Christina Hall Opens Up About Her Most Powerful Renovation for Best Friend Cassie's Relative Who Battled ALS

After her lifelong friend Cassie Schienle's sister-in-law was diagnosed with ALS, Hall and her Christina in the Country team stepped in to make her home accessible

Juliette Schienle, Cassie Schienle, Christina Hall - November 2022
Photo: Courtesy Christina Hall

When Christina Hall began taking on home renovation projects in Tennessee for her new series Christina in the Country last year, her best friend and publicist Cassie Schienle suggested one project that was very close to her heart.

At the time, Schienle's sister-in-law, Jessica Waldron, had been recently diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, a deadly neurological disease that slowly takes away a person's ability to control his or her muscles. As the Stanford-trained clinical psychologist and mom to two young children — daughter Reese, 6, and son, Gray, 4 — whom she shared with husband Damon, became more immobile and wheelchair dependent, the kitchen and primary bathroom in their family home were no longer accessible.

Schienle told Hall about Waldron and the Christina in the Country crew began work to reconfigure the space to be more wheelchair friendly.

Sadly, on Nov. 3, 2022, Jessica died after a hard-fought battle.

Below, Hall and Schienle open up about the heartbreaking loss of a friend and family member, finishing the emotional project, which will air on Thursday night's episode of Christina in the Country, and how they are continuing to honor Jessica today.

Why was it important to you to work with Jessica and her family?

Hall: Cassie is like family to me and now Cassie's extended family is my family as well. I loved Jessica and her family the moment I met them. It broke my heart to see how rapidly ALS was taking a toll on Jessica's quality of life. In one year, she went from dancing at Cassie and [her husband] James's wedding to having no function in her legs and beginning to lose the function of her hands. Of course, I wanted to do anything I could to make Jessica's life easier for her.

Damon Waldron, Jessica Waldron, Gray Waldron & Reese Waldron Where was the image taken - The Parthenon in Nashville, TN When was the image taken - November 2021
Mackenzie LaRoe

How did doing this project impact you?

Hall: This project was extremely difficult for me as well as the whole crew. At each monthly check in, we saw Jessica's health continue to decline. The last time I saw Jessica alive she was struggling to catch her breath as we were talking. I could see how much she was trying to be present and smile, but I also saw the fear and hurt behind her eyes. The last time we were together to shoot a scene I had to pretend to walk away and talk to someone about the project when in reality, I was in another room having a panic attack. I couldn't catch my breath because I felt so much pain knowing she didn't have much longer to live. Sadly, that was the last time I saw her.

Jessica had such a light about her, such a strong personality and I loved talking to her. It is a huge loss for everyone who was blessed to have crossed her path. She was smart, funny, successful and she was a wonderful wife and mother. Although she never got to see her home remodel complete, it was her vision for her family and something I am proud to have done for them.

Josh Hall, Christina Hall, Jessica Waldron & Damon Waldron

What does it mean to you to share your sister-in-law's story?

Schienle: To be able to turn to my best friend in a moment when not only I needed her help, but my family needed her, the most — I am forever grateful to Christina. When Jessica passed, Christina and her team jumped into overdrive to get the house finished so Damon and the kids could have a home where they were able to come together and start building a new chapter. The home is absolutely beautiful and exactly what Jess and Damon envisioned for their family. Finishing out the episode after Jess passed was extremely important to us as a family because we wanted to share Jessica's story with the world and draw awareness for ALS. The way the episode came together is a beautiful tribute for such a special person.

How have you been coping with the heartbreaking loss?

Schienle: We miss Jessica so much and are still trying to make sense of it all, if that is even possible. We talk about her every day and we can feel her with us everywhere. She lives on not only in our memories, but through her children. Damon and Reese went to a father-daughter dance at her school last week and after he texted me that Jessica was right out on that dance floor with Reese, as Reese was channeling her mom's dance moves.

Jessica was so special. She was the funniest person in the room and at the same time, she was the most empathetic. A loving mother and wife, just a beautiful person, inside and out.

Schienle adds that Team Gleason, an ALS charity, was extremely helpful during Waldron's illness. Team Gleason's mission is to improve life for people living with ALS by delivering innovative technology and equipment, as well as providing and empowering an improved life experience.

Christina in the Country airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on HGTV and available to stream the same day on discovery+

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