People are asking how Nick is. He’s not on social media, so it’s hard for people to tell. He’s up and down, as am I, but we are a pretty seasoned see-saw act, and we are doing okay.
We do both want to say how very grateful we are for all of the wonderful messages we are receiving. They really help….like writing on this blog helps, like anything that keeps Caitlin close helps. We are going to share a couple of them here, with thanks to the people who’ve given us permission to do so.
from Meghan Greenberg Lockwood
About Meghan: We have such a strong memory of dropping Caitlin off to her first day of school at Fay, and of Meghan making a point of greeting Caitlin and offering to walk in with her. Meghan’s note was delightful to receive because it reminded us that 1) Even though 33 is young, Caitlin was around for a long time, and 2) She had mischievous memories we knew nothing about.
Dear Maryanne and Nick,
I wanted to let you know how much I have been thinking of you, and of Caitlin. So many memories have come back to me these past several weeks, memories that I didn’t know I had. The Caitlin I knew best was elementary and middle school Caitlin, and as you know, she was what my grandmother would have called a hot ticket. In the spirit of keeping her light alive, I thought I would share a few of these memories.
During art class, Caitlin would sing very dramatically, “I’m off to New York and I won’t come back till Saturday night, after the SHOW-OW-OW!”
Other times, she would burst into Unchained Melody. She’d be sitting quietly and get a little glint in her eyes and then belt, “OHHHH my LOVE my DARLING, etc.”
At sleepover parties, after pizza and cake, she liked to get under the table, crawl around, and then grab someone’s feet and tickle them. She called it “The Game of Not Knowing,” because you never knew when your feet were going to get grabbed!
I remember one time she was at my house for a playdate recounting to me and my mom an amazing meal she had had. She turned to my mom with wide eyes and said in a conspiratorial stage whisper, “I had to unbutton a button!”
Early on in our French career, Madame Naumes told us that the letter ‘h’ was not pronounced in France. Caitlin looked horrified and said, “But then…how am I supposed to say…I live in…BABY DONKEY LAND?!” (Get it? Ashland, but the h is silent…)
When we did the Explo day camp at St. Mark’s, our little crew performed Ace of Base’s The Sign as a dance number, and Caitlin made a sign to hold that said Slippery When Wet. Even in the awkward middle school days, she made everything she touched cool. I remember a cute boy from Texas named David who had the biggest crush on her!
On kitchen crew, one of her favorite things to do was to make mixed drinks from the soda machine, like different combinations of Sprite, orange soda, etc. I remember her telling me in the mornings about how she had a new recipe in mind for that day.
On a less silly note, even during those adolescent years when everyone was complaining about their parents, I don’t remember her ever joining in except for the mildest of jokes about her mom handing her a banana and saying, “Eat your potassium, Caitlin.” She had the coolest parents, and she knew it, and she loved you two so deeply her whole life.
With all my love and most heartfelt sympathy,
P.S. Maryanne, my book club asked me to pass along their condolences. They loved reading Cascade and meeting you, and I know they’ll love reading whatever is next.
P. P. S. On the topic of the signs you’ve been experiencing, have you read this essay from 2015 by Lisa Chase? I thought it was amazing.
from Betsy Kemper French
About Betsy: Betsy is a wonderful writer and fellow Emerson MFA grad. We actually never had any classes together, but we’ve somehow kept in touch over the years. She is a beautiful writer and thinker, and this letter really affected both Nick and me. Plus: kittens.
I have been thinking about what to write to you. It’s silly—there’s no obligation, and I’m on the periphery of your life. I never met Caitlin. I don’t know your friends and family. And yet, I feel a powerful connection to your story. It’s not just me. Friends of mine who don’t know you at all became readers of your blog, pulled into this miraculous, tragic, and painfully beautiful journey.
I’ve written before about connections—between people, animals, nature, events. It can’t be scientifically explained, but they are everywhere, and I feel the most peace when I wonder about them. Your writing through this blog has allowed me to feel so many connections with people I’ve never known. It’s like what a great novel does: we get to know and love the characters like they were in our own lives, like we have had experiences and memories with them. You’ve allowed that with Caitlin and all the other “characters” in your “story.” Yet, all of these people are real, and so our connection to them is real, strengthened by your honest writing, the pictures and videos, the text messages, the program from her service. So, is literature allowing us to mimic these connections that we should have in our real lives? So much about your writing has made me ask big questions.
Here’s one way my connection with Caitlin has affected my life. The other night, my youngest daughter, Charlotte (you may remember: “I AM THE BOSS OF ME”) was having trouble getting to sleep. She is so bright, creative and funny, but suffers from a lot of anxiety, even at the young age of nine. I sat on her bed taking some deep breaths with her. Her fear makes me anxious too, and I don’t want her to feel that. So, when I’m trying to stay calm, I often image an angel—yes, the stereotypical one with the wide white wings, surrounded by a golden glow—standing just behind me, putting her hand on the middle of my back. I imagine her light coming into me and calming me, and then that light traveling to Charlotte as I stroke her head. The other night I had that same image, but this time—I hope it’s okay to tell you this—Caitlin came to mind. It was her light and strength that made me feel good and steady. It was her light that traveled from me into Charlotte’s little body. I hope you don’t feel this is “using” her story or exploiting it in any way. But through your writing and hers, you created a stunning work of art that offered her to all of us. St. Caitlin. St. Kitten.
But it’s not just me. My friend Kate Kertscher follows your blog as well. Her oldest son has been asking for a kitten of his own for some time. Kate has three kids and a large dog and an old cat and a very busy life, and was hesitant about adding another creature to the chaotic mix. Yet, the other day when I spoke to her, she said they decided to go ahead with it. She said, “I just thought of Caitlin, and it made me realize how silly I was being! Of course we should get another cat!” **** Seems appropriate too, that it’s a kitten.
So, we are carrying her too, in little ways, but still. Thank you.
I wish I could give you something back, some advice, but I can’t. I haven’t been through anything close to your loss. I haven’t been a mom as long, or a mom who has had to deal with such tragedy. But I can still say what comes to mind, what I hope will help as you make your way through these raw, painful, early days of loss: Stay close to nature, Maryanne. The kind of nature where you can taste the dirt and feel the salt breeze on your skin. Smell the rain or lightning. Feel the snowflakes on your face. That is where I most strongly feel the people I’ve lost in my life—even if they weren’t nature lovers themselves. I know you will feel Caitlin in the silent majesty of those redwoods, where it seems time has stopped and their powerful size reminds us we are not the center of the world, but a small part of something unimaginably intricate and beautiful. The souls of those trees reach out to ours—all the same somehow. I bet you will feel her soar through you when looking at the gorgeous coastline, the sunrises and sunsets, whether in California or here at home.
And keep looking for all those signs of positivity and love. They will always be there.
My thoughts are with you and Nick and Caitlin, wherever she may be.
*****Update: the boy got TWO kittens
from Ellen Tarlin
About Ellen: Ellen and I met at Emerson when Caitlin was 8. Ellen watched Caitlin grow up. This is a snippet of a recent note.
I remembered that when I was raising funds for my friend who had brain cancer, Caitlin donated. And when I was spreading the word about fundraising for my friend who had lost her husband, Caitlin donated. She was the last person I would have asked for money but one of the first to give.
Love and peace,
–M and N