Recently, I had the uncanny experience of sending a friend of Caitlin’s a rare gift – a baby present that Caitlin had purchased in Bruges in 2011, in the event that this friend ever had a little boy. Mieke recently gave birth to a son and what a pleasure, to send that tiny Dutch knitted hat.
I’ve also found a few letters Caitlin addressed but never mailed, and to stamp and send them was like watching my hand reach through the veil.
The veil. A big part of my brain can’t accept that Caitlin was gone 5 years in December. The rest of it takes comfort in the bigger perspective. “There exists only the present instant… a Now which always and without end is itself new. There is no yesterday nor any tomorrow, but only Now, as it was a thousand years ago and as it will be a thousand years hence.” —Meister Eckhart
Finding Light in the Dark
So many people I speak with are struggling with fatigue and worry and despair right now, me included. But the days I give a talk are joyous, uplifting for me and for the audience. Little Matches: Finding Light in the Dark is a visually-rich narrative that I share via Webinar or Zoom. I have given this presentation to all kinds of groups, from a small hospice program in California to a class of pre-med students, to a ladies’ lunch, and to a large healthcare network of over 300 people in Pennsylvania.
I will next be giving it to a small group at Harvard Medical School’s Countway Library as part of their Author Series next Tuesday, March 22, at 5:30 pm ET. My goal for this talk is to inspire and uplift its listeners and I invite you to attend. Link to register. I’m also grateful for invitations to speak, suggestions, recommendations, you name it. I want to talk about Caitlin and these topics forever.
Click to register: https://libcal.countway.harvard.edu/event/8745140
We spent Christmas in Kenya
What better place to honor the 5th anniversary? We spent the month of December there and it was magnificent. MAGNIFICENT. I felt myself to be in a permanent state of meditation and I really did not want to come home. The United States and all of the plugged-in drama felt insane and irrelevant and very far away. I saw one TV while I was there, in a tiny airport, and no one was paying any attention to it.
We sailed on a dhow off the island of Lamu; we camped and explored the Maasai Mara. Saw nearly every kind of animal – lion cubs and nursing elephants and hippos and crocodiles and a hyena carrying its newborn baby in its mouth. The Mara is a vast conservancy, our camp an hour from the tiny airstrip where we landed. An hour and a half north, in the beauty of the Lewa Conservancy, I recovered from a mild case of Covid (caught in Amsterdam, not Kenya), which almost seemed a blessing because it slowed me down even more than I already was. Lewa was so restorative that it felt like Caitlin had a hand in making sure I discovered I was sick in a place where I was treated with great care.
THE LEO PROJECT
We arrived at THE LEO PROJECT on December 20. The actual day. It was emotional and wonderful and I couldn’t stop tearing up. Caitlin hoped to get a Master of Public Health after transplant – and now she kind of has, thanks to Jess. The Leo Project itself is thriving and expanding and the Caitlin O’Hara Community Health Clinic will open its doors in late spring.
Caitlin hoped to study for a Master of Public Health after transplant. Somewhere, she is beaming.
Jess has done so much. In addition to creating The Leo Project and building the health clinic, she has partnered with Well Aware, a nonprofit that implements life-saving water system, to drill a bore hole and create a water system that their community can use to access free water. She also was just accepted to Harvard’s Master of Public Health program. All this while she flies back to the states, every 12 weeks, to check in with her oncology team. Jess is an earth angel.
The night after we arrived, I was the speaker at a monthly “Youth Cafe” that she initiated to help young adults talk about what’s hard to talk about. For perspective: Little Matches came out in April and I’ve done about 60 events. Only THREE have been in person and there is NOTHING like speaking in person. It was exhilarating.
We experienced so much joy at LEO, getting to know the community, and getting to spend so much time – and Christmas! – with Jess. There were many signs. There were many laughs. Caitlin really wanted to go to Kenya after transplant. She was there.
There’s so much that’s not healthy about our modern, plugged-in world, but I am always grateful for the magic of it. The ability to fly across the planet, the ability to press a button and send help to people who need it.
I can’t tell you how great it is to find an old text chat and relive, as if in real time, a conversation that, if not recorded, would have been long forgotten, like this snippet, a message inside eternity:
June 9, 2010
Maryanne: they found a 5500 year old shoe in Armenia!
Maryanne: stuffed with grass
Maryanne: buried, and the leather was still soft
Maryanne: it fit a right foot
Caitlin: send me that!
I realize that people now rarely check to see if I’ve posted, since I do not do so regularly. And a ton of people do not subscribe so won’t see this unless you share, which I’d love for you to do. Thank you.