A Year of Subtraction

Tucson, AZ – One year ago Chris’ doctor confirmed a malignant tumor at the distal end of her esophagus. Thus began her year of subtraction. The take aways increased as she fought to rid herself of demon cancer. As weeks slipped into months, her tears were followed by a long line of zeros. In the end, every effort added up to nothing, zero. Four months ago Chris transcended, and today, her home of 23 years welcomed someone new.

Where did the subtractions begin? They began with a common addiction – cigarettes. Then a minus sign appeared next to Wine * Diet Coke * Solid Food * Work * Stein Mart * Chico’s * Manicures * Pedicures * Massages * Trader Joe’s * Happy Hour. In their place Chris needed Chemo * Radiation * Hydration * A J-tube * Warm Blankets * Stints * Prescriptions * Emergency Room Visits * X-Rays * Hospitalization * End of Life Directives * Platelets * Rehab * Consults * Physical Therapy * Transportation * Hope.

When reconstructive surgery was cancelled in March, and after two weeks at the University of Arizona Medical Center, living independently had to be fully subtracted. The minuses and meows were with us. Chris was grateful that Jinx and Mr. Lucky went to live with Betsy. The TV-cable service was cancelled. The refrigerator and freezer emptied. On better days, Chris would email friends. Gradually, she began subtracting phone conversations and withholding words. Reciting “nothing-new-to-say” drained us both.

In April the subtractions became more serious. Chris needed Hospice * Hospital Bed * Walker * Shower Chair * Visiting Nurse * 24-Hour Care * Medications. We watched TV, did crossword puzzles, cried, and told stories. In the still, dark morning of May 12, Chris whispered, “It’s time to go.” Oh, the pain of those words will be with me forever. The essence of who she was and what she loved had been fully subtracted.

Today, September 26, a stranger is excited. A woman will unlock the front door of 6365 N. Cmo. Hermasillo and enter a new space. We wish her well in the Small House with Great Peace.

Small House Great Peace
Small House Great Peace

Ashes, Ashes – All Fall Down

Ashes, Ashes – All Fall Down

Two weeks ago the cremains of my dear sister, Chris, arrived by registered mail from Research for Life. Since neither Richard nor I were home to sign for the package, Chris spent the night in the post office. I hope she did not mind, but we had no choice. The postman needed a signature. I had requested cremains in three small containers. Two boxes would be sent to friends in Florida, and I would keep the third. Widowed friends have large urns of cremains, and their husbands are too heavy to move. The men sit on a closet shelf or in some other obscure place. Chris has a bright desktop place in the kitchen between the cremains of Tennie and Amber, our beloved dogs.

Someday Tennie and Amber’s ashes will be scattered on Pusch Ridge – terrain they loved to run. Chris did not hike and that leaves me to wonder. Where will I eventually spread her ashes. Next summer Arloa and Jim will take their box to Staniel Cay. Chris loved her vacations in the Bahamas, and she will become a year-round resident. Chris enjoyed happy hours at Fleming’s Steak House. The best I might do is to continue the happy part even though we are damp with tears. I will set her cremains on the bar table, order a Chardonnay, chat with Rick, and keep a tradition alive.

Trouble – missing cremains. On July 3, two registered, priority mail packages were to leave Tucson and arrive at their Florida destinations in four days. Today is July 8, and all I have is a case number for Chris’ missing cremains. I wonder about some freaky postal worker with a fetish or two. Sit tight, Chris, a postal sleuth has your case and you have a case number.

I have one more story about cremains. When Bob, our son’s chocolate Lab died, Greg decided to release his ashes from a high-speed quad at Heavenly (South Lake Tahoe). On a beautiful winter’s day, Bob’s cremains flew into the wind and into the faces of skiers behind Greg.

For now, Chris, Tennie, and Amber will stay at home where I can talk to them everyday and say how much I love and miss them.

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A Tribute to Chris Mankowitz

The Arizona Daily Star wants close to $400 for a one day obituary about my sister Chris. Four hundred smackers! I would rather send a few kids to summer camp with the money, and I know Chris would agree. After all, we are our father’s daughters, and Walter knew how to squeeze a nickel.


After six months of hell and hope, Chris lost the fight with esophageal cancer on Monday, May 12. Reluctantly, Chris left us. She did not say good-bye to my husband Richard or to her nephew Greg, or to any of her friends. She slipped away and quietly began the inevitable journey. Chris was born in an Elizabeth, New Jersey maternity home to Walter and Mary Lulic. She earned her RN degree at Newark City Hospital in the days when hospitals ran 3-year nursing programs. She went on to Fairleigh Dickinson University for a BS degree. Chris enjoyed the challenge of critical care nursing and worked at Beth Israel Hospital in Newark for several years. She married at age 25 and with her husband moved to the Florida Keys. She had many fun years of fishing, snorkeling, tennis, golf, watercolor classes, and her beloved Doberman, Leba – whose name translated to “Leave Barry Alone.” When Chris had no choice but to divorce, she got in the Mercedes and drove straight to our home in Tucson. Chris worked in hotel hospitality and was a concierge at the Westin La Paloma until the Big-C attacked her esophagus. Ever generous, she donated her body to Research for Life. As a family, we give accolades of praise to Casa de la Luz for their in-home hospice care. A scholarship will be established in her name at the University of Arizona School of Nursing.  Farewell Chrissy dear, you are loved, missed, and forever remembered.

Chris in faux fur
Chris in faux fur