Mother’s day – “Everybody has some kind of….”

This morning, Nick and I were talking about the fact that some people seem to be afraid to read Little Matches when a friend sent me a message:

I hadn’t yet started LITTLE MATCHES because a friend’s son is dying of cancer, and I didn’t think I had the emotional capacity. Last night, however, your book seemed to be calling. I began reading and was hit with wave upon wave of warmth and light. I’m just getting started, but I wanted you to know what comfort LITTLE MATCHES provides. 

I have been receiving a lot of messages, and some of them are by people who are surprised to find that Little Matches is comforting and inspiring. Please know that I didn’t write the book to share misery, but to share the beauty and mystery of living and loving.

I think I’ll post a few anonymous snippets of messages I’ve received. And below I will re-publish Caitlin’s wonderful Mother’s Day post of 2015. Her words are reminders that “everybody has some kind of pain, as well as some kind of good in their life, and that none of this is a contest.”

I am certain this book will continue to ignite people’s souls on so many levels as it has done mine. I think love is making yourself known. On that, you have shared yourself and, just as importantly, Caitlin with the world which, to me, is love. It is a selfless act to share all of these stories and many will be the better for reading your words. Caitlin not only was a deep thinker but zippy and full of sparkles!

Just finished Little Matches. Wow. Is it weird that I feel like I’m in an altered state after reading it? Maryanne has a remarkable ability to make me feel like I was somehow part of it all. It seemed so vivid, so familiar. The grief is so tangible, even though I didn’t know Caitlin. I’m still processing, but what’s coming through for me most right now is gratitude that I got to share in the beauty and wonder of Caitlin’s life.

I just finished your book. I follow your blog, but this put it so much more in perspective. Choose faith, today and always. Thank you for that reminder and for framing it not in a religious context, but one that we can all use every day.

Last night I was thinking how glad I am for this book because like – this huge thing happened, Caitlin, and I was a tiny piece of it but it changed my life and my whole outlook on life, and I can’t explain it to people, the bigness of it, of her. And the book just does it. You feel the bigness on every page.

I don’t normally write to authors, but felt compelled to share this story with you, after seeing you last night in conversation about your book. Thank you for sharing your story and your daughter with the world. My work with older people keeps my eye on the brevity of our living, even if we reach 100.  I  share your conviction and Caitlin’s, loving people and human connection is what matters most, that endures beyond all constructs of space and time.  I hope you don’t mind that I shared this with you. Your story and writing are inspiring.

I wanted to write you and let you know I stayed up most of the night reading your gorgeous and heartbreaking and hopeful book, Little Matches. First of all, I wanted to thank you for writing such an amazing book.  Your words are so beautiful —and so important. Thank you for sharing them with the world.


Our Cat has Nine Lives

Mostly Companion, written by Caitlin

Mummy, Kitten and Chickie, Jamaica 1988

At some point when I was little, my mom and I started referring to one another as our “mostly companion.”  It probably grew out of the time I was having surgery when I was 11, and was in the hospital a lot.  We would get overly tired, stressed, and…really silly.  We were absurdly often at our funniest when things were worst.  I guess that is common for people in trying health situations, and it’s a nice silver lining.  The other day, in the hospital while I tried to eat lunch, my mom put on quite a show of impressions and we were laughing so hard. The game was to do one small word, look or movement from a movie…not a whole line.  Her imitation of Salieri yelling “MOZART!!!” from Amadeus was the best…she has an incredible man-voice that she harnesses from deep within. Oh my goodness, maybe you had to be there.

I don’t write much on the blog, but today is the day to do it.  For those of you who know us well, I am so close to my mom that it sometimes terrifies me.  Maybe it terrifies her too. I know how lucky I am to have a mom like her, and parents like mine, and our situation — my situation — has made our link stronger, and sometimes that’s scary.  We both know that there will be a time, hopefully, strangely, where I am well again and we live apart like typical adult mother and daughter, and we will look back on this time with nostalgia. Right now we are  suspended, and we do puzzles together and watch Mad Men and she gives me leg massages, and everything, good or bad, is heightened. Everything makes me cry these days, good things more often than bad — so there’s a lot of appreciating that goes on.  But its also draining, exhausting.  Living in the moment is a good adage, but like anything, there can be too much of it.

My mom is doing everything for me, she has uprooted herself.  My dad is living alone in MA when he is not here, and I know its hard for him in a way I can’t imagine. Andrew is back and forth as well.  Here since December though, non-stop, has been my mom.  She cooks, does the laundry, listens to me, sits with me in the ER, in the hospital…she even feeds Henry homemade food that she makes herself. Here in Pittsburgh, where she knew no one, she has made friends and found interesting things to do, always finding something to be enthusiastic about.  Even writing this now is making me want to be more like her, and I feel even more thankful just putting it into words.

She has somehow found time to write everyday, and has since July 1st, circling the date in red when she is done — she has remarkable follow-through with things.  It has taken me over 2 months to gain 4 pounds, and I WOULD NOT have been able to do it without her.  When you get evaluated for transplant, part of the evaluation is making sure you have a good support system, because it is so vital to how well you do.  This might seem hard to grasp to a healthy person who thinks that ultimately, you can get through anything on your own if you really have to.  I am telling you – haha – you can’t.  You need people, and I wouldn’t be here without her.

I am also aware on a day like today how hard it must be for some people, who have to be painfully reminded each May that they don’t, for whatever reason, have that relationship.  It reminds me again that everybody has some kind of pain, as well as some kind of good in their life, and that none of this is a contest.  As hard as it is being sick and being here, my mostly companion and I are having some laughs.  There’s probably a lot of people out there with great lungs, and no mummy.  Everybody is just trying.

As it usually is when you love someone so much you can’t put it into words, everything I have written here feels inadequate.  But most of you already know what a great mummy she is, I am just here to tell you …that she is even better than that, and that I love her so so so much.

happy mother’s day!


Mother’s Day 2016. My heart.

Author: kittenupdates

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

5 thoughts on “Mother’s day – “Everybody has some kind of….””

  1. This is so beautiful to read now Maryanne.
    Having these words and feelings from Caitlin to read
    (And I suppose hear) , must be so powerful.
    Sending mummy’s day hugs and feelings for you.

  2. I am just starting to read your book and I know there will be moments it will be difficult to breathe, because it completely hits home. My daughter was Mallory Caitlin, and we had the same kind of relationship you are describing with your Caitlin. Mallory had CF and a double lung transplant, which only lasted 18 months. She passed away in 2012, and not a day goes by that I don’t think about and miss her so terribly much. Thank you for sharing your story and that deep soul love the two of you had. It helps to know that someone else truly understands this journey. ❤️

    1. Oh my .. I am so happy you connected, Angela. I am so sorry and yes, I truly understand. It’s horrible and it’s always with us. I would love to connect. x

  3. I just started “Little Matches” last night and am so glad to look forward to reading this in portions over the days ahead. Thanks for opening this window onto Caitlin’s and your family’s experience with CF and so much more. My only son – a beautiful young man in his early 20s – is back home with us for the last 17 months when he was diagnosed with a grade 4 glioblastoma. I deeply appreciate every day we have with him and am grateful for the many different miracles that keep our fierce little family of three together. Life these days is a constant state of grieving balanced with always finding the small and big things that give us joy and make us laugh. Yours is the second book that I’ve read thus far that has really helped me at this insane time…the other is Difficult Gifts by Courtney Burnett.

    Thank you again for sharing your story.

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