Christie shares his 'low point' in life
August 6th, 2013
08:36 AM ET
12 months ago

Christie shares his 'low point' in life

(CNN) - Known for his at-times brazen, combative demeanor, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie opened up in a recent interview about his low point in life, sharing a compelling story about the moment he realized his mother would soon die.

The Republican governor and potential 2016 presidential candidate described his mother as "indestructible" after overcoming a brain aneurism and breast cancer earlier in life.

But later, she was diagnosed with lung cancer that spread to her brain. In 2004, long before he was governor, Christie was with his mother and father when the doctor shared the bad news, the governor said Thursday in an on-stage interview at an educational summit in Las Vegas hosted by the "Knowledge Is Power Program."

"The low point was I got the car to drive her home… I put my hand on the stick shift to back out, and she put her hand on my hand and she said, 'I know I'm going to die.'"

Christie frequently talks about his mother and has described her as someone who was "tough as nails" and "didn't suffer fools at all."

"In the automobile of life, Dad was just a passenger. Mom was the driver," he said in his high-profile speech at the 2012 Republican National Convention.

But the interview offered a rare look into their relationship after she received the diagnoses. The governor said the moment in the car was the first time he had ever heard his mother sound "defeatist."

As the daughter of a single mother, Sondra Grasso raised her two younger siblings after her father left, Christie said. Grasso, who had Sicilian ancestry, was married at 18-years-old "to an abusive guy who beat her," he added. She eventually left and raised three children with Christie's father.

She later became an active force in Livingston, New Jersey, where she lived for 38 years and worked as a receptionist at the Board of Education offices. An article about her from New Jersey's Star Ledger described her as "the district's public face for countless numbers of nervous children who came with parents to be registered for school and were immediately put at ease by her charm."

Christie also held her in high regard.

"This is a woman who I thought would beat anything," he said. "I said to myself, she has been there for every minute of my life for me, and I'm going to be there for her death and I can't let her down."

"I felt like I owed it to her," he added. "I think that was the low point–that point that she looked me in the eye, and I knew and she knew that it was over."

Sondra Christie died weeks later in 2004 at the age of 71.

– CNN's Ashley Killough and Mark Preston contributed to this report.


Filed under: Chris Christie • New Jersey
soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. GI Joe

    A lot of people have had cancer. Will he have the same benevolence toward them? Maybe even some of the people in his audiences that he yells at. He doesn't ask - they don't whine about it. Hopefully they have the same insurance his mother had all of her life.

    August 6, 2013 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  2. The Real Tom Paine

    I never make fun of human suffering, no matter who the person is or what kind of politics they practice. This is not the place for a partisan shot.

    August 6, 2013 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  3. Lynda/Minnesota

    In light of his mothers death, I will refrain from calling this patronizing pandering for the woman vote.

    August 6, 2013 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  4. Gurgyl

    I advise him to get Democratic ticket–nothing wrong in changing for better America.

    August 6, 2013 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  5. PJ

    I rarely comment on personal heartbreaks, but this time I can say "Christie, I feel your pain". Same for my Dad.

    August 6, 2013 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  6. plain&simple

    The human condition ....love. More powerful than politics. If we could only find the common thread in all our lives,we would make a more civil country.

    August 6, 2013 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  7. Eric

    @ the real Tom paine –
    Come on man, can't someone open about an emotional time in their lives without it being written off as a political move? I've followed Christie's political career, and I can say with certainty that he is not the type of person to use his dead mother for votes.

    August 6, 2013 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  8. Wake up People!

    While I completely understand how he feels, this makes me think he is pandering for the women to vote for him. One good thing for him I'm sure his mother had health insurance, maybe he should tell his party that everyone deserves it and to stop fighting the ACA. But I am sorry about his mother.

    August 6, 2013 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  9. Rudy NYC

    Eric

    @ the real Tom paine –
    Come on man, can't someone open about an emotional time in their lives without it being written off as a political move? I've followed Christie's political career, and I can say with certainty that he is not the type of person to use his dead mother for votes.
    -----------------
    How can you say that? Can't you read. This is what Tom wrote.

    "I never make fun of human suffering, no matter who the person is or what kind of politics they practice. This is not the place for a partisan shot."

    August 6, 2013 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  10. Boomer in Mo

    I suppose she had insurance. Most Republicans don't care if Americans can buy insurance or not. Christie might be different.

    August 6, 2013 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  11. Lynda/Minnesota

    Eric
    @ the real Tom paine –
    Come on man, can't someone open about an emotional time in their lives without it being written off as a political move?
    ----------

    It is my opinion that Tom was suggesting we DON"T politicize Mr. Christie's comment.

    August 6, 2013 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  12. Wake up People!

    Now I'm curious is Christy one of those GOP governors that is accepting the ACA or is he denying his people health care??

    August 6, 2013 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  13. The Real Tom Paine

    Eric

    @ the real Tom paine –
    Come on man, can't someone open about an emotional time in their lives without it being written off as a political move? I've followed Christie's political career, and I can say with certainty that he is not the type of person to use his dead mother for votes.
    ************************
    I was being sympathetic and respectful to the man. When it comes to family and health, I see a human being, not a politician or an opponant. Does that remove any ambiguity about what I said, or do you need more help in connecting the dots?

    August 6, 2013 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  14. nickiead

    Low point of my life was when Christie was elected governor.I hope this bully does not bother running for president.He is ignorant and self serving. We do not need a leader who has a temper and behaves in an arrogant manner when confronted with a truth that doesn't serve his interests. You do not let a person with his volatility and blind ambition anywhere near the power of the Presidency. He is a blowhard with no substance. I wouldn't let this man slice my deli meat......

    August 6, 2013 10:23 am at 10:23 am |