Mourning at the newspaper
The performers at the Crystal Palace used to sing a haunting death song. Of all of us in the audience, so many would die of heart attacks, so many would be felled by cancer, another number would be killed in accidents, a few would be murdered, on and on until none in the room were left.That’s how we’re feeling in our small advertising department of The Aspen Times, with two of us taken within the space of a year: Andre Bonhote of AIDS/ pneumonia and Christine Maggi, on Thursday, of cancer.Andre already had left the Times to seek new vistas as a hotelier in Scottsdale, Ariz., got sick suddenly and perished, but Christine started dying right before our eyes last fall.She was having a hard time swallowing, she said as she grew thinner and thinner. “Go to your doctor,” we begged her, but she was seeing a homeopath who told her she had “parasites,” even told her the exact date in the late ’90s that the parasites entered her body, and treated her with potions to kill the intruders.Christine was always into soothsayers, had a box of fortune-telling pebbles on her desk, threw the I-Ching pennies to foretell her future. I don’t know if she would have survived if she had had the endoscopy earlier, which diagnosed advanced esophageal cancer, but the prognostications of those in whom she put her faith were dead wrong.In February, she moved to her brother’s house in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., while being treated at Sloan-Kettering, and soon after that we had to tell her that her dear buddy Andre had died. Christine herself went into the hell of chemo and complications as the cancer marched relentlessly through her body.Friends and family members stayed in touch with the latest heartbreaking reports. Stomach, ovaries, pneumonia, water retention, hospice.”I’m trying to check out,” she told her sister, “but it just isn’t happening.”A few days before she died, her brother Jerry e-mailed, “The other day, I was talking to her and she clenched her teeth, made a fist and it looked like she wanted to punch the bed. She dropped her fist and whispered to me, ‘Every time I wake up, I’m still here.'”Christ, she was only 38.And she was so healthy, so strong, beautiful and robust (“Thunder thighs,” she would say, disgusted). She took long hikes in the mountains and rode her bike to the Times for the past nine years in all weather, always running a little late, arriving rushed and rosy-cheeked with her long, dark curly hair still damp from her morning shampoo.Often on the verge of debt, she’d give you her last dime if you needed it. When I got out of the hospital with lung problems, she gave me her expensive treadmill, brushing off any idea of payment saying she never used it. She loved giving, to the point where we had to be careful not to even hint at needing anything.Christine was a gentle lady with a soft voice and a sweet smile, but she was tough and she was stubborn. She’d ask advice from anyone but, after a lot of deliberation, take it from none, hoeing her own row.I miss her laugh. She had a laugh like silver bells.It seems impossible that she is gone.Su Lum is a longtime local who knows that life (and death) isn’t fair. Her column appears Wednesdays in The Aspen Times.