Michele Grgas Thomas The Triplicate

I met Chris Fayad, the artist, in August 2008 in Los Angeles. We were in a hotel room drinking wine and snacking on cheese and crackers with a handful of ladies. Chris just recently had begun painting at the age of 58. I don't know what got her started or how she ended up living on a farm in the hamlet of North Rose, N.Y., but that's what she was doing.

The first painting I saw was of carrots printed on a card she sent me right after our meeting. "This is what organic carrots do underground," she wrote. The back of the card read "All proceeds go to support low income membership in Peacework Farm."

I got her second card, the apples, at Christmas the same year. "Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Fruitful New Year," her message read. We started off 2009 corresponding with some frequency and began to get to know each other. Again.

You see, Christine Mori - that was her maiden name - and I went to

high school together. She was not a painter then, but was one of the

smartest girls in my class. She excelled in science, math, languages and


Chris graduated from UC Berkeley, met her husband Vince while they

were both in the Peace Corps in Africa, got married, had two sons and

worked for the Forest Service. For a while in the '80s we both lived in

Oregon but we never managed to get together. After that I lost track of


Our first real connection since high school was at our 40th reunion

in 2008. A small group - just six of us - met at the hotel I was staying

at the night before the reunion. Chris was there. It was a really good

visit. She said she'd come to Crescent City the next time she was in


Chris went hiking with a mutual friend last August when her

left side started to ache. She wrote it off to being out of shape. But

the pain eventually took her to the ER in December where she had a

bronchoscopy on Christmas Eve and a diagnosis before the end of the

year. Chris has adenocarcinoma, a type of lung cancer that can occur

among non-smokers (Chris never smoked) and is more common among persons

of Oriental descent (Chris is Japanese).

In January, Chris sent me a link to her journal on a web site called

Caring Bridge. For months she's kept family and friends updated on her

treatment, but now it's Vince who does the writing. Chris has been in

the hospital, in ICU, for a while. We all hoped she'd be back home on

Brick Schoolhouse Road by now, but Vince says they are selling the farm.

In an email exchange this past May, Chris and I discovered our mutual

interest in Tai Chi. "My favorite other activity is folk dancing,"

Chris wrote, " a very tribal event, especially the Greek and Turkish

dances from the Black Sea, where we hold arms parallel and tight. You

could be staggering drunk in a line like that and not fall down - or all

go down together. Love the freedom of some of the gypsy dances. I think

I am a gypsy at heart."

I am holding on tight.

Reach Michele Thomas, The Daily Triplicate's publisher, at

mthomas@triplicate.com, 464-2141, or stop by 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.