May 20 – Ruminations on yesterday’s birthday (bionic text)

The other day, somebody ( I want to say Dani Shapiro ) posted a quote by Renata Adler:

“Self-pity” is just sadness, I think, in the pejorative.”

It was my birthday week, which comes on the heels of Mother’s Day, and those words made me reflect on them. Then yesterday morning – the big day – my phone displayed one of those “memories” first thing: a photo of some of the peonies Caitlin always surprised me with on my birthday. I was home alone and came downstairs, visualizing how she always set up cards and flowers and a gift or two to greet me along the kitchen counter.

It was raining here. The kind of fine spring rain that thickens the air with heavy scents of earth and blossoms and fresh green grass. I had to drive an hour north to pick something up and I got into my car but just sat there, overwhelmed by such missing. I recognized that I was feeling profoundly sorry for myself, but thanks to Adler, I saw my self-pity for what it was profound sadness.

Caitlin is receding into the past and I can‘t tell you how much the fact of that hurts. More and more frequently, I hear people refer to a long time ago” and what they are referencing is that final year, 2016. I always flinch and think, No! It wasn’t a long time ago. She was just here. She is still here, to me.

But I get it. Five years can bring changes that drastically alter one‘s perception of time. Newborns enter the world and become loves of your life. Eight-year-olds turn into high school students looking at colleges.

I turned on the ignition, the music system popped on, and what did my gigantic playlist happen to randomly play? The “unimaginable song” from Hamilton, which they sing after Hamilton’s son Philip dies. I thought. Really???

Sometimes you really need to be alone in your car in the rain, triggered into a big, cathartic cry.

That song was followed, equally randomly, by Joni Mitchell. (Of course). I listened to Carey and realized that so many of the singular words in that song relate to the novel I was writing when we were waiting for the transplant, and which I have decided to return to and finish and which I look forward to dedicating to Caitlin’s memory.

I drove north, feeling better.

As I said to a friend last night, I find that it‘s totally okay to allow the darkness in at times, because I trust that my natural buoyancy and optimism will pop back up like a cork.

London birthday ten years ago.


I am so happy that I managed to write Little Matches. Every time I get a message from a grateful stranger I’m reminded that Caitlin can continue to affect lives for as long as the book circulates in the world. It‘s now out in paperback, which makes it more portable, more affordable, you name it. I’m also happy to share that we changed the subtitle to more accurately reflect the message of the book: Little Matches is a story of resilience, of finding light inside dark.


There are so many people 162, 416 of them, in December of 2016 ! who followed Caitlin’s story in this blog who do not know about Little Matches and would probably like to know about it. If you shared news of Caitlin’s plight then, would you please please share news of Little Matches?


We are in the process of establishing a legacy fund that will honor Caitlin’s desire for a healing garden. Since I have a black thumb, and since her words provide healing comfort to so many, I’m focusing on a garden of words. “Words for wellbeing.” I’m asking people to donate $10 to buy a copy of Little Matches in paperback for an underserved community.

The Legacy fund will be completely transparent and exist solely to fund projects Caitlin would stand for. In the meantime, I have consulted with our legal counsel to accept donations via Venmo.

I’m very excited to embark on this project. And forgive me if you also got news of this through my mailchimp newsletter, but since half of those go into spam, I never know who reads what. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

@Maryanne-Ohara or scan the code: @Maryanne-Ohara or scan the code. Or via mail to Maryanne O’Hara, 150 Staniford Street, 816, Boston, MA 02114

Information will be updated here on the 9LivesNotes “Words for Wellbeing” page.


Sometimes people ask if I want to speak to their groups. Um, yes! I’ve been speaking my heart out, using visually-rich slideshow presentations I created that go over very well with audiences. I have spoken/can speak at any venue in person, if possible, and definitely via Zoom. I’ve given my presentations to Harvard and hospitals, hospice centers and schools, bookstores and libraries, corporations, and at private events like luncheons and book clubs. You can click here to learn more about these talks. I love to be asked, so please ask. Little by little I can spread the word, with your help.



I want to reassure you I don’t take myself too seriously. I do take life seriously, though, I’ll be honest. Because it’s a seriously wild business.”


I used bionic text for this post, if you’re wondering.

Author: kittenupdates

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

6 thoughts on “May 20 – Ruminations on yesterday’s birthday (bionic text)”

  1. You always move me with your words Maryanne that speak from the heart and are filled with love. Caitlin is very much here in all the people who remember her and in all of our hearts. May is a very hard month for me as well. My mom passed away 15 years ago and Mother’s Day her anniversary and her birthday are all in May. Though my memories of her are now happy ones as opposed to earlier when they were mostly of her illness and last 2 years with colon cancer, I still find myself crying unexpectedly at some random thought or memory that pops up. Sending you much love and hugs today and everyday. May your memories of Caitlin sustain you and give you comfort.

  2. A few things: 1) Thank you for sharing about the tough days, they are very relatable. 2) I’m looking forward to your next book! and 3) I had never heard of bionic reading until this post, so I looked it up and wow! So interesting. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

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