Hall loved food, family, laughter

Published 12:06am Friday, April 11, 2014

After 13 years, I had grown accustomed to the laughter.

Christina Hall loved watching me struggle to get the perfect photograph. She was the Lifestyle editor of The Natchez Democrat the first day I walked into the newsroom in 2000. For many years, we collaborated as writer and photographer to put together the Style page each Wednesday.

Whether she found me crawling on the ground like a soldier under barbed wire or standing on my toes atop a ladder, to get a photo, Christina always smiled, always laughed.

She knew what it took to get the perfect shot and appreciated my creative struggle to find something unique and thought-provoking.

I always took her laughter as her appreciation and commiseration for what we all go through in life to do what we love.

So it was Friday night at the Historic Natchez Tableaux when I struggled mightily to get a shot of Soiree dancers framed by one of the participants holding a parasol watching from backstage. Every time I lifted my camera, actors were quick to come to my aid and ask the woman to get out of the way so that I could get a clear shot.

All the while there was that familiar laughter in the background. Christina may have been the only person there who knew what I was trying to accomplish.

When I recognized who was behind me, I offered a hug and a few moments of conversation. She briefly talked about her upcoming knee surgery. I talked about everything that was happening at the newspaper.

Like always, we ended our conversation talking about family. I asked about her children and she inquired about my son.

We could have talked much longer, but we both had work to do. I went on photographing, and she went on helping children with their costumes. Watching her walking down the hallway laughing with a couple of teenagers will be the last memory I will have of my friend.

Since I heard the news of Christina’s death Wednesday, I have paused many times to consider all that Christina offered to our community.

On the advice of a friend, I stopped to read some of the columns Christina wrote over the years about food, her family, her community and her country.

Flipping through the newspaper’s archives, reading her columns, I realized one thing about her writing. Whether she was writing about chocolate chip cookies, her children Holly, Matthew and Emily, or her community it was always with a deep abiding love.

Many of her columns ended with the admonition that we never know how long we will be on this earth. Having raised three children after her husband, Dr. David Hall, died unexpectedly 13 years ago, Christina knew this from experience.

In 2009 when her oldest daughter got married, she wrote this while reflecting on her life: “Change can be sad and change can be hard but sometimes you get lucky and change is good. It makes your life better. So embrace change, enjoy your children and try to make new memories every day.”

That is how I will remember Christina — a friend who embraced life with everything it had to offer, laughing along the way.


Ben Hillyer is the design editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or by e-mail at ben.hillyer@natchezdemocrat.com.