Monthly Archives: September 2017

SEPTEMBER 26 — The Caitlin Book

From a little notebook of Caitlin’s:

April 27th, 2012
I am grateful for —
My parents
My friends
My apartment & car
My dog
My ability to be able to go out and have fun even though I’m sick.

In July of 2014, 6 months into full time care-giving, I realized that I hadn’t worked on my new novel and that it would be easy to continue to ignore it, indefinitely. So I started carving out a daily chunk of time. I would set my timer to 30 minutes and write, with full focus, for at least that amount of time. At the end of each session, I circled the date in red.

It’s amazing what you can do with 30 focused minutes. I managed 254 pages–a decent draft of a new novel. In 2+ years, I did not miss a day until I finally gave up, in the ICU, on December 11.

Last week, on September 18, which was our 35th wedding anniversary and the 9-month anniversary of Caitlin’s transplant, Nick and I walked around Walden Pond.

walden.PNG

Walden Pond, 2017

When we came home, I started setting the timer again — for 33 minutes, in honor of Caitlin.  But instead of working on the novel, for the moment I’m compiling parts of this blog and other words into something that I’m just calling “the Caitlin book” for now.

At this point, it is painful. I started at the beginning of the blog, but now I’m into the December posts, which I had not read since I wrote them. Reliving each shock after shock, the kernel of faith, the hope, the desperation, and then that final joy when she went into the OR on December 18 and received lungs.

It’s still impossible to believe things played out the way they did.

But a week does not pass that I don’t receive a blog comment, an email, or a hand-written note from someone, somewhere, who has been bettered by Caitlin’s story. Here is a recent one (accompanied by heart-shaped rocks for Caitlin’s memorial). It’s a reminder of why I want to create something more permanent than blog posts in the ether.

lucy letter

It will not be a story about anger and illness. It will be the story Caitlin wanted told: about light, love, and fierce positivity; about life and afterlife.

I am still figuring out the form it will take.

I told my wonderful friend Jane, in Pittsburgh, a beautiful writer, that I was doing this, and she responded:

Happiest thing in your letter: you’ll start the Caitlin book! This has to be done. This is going to be so wise, so beautiful, such an honoring of life, of soul, of friends, of motherhood, of grief, of CAITLIN. It is going to be a unique gift to the world. And to many many people who suffer terrible illness and loss, But really a gift for everyone. Mothers! Daughters! People who need Inspiration!

I have printed her words out and hung them over my desk, to keep me going.

 

–Maryanne

SEPTEMBER 6–In the Meantime..

I’d like to recognize/document summer, and appreciate the continued kindness and interest in what is going on with us.

VISITORS

They started with Caitlin’s “main” ICU nurse, Erin, who visited us with her husband and three charming little daughters (3 under age 5!) in June.  They called me “Miss Maryanne,” and Nick, “Uncle Mike.”

In July, Dr. Penny, the CTICU director who did everything she could to save Caitlin, visited us, too.

IMG_7798.JPG

Emotional times. But anyone who’s lived inside an ICU knows how intense it gets there. These people became part of our lives.

And next week, four wonderful friends/Pittsburgh neighbors are coming. I guess we will always be tied to Pittsburgh.

 

MORE PICS FROM CAITLIN’S BIRTHDAY

Turns out Nick took some photos I didn’t know about. I’m usually the one taking pictures, so I’m in some, for once.

dd80d60c-5b07-4028-a99c-2f31c924c9671.jpg

 

40c3d980-51e7-48b2-985c-0f538034288c.jpg

 

screen-shot-2017-07-31-at-7-23-39-pm.png

71c936af-9f92-4119-93ea-9945ab324858.jpg

d2876119-f9df-46bb-b389-35157fe96c74.jpg

c0889813-6110-4b4c-8804-0e34e84ef235.jpg

7bc3af52-25d9-4abf-aa3e-2f57979104a1.jpg

41f2c623-4a82-4bda-85ab-f5debf09a70d.jpg

Andrew at Larsen’s. Steamers.

 

HEART ROCKS

People have been continuing to send us beautiful heart-shaped rocks. There was even an anonymous, perfect one in our mailbox. Thank you! There is no time limit. We haven’t even started building the memorial, and will always have room for more. Here are some more pictures.

FullSizeRender-5

469d8f48-34c2-466b-abcc-2c1160663c15

The little kids in Ireland.

IMG_8237

 

IMG_8275

IMG_8267

Spain hearts.

IMG_8368

IMG_8346

IMG_8473

IMG_7753

IMG_7932

 

The Islands and Irma

We are worried about our beloved islands and everyone in Irma’s path. We haven’t made many firm plans yet, but going back to St. John is one of them. Like the Vineyard, Caitlin’s spirit is surely there.

IMG_7334.jpg

BARRY

I made a good friend in Pittsburgh, Barry Lavery. He was living with ALS and — talk about an inspiration. He had a wise, expansive spirit. I looked forward to our weekly visits/conversations, and after I left, we would text and I would send him videos of New England beauty and the wildlife. He was a lifelong photographer and photography teacher, a bird lover and hawk expert who volunteered at the wildlife center after he retired from teaching at the Art Institute. He was a lifelong student of philosophy, a Taoist. A man who never lost his sense of humor. I will write about Barry in whatever I end up writing about all this. He was certainly a part of the whole story. He left us during the August eclipse and promised he would seek out Caitlin. It’s a welcome thought.

This was his public Facebook profile pic, so I feel comfortable sharing it. It was obviously taken when he was still well, still volunteering at the wildlife center. The hawk connection is so interesting. I still haven’t written about the hawks, but I will.

Screen Shot 2017-09-06 at 11.34.03 AM.png

Barry and a hawk named Chuck.

 

LASTLY

This hasn’t happened much, but when it does it’s kind of awkward. We think of Caitlin all the time and talking about her is part of this new life.

Screen Shot 2017-09-04 at 10.10.47 AM.png

–Maryanne XO

 

 

 

 

SEPTEMBER 6 — What will happen?

I keep thinking we can turn back time. An illogical thought, of course, and one which only lasts for a second, but which comes to me every single day.

Inside my kitchen medicine cabinet, I have always tacked up recipes, poems, cholesterol counts, phone numbers of relatives in Ireland. I noticed this calendar last week. Early in 2014, at the beginning of the transplant nightmare, I had taped it up.

I remember looking at all the days still to come and wondering what they would bring. I wrote, What will happen??? Knowing there would be an answer, impatient for it.

IMG_8828.jpg

Then, a day later, cleaning out a desk drawer, I came upon an email Caitlin had sent me, again in early 2014. I don’t generally print out emails, but had printed this one, and oddly enough, when I mentioned it to Katie, Caitlin’s closest-to-a-sister (is there an easier word for her??), she said that she, too, had just happened upon the same email, which I had forwarded to her, back then. Another funny coincidence.

Caitlin to me:

This is what has been bothering me most about our argument the other night. We need to make this time as ok and as enjoyable as possible. Who knows what’s going to happen once I get that call. I don’t want to live this time as if “this sucks” or “this time is really crappy and stressful.” I just can’t do it and I don’t think it’s true or smart or good for our hearts. I feel like this is your underlying sentiment despite that your brain tells you to “appreciate what we have.” The truth is is that this could be it. As hard as that is to say, once I get the call I’m going into a hugely risky surgery. There aren’t any guarantees. So this isn’t just a time to get through –it’s a time to try to be happy and make something worthwhile of it.

Everything from the bottom up here is unknown- someone has to die for me to get a transplant, so it doesn’t get any more unknown or unplanned than that. The only option is to go with the flow as best we can and that means basically, assessing everything as it comes, and dealing with things but letting them go just as quickly. That includes like stress and freakouts and fights. There’s no way to avoid them so just deal with them.

This isn’t a sad time we should be waiting for to be over. It will be over soon enough and you could be wishing we were back here. Or we could be glad we never have to go back here. The point is we don’t know, we can’t know, and I don’t want to live like I’m just trying to get through it, when this is still my life.

I love you

Sent from my iPhone

My response:

I love you.
It is interesting that while you were writing that, I was making coffee and thinking about how I needed to tell you that I feel shame when you have to talk to me like that.  You do a very good job of taking the high road, and restraining yourself from fighting and all that.

Sorry.

You are completely right about all of this.  Let’s make today a happy day !

 

So.

We are into September already. September of this year 2017 that has not had Caitlin alive in it. I look at my calendar from a year ago. September 7, 2016: Kitten admitten.

It was the first of three separate hospital admissions she would have. One each: September, October, November.

During the final admission, with such a high score, we were actually happy, expecting that transplant would be imminent, but she was more scared/somber/nervous than I realized. Of course. I see now, reading through much of her stuff, how much she kept inside. One of the things she sent to me then, and which breaks my heart a little:

The Afterlife, by Billy Collins 

I haven’t been writing in the blog all that much. I plan to write this story in a more contained form. I’m still figuring out how.

 

–Maryanne XO