FEBRUARY 11–Do you have kids?

Caitlin O'Hara, Cystic Fibrosis, Little Matches

The Surprises

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I forgot that I had ordered, for Caitlin, these kitty slippers from LL Bean that were back-ordered for months and last night I got word they were shipped. To Pittsburgh.

Then I was rinsing dishes and realized that the candle from her last birthday cake was tucked into a little vase on the windowsill.


Life is a minefield these days, but the biggest mine I’ve been waiting to step on has been ‘the question.’ For the past 7 weeks, I had been expecting it, but no one ever asked. Even while we were traveling and meeting strangers. Our last night in California, we were talking dogs with a woman–a real dog person–when I decided to bravely show a photo of Henry in Caitlin’s arms. Oh, is that your dog walker? she said.

😳  (Dog people apparently do think differently!)

The other day we drove up to Portland. Maine is important to us. We have a lot of family and close friends there, including Andrew. We fully expected that Caitlin would move there post-transplant. The week before she was listed in April 2014, our last ‘getaway’ was to Portland.

It felt painful but also good and right to be there.

We didn’t expect the blizzard. Most of our plans were altered by it, but our friend had made me an appointment with an aesthetician she had praised and surprisingly, the spa was open and a short walk from our hotel. I went.

I was lying on the table, eyes shut, face wet from the steam, when the question finally came.

I froze. Then I think I said the word ‘I’ a couple of times.

She said something kind and neutral. It can be painful is what I think she said. Giving me an out.

But I managed to tell her. I forget what she said, exactly, but she said all the right things and asked if I wanted to talk about it, and I did. We talked about Caitlin and the woman’s beloved father, also gone to the other side. And it was okay. But.

I still don’t know how to answer this question. I’ll always be Caitlin’s mother but a yes answer leads to followup questions, and it doesn’t feel wise to put myself in the position of losing control or making strangers feel uncomfortable.

I also can’t say no.

It’s a dilemma, one I know that others have faced, but I don’t want to research or google ideas. And I’m not asking for advice. I’m just writing about the experience.

Caitlin had recently written something to me: “I have always felt that when it comes to decisions the only true and right ones are the ones you make completely for yourself. Not meaning that you don’t listen to others. But it has to come from a deep place of certainty and knowledge with all the evidence known within you for it to feel really right.”

I guess I will figure it out, Caitlin.






Author: kittenupdates

I am the author of CASCADE and LITTLE MATCHES: A Memoir of Grief and Light

8 thoughts on “FEBRUARY 11–Do you have kids?”

  1. Oh Maryanne…. I read this with tears in my eyes. I cannot express adequately the emotions I feel for you except that I feel it internally like a punch in the gut and the loss of breath. You are so good with words and I know you will soon figure out what to say when
    “The Question” comes up again. You are in my thoughts always……

  2. I so love reading your blog and really appreciate your willingness to share your story. As hard as your loss is please take some comfort in knowing what an inspiration you, Caitlin and your family are to so many!! I wish I had the privilege of knowing Caitlin, but through your blog and her words I do in a way. Thank you!

  3. Thank you for this. That question hurts. It will always be hard to answer. But yes you do have a daughter. Always and forever. And once again she has helped me with her wisdom regarding decision making. Thank you.

  4. Ah, this is so hard. Thank you for posting about it so we can all tell you how much you mean to all of us. xxx

  5. Your willingness to so openly share your love, your pain and every emotion in between is not only beautiful but very much appreciated. Loss will eventually strike all of us ………

    I can’t imagine that it will ever get easy but may you find the answers that work for you.

  6. You will find the answer that works for you, and it may change over time, and it may change based on your connection (or lack of connection) to the person asking. It will take practice. And it won’t always be pleasant. But it, too, is part of this journey.
    Grief is like a dance: sometimes it is classical and graceful and noble and everyone around you moves in time with your needs, with your mood, and together there is heartbreaking beauty. Other times it is cocophonous, discordant, unharmonious, and you need to covers your eyes, hide your ears, and still there can heartbreaking beauty even in the midst of this kind of big hot mess.
    Safe travels –

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