The INCIID Story: A Friendship Like No Other
The INCIID Story: A Friendship Like No Other
[Caution: Death of a mother and child mentioned.]
Have you ever heard of a friendship that was so special it seemed like it was out of a movie? That was the case for lifelong friends Kris and Lisa. After meeting in the 7th grade, Kris and Lisa became inseparable friends. They shared co-valedictorian status in their high school. Their friendship was maintained so effortlessly that they could be described as soul mates in a platonic sense of the word. If Lisa started a sentence, Kris could easily finish it without thinking.
“ Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies.”
This quote from so many years ago truly encompasses the unique friendship between Kris and Lisa. Both single and approaching their mid 30’s, Lisa deciding that she was ready to have a family even though she hadn’t met ‘Mr. Right.’ Lisa talked to Kris about her wishes to become a family and asked her if she would like to be involved. Kris did not hesitate to say yes, as it was a journey she was honored to share with Lisa. In addition, Kris was aware that having a biological child would be difficult due to severe polycystic ovarian syndrome and endometriosis.
After ironing out the details and looking into such things as insurance coverage for fertility treatments, Lisa was referred to a reproductive endocrinologist (RE) in their area. Lisa’s doctor obtained a full medical history along with bloodwork, which would support the conclusion that Lisa, would be an excellent candidate for IUI with donor sperm. Fortunately, Lisa’s insurance plan covered IUI treatment, however it did not cover more invasive forms of assisted reproductive techniques (ART) such as in vitro fertilization (IVF). Lisa’s RE felt confident that she would become pregnant within three cycles of treatment. Unfortunately this would not be the case as three IUI’s were performed without a subsequent pregnancy. Ultimately, Lisa underwent extensive further testing, including laparoscopic surgery, and was diagnosed with a luteal phase defect, endometriosis, and probable lutenizing unruptured follicle syndrome (LUFS). LUFS is a condition in which the follicles within the ovaries do not release the eggs, making conception impossible. Lisa did become pregnant through further IUI treatment, but sadly the pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. By this time, Lisa and Kris had been trying to start a family for two years. INCIID became an important source of support, knowledge, and belonging during this trying time. “No matter how bad the results were, or what seemingly obscure question I had, there was someone there to offer advice, experience, or even just a hand to hold,” said Kris.
In January 2002, Lisa was able to obtain a different health insurance plan, which had a $10,000 lifetime maximum coverage for infertility treatment. While this plan would not cover the cost of medications, Lisa and Kris decided that they were ready to move forward with IVF. Lisa began the scheduled daily injections of medications and underwent egg retrieval on February 10th, 2002. Of the seven eggs that were retrieved, four of them fertilized, and three of the developing embryos were transferred back to her uterus on February 13th. A positive pregnancy test confirmed their suspicions and Lisa and Kris were elated at the prospect of becoming parents. Lisa and Kris realized how blessed they were when an ultrasound at six weeks confirmed Lisa was pregnant with twins! After a pregnancy that included a couple of concerning moments, Lisa and Kris welcomed two healthy, beautiful baby girls into their lives on October 9th 2002. Two beautiful names were chosen for the girls, and Jenae Matisse and Jessalyn Monet completed their family. When asked if there is any significance to the artists’ names, Kris responded, “Everyone seems to ask that question, but honestly the artist’s work had nothing to do with the choices. We made the deal that Lisa would pick the first name, and I could pick the middle name. I just thought the name ‘Matisse’ was a cool name. She chose the name ‘Jenae’ because of it’s meaning; “God has answered”. When we learned there were twins, she chose ‘Jessalyn’ because it means “a gift”. I really wanted her middle name to be ‘Marseilles’ but Lisa was afraid no one could spell it, so I suggested “Monet,” and it just seemed to flow. Any now, I have grown to love Monet’s work. It is a reminder of Jess.”
With the usual upheavals that occur to new parents, Lisa and Kris settled into their lives raising their twin girls. Happiness, pride and awe are words too small to describe what Jenae and Jessalyn brought to their parents. For the next three and a half months, life charged by as it always does when you look back on it. Babies grow at such a rapid rate during their first year of life that sometimes you feel like if you blink, you’ll miss something important. The events leading up to February 2nd 2003 are unforgettable for Kris. Life seemed to change to slow motion during the last week in January 2003. Kris learned that week that her job was being eliminated within the engineering department at the Space Center in Florida. It was unexpected and very upsetting news for her. The space shuttle Columbia, which at the time was in space, was something in which to take pride for all employees associated with the space program. Tragically, as most of us know, on Saturday February 1st 2003, the Columbia space shuttle disintegrated 15 minutes before it’s scheduled landing at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, killing all seven aboard. Both of these events were difficult enough for Kris but she would be facing the worst personal tragedy of her life on Sunday, February 2nd.
Sundays’ tend to be lazy days for many of us. It’s a day to relax, spend time with family, and maybe straighten up your home a bit before delving back into the busy workweek. For Lisa and Kris, Sunday, February 2nd started out fairly typical. The girls woke up early, and Lisa and her 12-year-old niece Kaitlyn worked on getting the playroom together. For some reason that morning, they decided to go to Wal-Mart. Lisa, Kris, Kaitlyn, Jenae and Jessalyn ventured out on a journey that would change their lives forever. While turning left, the passenger side of their car was broad sided by an SUV. Jessalyn was killed on impact; Lisa suffered fatal injuries and lost her life within 10 minutes of the accident. Kaitlyn had serious physical injuries from which she would ultimately recover, and Jenae had minor injuries and was released from the hospital the next day. Kris, who was in the drivers seat and witnessed the deaths of her daughter and life-long friend, escaped with head lacerations, which required extensive repair. The day of Lisa and Jessalyn’s funeral, an Aunt who helped raise Kris passed away.
Following the accident, Kris began the difficult journey back to a “normal life.” Because Kris was not Jenae’s biological mother, the Department of Children and Family became involved. Lisa was always one to be prepared for whatever life handed to her. Prior to the accident, she had a will made out declaring Kris the legal guardian of the children in the event of a tragedy. After much legal red tape, a judge signed an order for Kris to have legal custody of Jenae, as well as citing specific allocations for monetary resources and how they were to be used until Jenae turned eighteen. During this time, Kris remained active with INCIID and was taken aback by the tremendous support and show of love and empathy from those at INCIID. “When we arrived at the funeral home, there were flower arrangements and plants from members of different boards. I received over 100 cards, which I saved to share with Jenae someday, as well as hundreds of notes posted to different boards. When I went to visit the attorney, and he told me what the retainer would be, I had no idea where the funds would come from. I came home to find a check from INCIID members in the exact amount I needed.” Nancy P. Hemenway, Executive Director of INCIID, arranged for the monetary contribution, which was possible from the donations INCIID members generously, gave for Kris.
“Members sent things to make sure I could run on ‘auto-pilot’ for a while; diapers, wipes, and formula. Others sent clothes and gifts. I got a mouse pad with the girls’ picture on it, there were so many gifts sent out of love.”
Not long after the accident, Kris had a dream, which verified to her that Lisa and Jessalyn were in God’s arms. Upon hearing this dream, some tried to tell her that it was only her subconscious talking because the tragedy was too difficult to deal with at a surface level. While everyone is entitled to his/her own opinions, attempts to question such a powerful experience may stem from a personal discomfort in discussing death. The comfort Kris received from this dream cannot be put into words.
How does one move forward from such a tragedy? One of the things Lisa used to say was “The only thing you get from carrying on is a headache and a runny nose.” Kris has tried to live up to those words and is set on honoring Lisa and Jessalyn on a daily basis. Two serious passions in Lisa’s life were literacy and education. “When I was trying to think of how to honor Jess on their birthday, I asked the members of the boards for ideas. Someone suggested a donation to the library, and as soon as I heard it I knew it was the right one,” said Kris. The INCIIDers took it upon themselves to be a part of something special and generous donations started to come in. On October 9th 2003, Jenae and Jessalyn’s 1st birthday, Kris donated 250 children’s books and 15 DVDs to her local library in Jessalyn’s name.
“With every friend I love who has been taken into the brown bosom
of the earth a part of me has been buried there;
but their contribution to my being of happiness,
strength and understanding remains
to sustain me in an altered world.”
– Helen Keller
The one-year anniversary of Lisa and Jessalyns’ deaths has recently passed by. While it is a constant struggle to put one foot forward, Kris is intent on doing so. “So, what have I learned in the last year? That despite what I thought before February 2nd, that I can make it alone. I don’t like it, in fact I hate it, but I can do it. That being a single mother is hard work. That I am a lot tougher than I thought. A year later, I’m still alone, and now living with my family because we lost our home. But Jen and I are together. She is a smart, beautiful little girl that I would not trade anything for. She says goodnight to her Mama and her Sissy every night before she goes to bed. And I am determined that she will know them both as much as I can tell her. They will be more than a picture on the wall.”
As for the future, “I still don’t know what plan God has in store for me, but I’m trusting that He will take care of us.”
The support, friendship, guidance, and simple listening Kris has received from fellow INCIIDers has been and continues to be irreplaceable. “I have said it before, but I truly don’t know how I would have made it through this year without you. There are no words that can thank you for making Jen and I part of your lives. May God bless you all.”
Around the time Lisa began her IVF treatment, Kris became an Internet Host (I Host) for INCIID. An I Host is a volunteer whose job includes monitoring and moderating the chat boards, to the behind the scenes technical support. Nancy P. Hemenway said, “they are volunteers without whom we would not be able to function, they are the heart and soul of INCIID.” Kris remains an I Host and hopes that some day she will be able to give back even fraction of the support she received to others in need.
“Remember, we all stumble, every one of us.
That’s why it’s a comfort to go hand in hand.”
– Emily Kimbrough
Sadly, Kris joined Lisa and Jessalyn on 9-12-07
After a short but courageous fight for her life.
She is survived by her 4 year old daughter Jenae.