I don't tend to like new people, I am usually suspicious and wary. It tends to take a while for me to decide if I like someone, some of my best friends were people, who on first meeting I found irritating in some way.
Chris-Ann was not one of those people. I met her at a toddler playgroup I took Tyler too when he was very young. There was nothing not to like about Chris-Ann, my very first impression and memories were a mad mop of blonde curls, the biggest smile you've ever seen and the craziest socks. The socks all had individual little spaces for each toe, and they were the craziest brightest pattern I have ever seen on socks. We attended that playgroup for a lot of months and every week she would wear another pair of these individual toe space socks. It became a running interest to me to see each week what kind of socks Chris-Ann would be wearing.
During that playgroup, (the original Rhyme and Sign before it moved to DDCA), in the library, I got my first ever introduction to Makaton. It seemed like a bit of fun at group and baby signing was meant to be good for Tyler's communication so we paid immense attention. Chris-Ann each week taught us various songs and made signing look so easy, my personal favorite was a song about a bunny digging his garden, she always said it was her favorite and would become very animated while singing it. Chris-Ann was also the very first person I ever heard say the words 'Mr. Tumble'. She was an avid fan.
During these groups Chris-Ann would also become very animated talking about her daughter, Andi-Mae. Andi-Mae was born with Down Syndrome, had struggled with early speech development and had found signing with Makaton a lifeline in communicating with her family. Chris-Ann told a particularly touching story of the day Andi-Mae first signed ball to her and how amazing it was to have her communicate that way. I had never met a parent of a child with Downs before (how sheltered was I back then?) and was amazed that they both seemed so full of life and happy and normal.
Had it not been for the twist my life took then I probably would have carried on in my little bubble of 'normal' and forgotten all about that group and the lady with the crazy socks. However right about this time I fell pregnant with Robyn and we found she would probably be born with Downs. (See my first entry for the details). I felt the fear of the unknown I'm sure most people would have in that position. And I racked through my brain for people to talk to with experience. Chris-Ann came to mind. I decided that at playgroup that Friday I would catch her at the end for a chat. However that conversation was never to happen. Personal circumstances in her life meant she had to take time off from everything.
However I held on all the way through my pregnancy to that memory of how awesomely this lady and her daughter were getting on with life and how I could do that too. She truly inspired me to believe that I could do this.
Once Robyn was born things obviously took their own course for a while but once we got back into the swing of things we started attending playgroups where we would see Chris-Ann. It was around this time we learned she had cancer. And yet that wonderful personality still shone through. The first time she met Robyn she didn't want to talk about herself and her own problems, she wanted to hold Robyn, she wanted to chat about everything going on in our lives, she wanted to give me advice on how to manage things better with nurses and appointments. She always wanted to help anyway she could.
For a while it seemed the cancer was beaten but today i learned the sad news that Chris-Ann passed away last Friday.
There will never be a way for me to repay the inspiration she gave me during a scary pregnancy and some very hard early days. I can only hope that knowing she was loved and will always be remembered can bring some sort of peace to her family. I know that I will always be grateful to her for introducing us to a communication system for Robyn, and every time Robyn does new signs it will make me fondly remember that blonde mop, big smile and crazy socks.
Rest in Peace Chris-Ann, missed always.