March 15 – only Now ֎

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.

Continue reading “March 15 – only Now ֎”

July 16 – Magic Caitlin

It’s a wondrous thing to create a child, send her out into the world, and see what happens. Caitlin’s life influenced many others and over the years, especially the last few, it’s been heartening to learn how. One friend from her high school days is an artist and a few months ago, told me she had begun working on a painting of Caitlin.

Kat David is humble. Last weekend she sent me the painting. “I hope you like it,” she wrote. Like it? It’s magnificent. I was so enthralled that I decided it needed an unveiling, so this post is the official unveiling of MAGIC CAITLIN.

Magic Caitlin by KAT DAVID

Kat wrote: I am so glad you like it ❣️ The dandelion is supposed to be how her energy traveled and impacted so many people. The animals staring directly at the viewer are meant to convey some of her intensity. I tried to hide stuff throughout. The hearts were for your husband and his creative work and the book was how you and she share a love of writing and deeper meaning. I’m often reluctant to tell people what something I make means since I want people to see what is significant for them, like I want it to be subjective to the viewer. But in this case, I want you two to know there was deliberate meaning. Your family has magic so I wanted that to be shown. The book – the hearts and Caitlin are connected through touch and contact.

I had to ask Kat to please sign it (! – I said she was humble) and I also asked how she did it, because I knew people would be curious. She writes: Yes, it’s a digital painting. I made it using the procreate app on iPad. I use mostly oil painting brush packs and pastels. Some pencil brush packs.

To see more of her amazing work captured in-process, click here: Drawing a Shiny Pitcher


In other news, the amazing Jess is home taking the Global Health Delivery Intensive program at Harvard’s school of public health, and then scoots back to Kenya where she is overseeing the drilling of a borehole to provide the Nanyuki community with fresh water, and to begin construction on The Caitlin O’Hara Community Health Clinic.

Katie is home from Spain for the summer. Her translation career is exploding and her newest, a gorgeous novel by Javier Serena about a fictionalized Roberto Bolaño–esque writer, just received a Publisher’s Weekly starred review. The book is LAST WORDS ON EARTH, coming in September from OPEN LETTER Books.

Sinead got married yesterday and I’m heartbroken we had to cancel our trip but the quarantine rules are still strict – 12 days in a state-mandated fleabag hotel. I won’t publish any photos because I’m sure she wants to be first. Follow her on Instagram: sineaddehora

I saw Andrew in Maine a few weeks ago and it was a wonderful visit.

Medicine Needs Memoir – Our first talk is open to the public and is – surprise – on Caitlin’s birthday. Saturday, July 31 at 5:30ET

With Diane Shader Smith, speaking on behalf of her daughter Mallory Smith, author of SALT IN MY SOUL: An Unfinished Life, and David Weill, MD, author of EXHALE: Hope, Healing, and a Life in Transplant.

Anyone can attend. Click here to sign up: Register


I’ve been getting a lot of wonderful notes from people and they come as instant messages, direct messages on all different platforms, and emails (I have way too many email addresses) – I’ve tried to respond to all but I fear I’ve missed some. My apologies if I have. Getting feedback means the world to me. I’m grateful for every word.


My writer friends and I laugh about the fact that the general public seems to think that once a book is published, it’s a bestseller. I can assure you this is not true. If you’ve been meaning to order LITTLE MATCHES or gift a copy to someone, please be my guest. This book can have a long life but we live in a noisy world and this book needs word-of-mouth. THANK YOU.

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.

MAY 3 – One spark at a time

I asked some of Caitlin’s friends if they would want to write up a little something that I could put on my website. Here, Kenley describes Caitlin as only a lifelong best friend from childhood can.

Someone recently asked me how I thought Caitlin might feel about Little Matches being out in the world. I know how she would feel. Her face on a few thousand book covers? Her picture in a few million copies of People Magazine? The girl who wore short skirts to chapel would love all that, for sure. Even more, the soulful Caitlin would love the fact that I’m hearing from people who’ve “stayed up all night reading it” and who are feeling comforted and better about life because of it. It is my dearest wish that Little Matches will inspire readers to think deeply about life and purpose and what’s really important at the end of the day, and it seems it is doing just that.

Hundreds of new books flood this noisy world every Tuesday and Little Matches has been out for two weeks now. People Magazine is wonderful and I’m grateful for it, but a new issue will replace it any day. I REALLY need to spread the word about this book, so I’d be incredibly grateful if everyone who reads this post shared it with at least one other person who might benefit from reading Little Matches.

Events are still virtual and I’m happy to be able to do them, but it is strange to have no idea who is out there, and then to be sitting alone at my desk when they are done. Thanks to all who’ve tuned in so far, and let me know that they did. I will be talking with Jessica Keener at Belmont Books on Thursday night at 7pmET. Click right here to register and join us.

Here are the links to current articles – People mag, TIME mag, and LitHub

People Magazine Book of the Week, May 3, is Little Matches

TIME Magazine article I wrote about legacy work

The Salvific Power of Writing Through Terrible Grief – written by me for LitHub



No donation is too small to help Jess build The Caitlin O’Hara Community Health Clinic in Kenya. She now has 501c3 status and has partnered with Build Health International to design the clinic. She has purchased land adjacent to the current community resource center, conducted topography reports and structural engineering assessments and will break ground this month. Boston Children’s Hospital, Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Harvard have signed on as strategic partners.

As a thank-you,I would love to send a bookplate that is signed by me and stamped with Caitlin’s “kitten” signature to anyone who would like to make a donation to this incredibly worthy cause. (You can email me at


The archival quality bookplate – goes anywhere you like inside the book


Three years ago right now I was in Italy at a literary workshop. I had 25 pages of Little Matches written but I still I had no idea whether it would ever become a book. When I arrived home, I resumed my practice of setting a timer every day and sitting down to write “no matter what.” I aimed for a chapter a week, and sent the pages to my friend, the writer Susan Conley, every Monday. I needed to feel like somebody was expecting those pages, and I’m grateful to Susan and to two other close friends, Jane and Monique, for steadily urging me on.

And now it’s complete! In four short weeks, it will be out in the world.


All events are currently still virtual. It means I can’t see you in person, but it also means you can see me from the comfort of your own home, and we can be connected no matter where we are.

My first event will be at Brookline Booksmith in Massachusetts. I did quite a few CASCADE events there, and nothing would make me happier than to talk about this book, for the first official time, with loved ones surrounding me and pizza at Otto afterward, but I am also so grateful that the virtual option exists.

I am excited to talk about Caitlin and this book, and how much I hope it will inspire people to love deeply, live purposefully, and seek joy. My conversation partner is going to be an old friend, the absolutely stunning writer and wonderful human, Lily King. Lily and I had a long, outdoor walk this past December and talked about how people, after they are gone, can actually start to feel near again in a wonderful way that you never expected.

I have a small request. I would LOVE it if attending guests would light themselves a little candle 🕯 in honor of Caitlin, their own loved ones, and in honor of themselves. I won’t be able to see you all out there, but if I can imagine your faces shining amidst all that light, I think we can conjure a beautiful, virtual community for one precious hour.

The event is free but you must register to get the Zoom link. Click here: Zoom link for Booksmith



Because I will be doing most of my book talks with conversation partners – wonderful writers who are generously giving me their time – we will not be following any set script. Each talk will be unique and wonderful and I hope new readers will hear about them and attend.

All of my events are/will be listed on my website and we will keep it up-to-date. I will also write another post soon, with updates.


A head’s up that I’m going to be offering some mini-workshops at some bookstores around the country. Recently, I trained as a certified end-of-life doula at the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine. I knew that the training would a) better prepare me for the hospice volunteering I plan to do when Covid restrictions lift, 2) help me to better speak to the state of end-of-life care in our culture.

My favorite part of the doula training was legacy work – helping people record life interviews. Life interviews offer an opportunity for people to reflect on their lives and shape their stories, regardless of age or current health.

I believe in the idea that everyone has a story that deserves to be preserved, and have written a brief article about life interviews and the opportunities that I missed with my daughter and my mother. It will run in Time Magazine in early April.

So far, we’ve set up three of these free, one-hour workshops with bookstores in California, Washington state, and Florida, but because they are virtual, anyone anywhere can certainly attend. They are/will be listed on my website with registration links. So far it’s Warwick’s in LaJolla, Books and Books in Miami, and Elliot Bay Books in Seattle.


I’ve been wanting to write another “signs” post for a long time but I’ve been so busy writing other things, I haven’t had a chance. As always there are constant 33s and hawks in our lives, but some of the instances have been particularly fascinating. Here’s one thing that I’ve been meaning to share since last summer.
As I wrote here, my mom passed in June. Earlier that year, I was helping to take care of her after she had begun to fail.  I knew that she had a lifelong fear of death and even though she was clearly not long for this world, she clung to a hope that she would miraculously get better and live another ten years. With my mother and me, if a subject was uncomfortable, it was not discussed, but as I was helping her into bed one night, I mustered up my courage. I said, “I know you’re scared but it’s going to be okay.” And I said what I believed to be most true: “I KNOW there’s more than this. You’ll see!  I’m actually envious. You’re going to see Caitlin.”

She did not comment, just looked at me steadily, processing what I’d said.

Two months after her passing, I had a session with Kristin Bredimus, a spiritual consultant with a toolkit full of abilities, whose energy work is so powerful that I stumble off her table like I’ve had a two-hour deep-tissue massage. As Kristin was passing her hands through the air above the left side of my body, I heard her ask something about “mother.” We were both masked and she had a shield on; she had to speak up.

There was mother energy wanting to present itself, she said. “Has your mother passed?”  

“She has,” I said. “Very recently.”

“She’s saying, ‘You were right. You were right.’”


“Yes. Did you two have an argument about something?”

We had not, I said. And I told her what I thought it meant.

After the session, I got in my car and began to drive away. A car pulled out of a side street, right in front of me, and right in front of Kristin’s building.

333 Hi. Hiya, Kitten

And as I was writing this post, I had to do a search on my phone to find the pic of the license plate. You really can’t make this stuff up.

Oh and this just popped up this morning in “Facebook Memories.” I’ll add it for the pleasure of all who are longing to travel again. Sigh.

SEPTEMBER 18 — Matches struck in the dark

Update needed, as Caitlin would say.

Three years ago today, on the 9-month anniversary of her lung transplant, during a walk around Walden Pond, I decided to start writing what I called “the Caitlin book.” I wasn’t even sure what kind of book it would be, or if I could manage to write it, but it seemed a worthy goal, and I had no idea what else to do with myself besides lay down and die.

I wrote ploddingly, like a zombie at first, and then as if in a fever. It took two years. I was fortunate in that it found a very good home, very quickly, last fall, with HarperOne, a visionary and soulful house tucked inside the busy and sometimes spirit-crushing world that is New York publishing.

Today, three years later, I can announce that the book is well into production, with a cover and beautifully designed pages. It is now a book that can exist in this world without me, and there’s a very large measure of relief in that.

People have been asking when they can pre-order and there are two answers: right now and thank you. Pre-orders help books so much, you may have no idea, but it’s the age-old story: the more interest there is in something, the more interest there is in something, and the more popular and supported that something becomes. I do believe that this book is very worthy of support, so thank you for pre-ordering, and sharing this page with others, and gifting it, and talking about it.

The book is about my search for revelation and meaning, for answers to the big life questions: Where is she? Is she?  Is there more to life than this life? Does consciousness survive death? Does my existence have any real purpose? Does anyone’s?

I wrote it, but some of it almost feels divinely downloaded. And Caitlin’s old-soul wisdom permeates the entire book, of course.

People ask about the title. LITTLE MATCHES is a riff on a few lines from a favorite book of mine. Those two little words —”little matches”—represent all that the book is to me, and what I hope it will be for others.

Part 3 

Chapter III

“What is the meaning of life? That was all — a simple question; one that tended to close in on one with years. The great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead, there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark; here was one.”

Virginia Woolf, To the lighthouse

When you write a book, you also end up writing a little script whereby you distill its essence so that you can talk about it at events and such. Here’s what I wrote for the preface and what I know I will say over and over and it will always be a truth: I am not the first person to have lost what was most important to me. Humans lose every day, and lose hard: children, beloveds, sacred homelands, freedoms. LITTLE MATCHES is for anyone who loses hard and asks, Now what?

♥️ Thank you.

Pre-Order Links to Receive Your Copy on Pub Day:

SEPTEMBER 18 — ✨Signs✨


Over the course of writing my book these past two years, I asked the question that a lot of grieving people ask: “Does consciousness survive death?”  It’s a question with no definitive answers, but what has really stood out to me is just how much research has been done by people of science.

One book that impressed me was “Surviving Death,” by investigative journalist Leslie Kean, a book that is dense with in-depth examinations of claims of various phenomena and includes 400 end-notes. Leslie also wrote the New York Times bestseller, “UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record.” (Earlier this summer, you might have read that New York Times story about navy pilots and their observations of flying phenomena they could not identify. Leslie was one of the co-authors of the article.)

This past summer, I was working on final revisions of my book. One late night in June, I sent a little prayer into the universe before I closed my eyes. “Caitlin/ guides/ whoever” I said, “if you’re really out there, please send me a sign that I’m on the right path with this book.”

In the morning, I checked my email and this was the first thing I saw.


I didn’t remember signing up to receive notifications from Laura Lynne Jackson, and had never before received one, but I knew who she was–a certified, highly respected medium who is so in-demand that she closed her waiting list once it became years long.

I’d read Laura Lynne’s first book, an autobiography called “The Light Between Us,” and found it to be well-written, intelligent, enlightening, and comforting. Now she had a new book out called “Signs.”

I went down an internet rabbit hole that week, and saw that both Leslie and Laura were going to be part of a panel exploring the science of consciousness and the afterlife at the Omega Institute in upstate NY in September.

Screen Shot 2019-09-13 at 11.53.09 AM.png

The panel piqued my interest. It would include two scientists I’d read about: Julie Beischel, Ph.D, and Mark Boccuzzi–a husband-and-wife team who run The Windbridge Research Center in Tucson.

Screen Shot 2019-09-16 at 5.47.37 PM.png

When I eventually publish my Caitlin book and speak to its many themes, one topic I want to address is the current state of research in the field of after-death studies.

So I registered for the three-day Omega conference, which occurred over this past weekend.

Friday was a gorgeous late summer day and I really didn’t feel like leaving home. I’d recently been to some very disappointing events, and I really hoped this was going to be worth my time. As I drove west on the turnpike, I decided to talk to the universe again. “I really want this panel to be useful,” I said. “I want it to help me be able to spread some of the messages in my book. Spirit guides, Caitlin–if you’re really out there, please be in Rhinebeck with me.”

After a little while, I saw that a ten-wheeler up ahead of me had a big image of a bear on it. As I passed it, I saw that it was a logo for a company called Brown Bear Moving Company, which I’d never heard of.

Huh, I thought. I’d once been told my spirit animal was a brown bear and even though I have no idea if spirit animals really exist, the idea of the bear always felt right. Caitlin had even needle-felted me a little brown bear in 2014, who sits, always, on my desk. I am looking at him as I write. He’s my little mascot.


About an hour later, I pulled into a rest stop out in western Mass. When I came outside, I stopped short. The truck was parked, long-ways, right in front of my eyes.

Screen Shot 2019-09-17 at 7.52.36 AM.png

Okay… Maybe it was a sign, a good one.

When I arrived at Omega, I parked my little car which I call my snazzmobile, and which looked ridiculously snazzy in that rustic environment. I also had an embarrassing amount of luggage for two nights (But it was supposed to rain on Saturday! And my cabin was in the woods and would probably get cold at night! And I am currently taking a class and might have needed my computer and books! And I’d read that their linens left a lot to be desired so I’d hauled my own!)

I checked in and made my way to my little cabin, past smiling, relaxed, natural-looking folk. A young woman with flowers in her hair and around her neck. A man on a porch playing a guitar and singing.

I felt out of place and texted a friend. “I don’t fit in anywhere,” I wrote.

She wrote back: “You don’t have to!”

So simple, but revelatory. I don’t have to fit into any neat slot. I never have.

✨ The Panel

LLJ, Leslie Kean, Dr. Beischel, Mark Boccuzzi

The panel met over three days and was as informative and well-run as I’d hoped it would be. Not one moment dragged. The Windbridge people talked about the challenges of working as scientists in a field that lacks regulation and about their efforts to run lab studies with repeatable results, to publish in peer-reviewed journals. They emphasized that their aim is to “reach the people who would approach through an intellectual door.”

They spoke of the complications of proving theories of consciousness–materialist, brain-focused versus non-local theories. They reviewed evidence for survival of consciousness obtained from remote viewing research. They pointed out that part of the problem of testing, which their experiments must account for, is the existence of psi capabilities (as in perhaps a medium is telepathically obtaining information from a living person or other source as opposed to from a discarnate).

What was clear is that many many people have experienced unexplainable phenomenons. “There is a whole suppressed world out there,” Dr. Beischel pointed out. “People with experiences they feel they can’t talk about.”

Leslie Kean spoke in detail about children with provable memories of former lives (which the University of Virginia has been studying for decades), after-death communication experiences, and mediumship readings.

Julie and Mark described how they developed a protocol to test mediums through a five-fold blind process.

And Laura Lynne Jackson was there. It was clear that since her newest book hit the New York Times bestseller list this summer, a lot of people were there for her. She explained that she rarely does group (gallery) readings, and only does three private readings a week, because for her, doing a reading is like taking the LSAT and running a 5K on the same day.  Mark pointed out that she would not be giving any private readings but at the end of the session on Saturday, she would do a gallery reading for one hour, and on Sunday would lead a guided meditation for all.

As far as mediums go, since Caitlin’s passing, in addition to the signs that come to me nearly every single day, to the point of comedy, I’ve had a couple of experiences with mediums that were powerful and remarkable (Karissa Eve D. & Sirry Berndsen). I also happen to have someone in my own family, Caitlin’s Irish cousin Sinead, who has clairsentient abilities and has exhibited them since she was a child. I am fortunate to be able to know, for sure, that such people exist, even if I can’t explain it.

I have also come to believe that, like all things human, some mediums are really really good at what they do. Others wish they were so good. And some don’t even try. They cheat. No question, there are frauds out there. There are people on YouTube who will gleefully explain how they have duped people. A recent New York Times article examined a teams of professional skeptics who debunk the fake psychics and mediums they call “grief vampires.”

But to date, two institutions in the United States have laid out protocols for blind-testing people who identify as psychic mediums: Windbridge and an organization called Forever Family Foundation, a non-profit organization “whose aim is to further the understanding of Afterlife Science through research and education while providing support and healing for people in grief.” From the Windbridge site:

Screen Shot 2019-09-16 at 5.58.35 PM

Laura Lynne Jackson is one of the few mediums on those lists. In fact, she’s on both lists. She has donated a lot of time to grieving families via the Forever Family Foundation.

My gut sense told me that Caitlin would never come through a group, gallery-style reading, for two reasons. 1) Caitlin was essentially pretty private  2) She would be all about letting someone who might be more in need get one.

Plus there were 80 people there and they all wanted a reading.

But as the weekend progressed, even though I knew it was unlikely that I would get a reading, I increasingly really wanted one. On Saturday it was raining and as I looked out at the leaves, dripping with dismal rain, I thought, Caitlin, you need to come through and validate this book for me. Just this once. After all, I’m grieving as much as anyone.

Saturday, 4pm, arrived. Time for the gallery reading. Laura Lynne began to speak. She is intelligent and very well-spoken, a former longtime high school English teacher who is comfortable and in control in front of a group, emitting an energy that is focused and warm at once.

First she spent about 15 minutes describing how she worked–explaining that she has no control over who comes through and that when she’s pulled in one direction, it’s not a mistake, it’s not meant for someone on the other side of the room. She emphasized that  if a person didn’t get a reading, it didn’t mean that his people didn’t love him, or weren’t there. She said we are all capable of communicating on our own, if we are open to it—she was adamant about that, and explained that she would share some techniques to do so the next day.

Finally she began, and did a very good reading for one attendee, which took about 15 minutes. Then she went to the very back of the room and spent another 15 minutes doing another powerful reading. Both were obviously very healing for the people involved.

It was now twenty minutes to the hour’s end and the idea of me getting a reading was now really a long shot.

But I did.

She turned and walked down the center aisle, her arms outstretched, hands clasped, fingers pointing in my direction. She said it was someone’s child, female, she was being shown a crab, that might mean Maryland?  I shrugged. It might have been me, it might have been the woman behind me who had also tentatively raised a hand. Then she said, “SpongeBob?” and I started to laugh. SpongeBob was a very big long-time joke between Caitlin and me, ever since we saw Bob l’eponge movie posters all over Paris in 2004.

Laura says she “sees” on screens inside her mind and although she was looking at me, her eyes were focused inward. Then she came around and stood in front of me.

We weren’t allowed to tape the gallery hour, for obvious privacy reasons, but two very kind strangers took notes for me during my reading.What they and others remarked on, later, was how Laura’s manner transformed, and in an astonishing way.

“Did that seem like your daughter?” one woman asked. “Because her whole manner changed!”

“I felt like I saw your daughter, like now I know what she was like, how wonderful she was,” another woman said.

Laura did seem to embody Caitlin. The feisty, funny, “okay, I’m here to take charge” Caitlin.  In fact, as Laura relayed information to me, she used the same mannerisms and way of speaking that the other medium, Karissa, uses when “Caitlin comes through.”

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✨ The Reading

Here are a few of the things Laura Lynne said:

She’s very very intelligent. Very high level. Classy. Impeccable manners. Very high level. And this is not bragging.

She has a deep appreciation for art.

She speaks 3 languages.

There’s someone with her… very old. A family member. An LN name? (I say that Caitlin’s grandmother Ellen, nicknamed Eileen, just passed in August.)

You’re brave. She’s watching you. You are challenging yourself to be open. You’re opening your heart and mind but you’re a critical thinker. You’re analyzing all this–she knows this medium thing is out of your realm.

She would not normally come through in a group like this. And she’s saying she does not need Laura to come through to you. She’s doing Laura a favor by coming through. (Laura laughs.) You can do this yourself yourself, you know. You’re a medium.

This will all be known. You will write about it. You’re here to get her message out.

You have a plan. Something will come from this. Something you’re working on.

You will be interviewed on TV. There’s more to come with this.

She’s interested in poetry, literature.

She has 2 degrees? (She had plans to study for a master’s, I say.)

Well she’s done it on the other side. We all have jobs on the other side.

She’s thanking you for taking care of her. She had an illness. A progression. Does this make sense?

I love you. This is not goodbye. Your soul taught her soul a lesson. (Laura’s eyes well up at this point, and she says she does not usually cry.) She did suffer at the end and you might ask why did she have to suffer? But at the end, she let go of her pain. There was beauty at the end. You taught her a lesson of unconditional love. And that took so much strength.

Okay, she’s saying she’s done now, and there’s someone she wants to thank.. a J name. And again, she is saying I’m lucky she came through.

At this point, Laura sort of strutted toward the podium. “And now she’s doing a mic drop.”

Laura mimicked the mic drop and everyone laughed.

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A funny thing is, I have an emoji Caitlin made of herself doing a mic drop. I even used it on this blog once.



That was really good. Felt good. It was now five o’clock and as I walked back to my cabin, talking to another woman, we encountered a groundhog. Right by our cabins. Not even budging when we got close. I started to laugh. “Groundhogs are very significant in our family,” I said. “I’ve never been so close to one. This must be a sign?”

The groundhog stayed right there, at our feet.


Later, I ran into Laura at the bookstore. I didn’t want to be one of those people who crowds her but I did say, in passing, “Thank you again, that was great.”

She said, “Can I give you a hug?” She hugged me and said, “Your daughter’s on a mission. She’s got big energy.”

That’s what I keep hearing.

✨ Notes:

There are 26 mediums listed on the Forever Family Foundation website. There are 17 on the Windbridge site.

Certification takes resources that are in short supply, and neither organization is currently testing mediums, so although not being certified does not mean that a medium is not legit, do your research if you book a reading somewhere.

You may be tempted to not use your real name (and I had suggested this in an earlier version of this post), but the good mediums recommend that you do use your real first name–no last name needed–because it can distract them when there’s a nagging sense that this has happened. Sinead has said this same thing–that she just needs a first name.

Also, be sure to use an email address that, while certainly can be non-identifiable, is one you check regularly so they can contact you if there’s a schedule change. That way, you can  keep the reading as blind as possible and help to allay your doubts or skepticism.

Also, Skyping and phone calls work as well, and often better, than real life. Laura Lynne says that she prefers to do readings on the phone with her eyes closed.

✨ Old emails from Caitlin:

8/13/2014 – Subject: Definitely worth the money 

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11/19/2014 – Subject: All I want for Christmas is this 

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Her scrapbook from that Paris trip:


AUGUST 1 — Birthday Days ❤️

When I was pregnant and my baby was due mid-summer, I wanted a July baby. July seemed to be a vibrant month: warm, lush, expectant! August seemed so enervating–I associated it with long, bored days of childhood, when all I seemed to do was lie about on stiff, dried-out grass, listening to the drone of insects and distant lawnmowers.

I spent every minute of July 30 in labor and when Caitlin was born an hour after midnight, I sang that old ditty to myself: “30 days hath September, June, July and November,” and thought, “Darn. August 1.”

It wasn’t until well into the afternoon, when a hospital administrator brought in the birth certificate, that I realized we were still inside of July and that I had my song and calendar all wrong.

I was delighted. It was like being given a gift. The gift of an extra day.

Forever after, for me, the days around July 31st swam together and became Caitlin’s birthday days.

This year, I spent much of the 30th organizing bookshelves and found a little gift inside a book from long ago. 

caitlin i love you


Yesterday, I felt pushed to write a post but I also felt too lethargic and sad and also happy to receive so many messages that made me smile. The birthday memories, at least, are all happy as opposed to that other anniversary which I will dread for the rest of my life.

Today seemed like the best day to do a post. So here I am.

As for updates, 

I know I said I finished the book months ago, and I did, but “finished” means I finished writing it, not revising and perfecting, which is quite necessary and something I’ve been doing all spring and summer. I am now getting to the end of the entire process, nearly two years after I made the decision to start.

I’m eager for you all to read it and hope you will find it engaging and uplifting.

Also, Nick and I want to thank everyone who came to the event we hosted on July 10 for Mallory Smith’s SALT IN MY SOUL: AN UNFINISHED LIFE.

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“Live Happy” Hour, in honor of Mallory Smith

Mallory’s mother, Diane Shader Smith, spoke with her trademark quiet intensity and passion about Mallory’s bright, positive spirit, and about her enduring legacy. Diane and her husband Mark say thank you to all who attended.

Maryanne, Diane

We sold out of the 120 books that Dick Haley, our Boston bookseller brought, and could have easily sold more.

Since the event, so many people have reached out to me to say how stunned they are by Mallory’s writing, and by the power of of her hard, beautiful story. It also provides insight, they say, into what life was like for us. I can attest to that..

Jess spoke too, about the progress she’s made with The Leo Project in Honor of Caitlin O’Hara, which the Smiths generously designated as the benefactor of their generosity that night.

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Jess Danforth, The Leo Project

Then it was on to the Vineyard…

On July 17, artist Kara Taylor and actress Amy Brenneman hosted a fundraiser for The Leo Project at Kara’s art gallery. It was a night of art and African drums and overwhelming island generosity.

Kara Taylor’s gorgeous island spot

Jess and her Leo Project film

Amy, Kara, Jess and that’s me off to the left.

Jess’s talks are emotional and inspiring. She makes it clear that her project is not just about her, or Caitlin, or even Africa.  The Leo Project is more universal than that. It is about love and life and friendship and finding what speaks to your soul and pursuing it. It is about honoring a beloved friend, and about bettering the life of even one person, if you can. The Leo Project is about every participant becoming a more purposeful human.

Thanks to all who honor Caitlin during her birthday days — with kindness, humor, generosity, wisdom, tolerance, empathy. ❤️

Kitten on Nantucket, a few years ago…

“I have always believed in goodness and I know a lot of people say that, but it does feel undeniably essential, and I don’t question it.”  –Caitlin, July 31, 1983

MAY 22 — Housekeeping


The New York Times just published an article about experimental phage therapy and Mallory Smith’s SALT IN MY SOUL. It is bittersweet, indeed, to know that phage therapy, administered early enough, might have done so much to prevent Mallory and Caitlin and and others from even needing transplants, but other people are already benefiting from the Smith family’s ideas and persistence.  In a small world coincidence, the NY Times author is an old grad school colleague of mine. She’s a terrific writer with a new memoir out and it’s quite the story:  DUPED: Double Lives, False Identities, and the Con Man I Almost Married.

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We are hosting a “Live Happy” book event for SALT IN MY SOUL on Wednesday, July 10 at 6:30 pm, for one hour, in Framingham. Mallory’s mother, Diane Shader Smith, will share some of Mallory’s insights for “living happy” regardless of circumstance. In a generous act, the Smiths will donate the profits from the evening’s book sales to The Leo Project in Honor of Caitlin O’Hara. I’ve attempted to invite everyone I think might want to come, but if I’ve missed you, click on the link and register or message me for details.



Construction of the resource center that will house The Leo Project is nearly done. Roof-raising is happening right this minute. Jess returns to Kenya in a couple of weeks to start work on the interior.



Here are two official Boston Marathon photos of Jess and Andrew, capturing Jess as she bounded into the race to run the last mile and a half with Andrew, and then both of them crossing the Finish Line. Andrew raised $13,492 for the Leo Project. Thank you to all you caring and generous souls who made that happen. ❤

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And here’s a cute picture of Caitlin and Henry (and James Joyce) because….why not?  😀



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APRIL 16–Salt, Sweat, Pittsburgh

Today, Nick and I are on our way to………Pittsburgh. Yes.

But first, yesterday.

Yesterday, Jess, Nick and I had grandstand viewing passes at the Boston Marathon Finish Line. We cheered the finishers along with a mother and her two adult daughters–BAA volunteers–who fell in love with Jess. When Jess said she wanted to try to run the last mile with Andrew, whose progress we were tracking, they wished her luck.

Andrew in Ashland

A mile from the finish line, Jess somehow managed to talk the policemen into letting her  through the security barrier and she burst onto the course as Andrew approached. BAA course pictures show her exuberance, and they were both all smiles as Andrew crossed the finish line.

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That was Andrew’s first marathon and he completed it in great time despite a recurring quad problem that hit him around mile 18 and which he needed to pop in and out of med tents to treat.

We are so proud of him!!! As of today his run has raised $13,387 for The Leo Project in Honor of Caitlin O’Hara. Construction of Jess’s resource center for kids is coming along right on schedule:


Wonderful and emotional.

It’s been an emotional few days.

This past Thursday, Mallory Smith’s mother Diane spoke at Grand Rounds at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Her slideshow presentation on Mallory’s posthumous memoir, Salt in My Soul, An Unfinished Life, was brilliant and highlighted many of Mallory’s key insights about how medical professionals might improve patient care.

After age 18, Caitlin was always hospitalized at the Brigham. Before she became sick enough to need a transplant, I volunteered once a week there. I know that hospital very well and as I walked into the main lobby, it truly felt like I had JUST BEEN THERE.

Yet 5 years had passed. How? How does time mess with your head so much?  It’s been 5 years since Caitlin was actively listed for transplant and that fact makes my head spin.

Life disappeared right in front of our eyes.

I felt quite fragile and so visited the little chapel for a bit, then walked down to the amphitheater for the talk. Nick and Jess had not yet arrived. In came Ahmet Uluer, Caitlin’s beloved and longtime Boston CF doctor. It was hard but good to see him.

Here we all are in the audience. Ahmet is talking to Diane, Nick behind him. Jess. Me.


Diane left Boston for Pittsburgh, for more speaking sessions. She is still there,  and tonight our friends Mary and Ralph will host an event for Mallory’s book.

At first we didn’t think we would go. I, especially, wasn’t sure I was ready to be in that place again. But Mary reminded us of all the good that still remains in that city for us. She reminded us that so many people care about us. Jim Stanley, the driver who recorded The Sound of Silence for us, will pick us up.

So. We are off to see what awaits us. And Nick and I will be hosting an event ourselves for Mallory’s book, on July 10, and many of you will be there and this is how life goes on.


For those who love the little signs ♥💛

Pre-race dinner


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