Hall filled Wednesday columns with stories of love, laughter

Published 12:04 am Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Years ago, I made Christina Hall mad, really mad.

I had written something in a column in The Democrat about cooking and food and, well, it was wrong. So wrong that Christina posted the column in the window of her Main Street cooking shop.

I was mortified … and when I called to apologize, Christina didn’t hold back with her criticism. Then she laughed, and told me she wasn’t taking the column down out of her window.

Email newsletter signup

By the time the call ended, we were laughing together. And that day we started a friendship forged by a love of food and a love of Natchez — a friendship that lasted through deadlines, grief and distance.

Somewhere in our conversations about that glaring error, I challenged Christina to help us get things right — and she did, joining the staff of The Democrat as a food columnist and writer. She fussed, of course, saying she wasn’t a writer. She fretted over her first columns as she struggled to find her voice. My advice to her was always the same: Write like you’re having a conversation with a friend. Because as anyone lucky enough to call Christina a friend can attest, conversations with her were filled with laughter and love.

She found that voice, and her stories of her family and food graced the pages of The Democrat for years. She became a familiar voice in the lifestyle section, a welcome visitor to the readers of our hometown newspaper and a tireless advocate for them.

More important, she became a treasured friend. We cried together over death and divorce, our hearts broken in different ways but still, broken. We laughed together over silly girls and goofy toddlers. We shared hopes and dreams and margaritas and wine.

When she moved to her house on Linton Avenue, I helped her unpack, laughing at her chaos when she said she had to take a week off work to unpack because “we can’t even find the silverware.” When I moved, she reminded me to unpack quickly — I would need silverware, she joked.

She taught me how to be strong, to face the challenges in life with determination and an open heart. She taught all of us that life doesn’t have to be perfect to be filled with love and laughter. She simply taught us how to live.

And I wasn’t alone. Since her untimely passing last week, dozens of friends have offered tributes, much more eloquently than I, about what Christina Hall meant to them and their lives. Words like love and laughter, joyful and encouraging, family and community … all used rightfully to describe Christina.

The last time I was with Christina was in the fall, at the Ole Miss-Troy University game in Oxford. She was in her tent in the Grove, ready with a warm hug and a “come on in, baby” to passers-by. She was with her children and the extended family of friends that she loved dearly.

She was infectiously happy and content. We talked about life, picking up where we’d left off most recently, and shared jokes that only we understood. Decked in red and blue, cheering Hotty Toddy and laughing — it’s the image of Christina I’ll carry on my heart.

 Stacy G. Graning is the publisher of The Messenger in Troy, Ala., and served as editor of The Natchez Democrat from 1996 through 2001. She can be reached by email at stacy.graning@troymessenger.com.