Coping with Grief
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Christine Caprice Anderson 1944-2023
Our Story begins on the night of December 24, 1944 where our Mother Hilda had delivered a baby girl shortly before midnight. Thinking that her ordeal had come to an end, she was surprised to hear the Midwife say “Hold On, Hilda! There is another one coming..” And so Christine made her entrance into the world, establishing a life-time pattern of Surprise actions.
Since our parents had waited a considerable time to start a Family, they were delighted when my elder sister, Sandra, was born in 1943. The arrival of Twins also led to much celebration.
This was followed by the birth of Paula Grace two years later, and so my father became a “Girl-Dad” as the term is now used. But raising four children in post-War Jamaica was not easy, and considerable responsibilities devolved on to our Mother, since our father spent long hours working as a Supercargo on the ships that took bananas to the United Kingdom.
From early, it was evident that Christine had an independent mind, so that it was not difficult for me to lay claim to being the Good Twin. But it was also evident that our father had a special affection for his red-headed daughter, and as I observed to Christine in later years, it was clear that she had inherited her fighting spirit from him. Our father also bestowed her middle name, which was Caprice. Since our mother argued against this choice, but to no avail, she resorted to telling Christine that her middle name was Elizabeth. This little fabrication eventually fell apart when we attended primary school, and birth certificates had to be presented.
We first attended a primary school that was in walking distance from the Family home, and Christine established herself as the Protector for our Baby sister, Paula Grace. From there we moved to Alpha Academy, a Catholic high school where we completed exams for movement to the tertiary level. At Alpha, an elderly nun who knew our Mother from living in Port Antonio, tried to convince Christine that she would fit very well into the Convent. This did not persuade either of us.
But Christine’s path had emerged from her early teens, since our cousin, Aunt Ena Woodstock, had gifted Christine with ballet classes at Fay Simpson’s school of Dance. Christine’s natural gracefulness and agility allowed her to become distinguished as a dancer. We recall the glowing newspaper tributes published in the review of her performance as the White Witch of Rosehall.
Since Christine excelled academically, especially in the Arts, she faced a choice. She had been awarded a Government bursary to study Spanish at the University of the West Indies, but she also wanted to dance. She made the courageous decision to move to New York where she could study Ballet, while maintaining herself through employment as a stenographer with a law firm. She had acquired stenographic skills (typing and short-hand) after completing high school in Jamaica, as our Father felt strongly that women should be able to maintain themselves, and in this way avoid partner dependency and abuse.
In 1965, Christine was joined in New York by our cousin Carol Wood Crichton, who received a scholarship to pursue her Art training. They both described this period as one of the happiest in their lives, and they continued to maintain a strong friendship. Carol recalls how they entertained themselves taking turns at reading aloud passages from The Wind in the Willows and Alice in Wonderland.
In making this move to the US, Christine was part of the tradition of countless Caribbean women who had left the islands in search of “A Better Life”. She established a special bond with our Aunt Winnie, our Father’s sister. Aunt Winnie had been the prototype of the American Aunt, who would visit Jamaica with barrels of precious household items, and who ensured that we were outfitted with shorts and midriff tops. She was the “Glamour Girl” and remained so to the end. But as children, we had no idea of the many hours of back-breaking work which had made this benevolence possible.
Christine met her South African husband, Godfrey Xaba, a few years after settling in New York. Their two girls, Nozipo and Tembani, were born in the early seventies. There was much that Christine and Godfrey shared, especially the love of literature. We had inherited this from our Father, who was never happier than when holding court at the dining table, and reciting passages from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. I also recall that Christine had imposed a strict dietary pattern on the household (“No Red Meat!) But this did not prevent Godfrey from taking a casual walk with Nozipo along 95th street, and up to the McDonalds. It remained one of my regular stops, when visiting Chris.
After completing a degree in Psychology, Christine pursued a Law degree. She worked independently, as well as with the City Government. Christine’s painful struggle with the Supreme Court was driven by the conviction that the Ethics Department should stand by its ideals. She refused to abandon this legal suit, even though the chances of success seemed to be slim.
Health issues began to rear their head from the late eighties, and it was her own experience with breast cancer which shaped her ambition to establish a Retreat Home in Long Island for women recovering from this illness. She observed that the psychological impact of breast cancer was not fully recognized in the effort to provide a viable medical pathway.
Christine’s heart problems emerged later. As these problems became manifest, along with their unexpected complications, her two daughters, and her son-in-law Ben Sutak, stood by her in every way. She received the best of care from the staff at St. Luke’s Presbyterian Hospital, and from the Emergency staff, who responded promptly to 911 calls.
Christine’s devotion to her daughters was unfailing, and friendships were particularly important to her. These were enriched by visits to the museums with Bernadette, lunch with Kathleen and Betsey, and long phone calls with our cousins Eunice and Ruthie. Her friendship with Fausto was a particular source of joy, while she told me frequently how much she missed Maris.
I believe that I speak for all of us here, and within the extended Circle, when I say that we are still struggling to understand how Christine’s Transition happened so quickly. We accept God’s Will and we know that she was spared further pain. But we will always miss Christine, and we Thank her for everything she gave, with Love and without hesitation.