After we sent the bikers off Saturday morning and then attended a graduation party, we came home for a couple of hours before heading back to help at the Poker Run and I decided I was going to give a little speech about Christi and her love of dance after all. Therefore, I sat down and quickly typed up the following. Although my hands were shaking terribly, by the grace of God, I did not cry and my voice at least was steady!
Our daughter, Christi Thomas, started dancing with Dance Unlimited when she was 4 years old. She had a glorious year and was happy about returning for her second year, so when she was five, we headed back up those stairs to start her first lesson for the year. That’s when we learned that Christi’s mother (smile, oh that would be me!) made a big mistake and had arrived one week early for class. Although I called Mary Jo in a panic that day, and then was very embarrassed upon learning my mistake, I am so glad I took her a week early because that was the only trip up those stairs she made that entire year, since she was diagnosed with cancer a week later.
Four months into Christ’s treatment, back in 2002, treatment failure was declared in Columbus and this brilliant man beside me did not accept the suggestion of transitioning Christi over to Hospice, but instead found a hospital in NYC with experimental treatments willing to take on Christi’s case, so we loaded up, left Tiffin and moved into the Ronald McDonald House of NYC where we lived for nine months. One night that spring, when Christi was five years old, she was dancing around out little room doing little ballerina twirls. I said, “Oh look, my beautiful ballerina. Show me first position.” Christi responded, “First position? I don’t remember first position,” and she took off dancing toward the restroom. Shayne looked over at me and said, “We paid how much for dance lessons and she doesn’t even remember first position?” We have laughed about that countless time because, you see to us Dance Unlimited means NOTHING about first position, but everything about their position on FAMILY.
It has been the continued love, support and compassion we have noticed since Christi first started taking classes in 2001. We will forever be grateful for the very special relationships and love shared with us by Mary Jo and Bob, and all of the families and teachers. Many sent cards, gifts, money and prayers when we desperately needed help. We will forever be grateful to be a part of your special dance family.
In 2003, when Christi was six, and we had been living in the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House for a few months when I received an email from Mary Jo informing me that she needed the girls measurements for their recital costumes. I told Mary Jo that it was six months away and I didn’t know when we would be back or quite frankly if Christi would even still be alive in six months. Mary Jo informed me that she did not care, the girls were a part of Dance Unlimited, she wanted them in the recital and she needed their measurements for their costumes asap. I know you don’t mess with Mary Jo; you just do what she says (She’s like a mom to all of us and really knows best.) so I sat my laptop down, told Christi’s I’d be back as soon as I found a tape measure and I took off running around the hospital asking countless nurses for a tape measure until I finally found one who had one in her purse. (Whew!) I vividly remember running back and taking Christi’s measurements at the hospital while she was receiving a blood transfusion. As I was doing this, she was telling her nurse that she was a dancer and will get to wear a pretty outfit on a real stage. Mary Jo’s kindness in getting those costumes ordered – which they actually wore, will forever be treasured. I know she did not need to include the girls and once again it just demonstrated to us the importance of family Mary Jo and Bob have for their dancers.
In December of 2005, I purchased Christi’s first (and last) pair of pointe shoes. She was very, very excited about them and after her first practice with them in January of 2006, she wanted to take them with her to CHOP where she was enrolled in a new clinical trial so she could show them to her nurses and doctors, which she proudly did and which she displayed beside the television in her hospital room. Many times last year, we traveled with her pointe shoes because they made her so happy. I often hung them from her IV pole because they were a great conversation starter and they made her smile. I also had them placed in her coffin because they were so special to Christi and they made her feel so normal and so happy.
At that point in time, January of 06, Christi’s health took a turn for the worse and many loving cards, pictures and letters started arriving in Philadelphia from her dance teacher, Megan, and her jazz and ballet classmates. She really treasured all of those, showed them to her nurses, and would have me hang them all up in her room so she could see them from her bed. Shayla and Hannah
Last September, from inside of Christi’s hospital bed in Philadelphia, where I planted myself knowing it’d be our last moments together, I taped a picture Megan had sent to the rails of Christi’s bed. Her eyesight was starting to fail and I wanted her to be able to see the love of her dance family surrounding her. It was also at that time that I sent out an email to Bob asking if after Christi made her Heavenly debut, if he’d please escort her body one final time by serving as her pall bearer. It only seemed appropriate to us that a dear member of our family should give our little ballerina, one final lift to her resting place.
Bob and Mary Jo, I have been avoiding you all week because I haven’t wanted to break down and cry and to tell you how much we are going to miss you. Thank you for showering us with your love and support over the past four years. It is truly appreciated and we wish you a glorious retirement.