Christina Skelton, now 54, first met Elliot Orr when she was 15 years old.
“We have such a high school story,” she told me with a laugh. “I liked him for years, since he got his braces off and I saw him in church and just thought, ‘That kid is so cute!’”
After Christina found a way to be near Elliot — a strategy her husband would later dub “mild stalking” — the pair got together with classic high school finesse. Christina enlisted the help of her friends who got Elliot to admit that he “kind of” liked her too. Upon hearing the revelation, Christina relates that she went to his soccer game and marched up afterwards to deliver some good news.
“I said, ‘I heard you like me … so we’re going to date,’” Christina remembers. “And he was like, ‘OK.’”
The two soon became inseparable, never leaving each other’s side through high school. Together, they graduated and enrolled at Michigan State University. When Elliot began experiencing arm pain in 2011, shortly after finishing his freshmen year, they thought little of it. “We thought maybe it was tendonitis or he fell on it while he was snowboarding,” Christina explains.
But when he went to his doctor, who sent him to the hospital to have it checked out, the X-ray technician said that he “couldn’t even believe what he was looking at,” Christina remembers. What he was looking at was a huge tumor taking up almost the entire length of Elliot’s arm from his elbow to his right shoulder.
Elliot had a long journey with his cancer, osteosarcoma, and the couple thought he had beat it when the cancer remained localized. He underwent chemotherapy and had his humerus replaced with a cadaver’s.
“Treatment was awful,” Christina remembers. “He lost 50 pounds and he didn’t have 50 pounds to lose; he had mouth sores that were just terrible. But we were very hopeful that it wouldn’t come back after that. We thought we were in the clear.”
The cancer did come back however, 1.5 years later. On July 10 2013, a bone scan revealed that this time it was terminal through his legs and lungs. The couple, who were now engaged, knew at that point the cancer would take Elliot’s life.
Eight days after that body scan, Elliot and Christina were married. Initially planning on a wedding in August of that same year, the couple decided it would be best to move up their nuptials before Elliot would begin his next round of treatment.
After one and half years of marriage, Elliot passed way in February of 2015. Christina buried her husband on a chilly, but bright, Valentine’s Day afternoon.
Elliot was the type of person who stayed positive even until the end. “He constantly lifted me up,” said Christina. “If he was here, I could get through this,” she said with a sad quiet laugh.
But the man who had made her laugh during his too short life had one more surprise up for his wife.
Elliot had beautiful handwriting, so while they were dating, Christina would often beg him to doodle her name in “fancy” writing. As a joke, he would write out “My Name In Fancy Letters” instead of her actual name. She once even mentioned a cool Pinterest idea she had seen to have a bracelet made with your name in fancy letters, but of course forgot all about it as she adjusted to life without her high school sweetheart.
And then, a few weeks after his funeral, Christina remembered a charge she had seen on Elliot’s credit card before he passed away.
“I don’t know why, but I was just sitting there one day and I just knew that I was going to get that last gift from Elliot,” Christina said, her voice breaking into a sob. “I would just sit by the mailbox and wait and wait and wait.”
Finally, the mail came and in it was the present — a delicate bracelet from a small Etsy shop, SilverHandwriting — that her husband had planned for his wife during his last remaining days.
“When I saw that he got it for me … ” Christina cried, unable to finish her sentence through her tears. “It was just so perfect. I got my last gift from Elliott even though he’s not here.”
In death, as in his life, Elliot had found a way to make the woman he loved smile once more.
With her name in fancy letters, of course.