a beach in South Caroline or Louisianna.
She loved vacationing there, paying for her trips with her own hard-earned money of course.
In spite of me being at her side at the hospital and in the ICU for couple of months, sleeping beside her in a chair,
watching movies on my laptop together, bringing in takeout food for her until she could no longer eat, She made her final flight without
me being there. While I was allowed to sleep in her room before they put her into the ICU, they would not let me sleep in her ICU room,
so I had to travel there every morning. While I was asleep at home, Christine took her 7AM solo flight. Amelia Earhart had nothing on her,
and Christine made it to her final destination. Both my younger sisters went on before me,
I'm sure they thought it funny, how they beat their Big Sister there to Heaven.
And while occasionally she'd climb too high for her own good, I think deep down she knew I'd be there to catch her if she fell,
Not only because that is what Big Sisters are supposed to do, but because I loved her dearly, and always will.
A verse she had highlighted in her Bible was Matthew 7:7-8,
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
Another one she highlighted was 1 Corinthians 13:13,
"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love"
What her personal romantic relationships failed to give her in life,
She found comfort in the truth that Jesus would always love her, And he would never fail her or break his promises to her.
All in Jesus Christ know that his promises are "yea and amen", it is our great hope and our eternal joy.
When I think of my sister now, I like to think of her in the mansion Christ provided for just her,
arranging flowers, and making things lovely in her eternal home. Perhaps even making a holiday gingerbread
for my other departed family to enjoy together. I feel more and more like just a straggler in this life, looking forward to our
eternal reunion in Heaven.
Written by Kim Marie Manhart-Freeman,
In Loving Memory of my sister Christine Louise Manhart
October 25th 1971-November 12th 2019