ITHACA, NY -- When I got the word that Krislyn “Krissy” Manwaring passed on at the age of 27 the day after Christmas, I took some time to pull myself together before opening my Facebook page and looking back at our many exchanges over the course of her four-year battle with a cruel disease known as Scleroderma.
About two weeks before her passing, Krissy asked her Facebook community, “What is your favorite memory of me?” My comment — buried in with about 200 others — was: “My favorite memory of you is when I was standing in the first base coaching box, knowing that my bad dad jokes would inspire you to get to second base as quickly as possible.”
I remember the first time I saw Krissy put on her catcher’s gear in youth softball, and I teased her because the shin guards came up to her thighs, the chest protector sagged to her knees and when she ran, her mask flopped around like a fish on a river bank. At about 5’ 1”, she was the smallest kid on the varsity team, but you can believe me when I tell you that whether Krissy was behind the plate, or on a volleyball or basketball court, she played big. Getting covered in dirt blocking low pitches or tagging out sliding runners, getting floor burns diving for spikes and loose balls, she didn’t care. She was a gamer.
I will also remember with great fondness her magnetism around little children. She loved them, they loved her, and her social media feeds are flooded with beautiful photos of her squeezing little kids and dogs.
I will never forget the time an important softball game was about to commence, and the coach pulled the girls together for the pre-game pep talk. He was locked in, fired up and ready to unite his team when someone said, “Wait… Krissy’s not here…” We looked over behind the dugout and she was chasing my delighted 6-year-old daughter, determined to get her daily hug. That was much more important than some silly sectional softball game.
When Krissy was diagnosed with Scleroderma (a disease which causes the hardening of one’s skin and connective tissues) the sports-related concepts of teamwork, perseverance and bouncing back after setbacks were played out on a community-wide as well as an individual basis. Vince and Jackie Manwaring — married 35 years this August — dug in for the long haul to be there for their daughter, and the community stepped up to support them through a series of fundraisers. One of them — held at the Town Tavern in Erin — netted $26,000 and Vince told me, “Our friends knew we were too busy to organize anything, so they did everything. We just showed up.” He added, “People are still doing things now. They cleared our driveway, brought us food, cut and stacked firewood. They are organizing a spaghetti dinner, doing a Pampered Chef party… they’re coming out of the woodwork. I always used to say, ‘We’re good, we don’t need anything’ but I have learned to accept help.”
Krissy had a stem cell transplant in 2018 that resulted in a 44-day hospital stay, and I asked Vince (who is a beloved school bus driver) how many trips they made to New York City over the past four years. He said, “I don’t know… Thirty? Forty? Fifty?” Vince doesn’t look much like a Superhero (Jackie does), but they put forth an incredible effort to support their daughter, despite having three other children and two grandchildren living under their roof. It made for some sweet chaos, and the photos of Krissy holding the little ones are priceless.
The Manwarings say they’re not quite sure what to do with their spare time, and they take comfort that they did everything they could possibly do. “We’re at peace, knowing she’s not in any more pain,” Vince told me. “She was in a lot of pain, most of the time. And she was tired.”
In Vince’s words, “I know she was my daughter, but she had a kind of spark you just don’t find.”
You’ll get no argument from anyone, Vince. She played big in any game she was in. I loved that kid.
For those interested, “Krislyn’s Scleroderma Journey” (and accompanying GoFundMe) can be accessed on Facebook, and provides some very informative and inspiring material.