APRIL 20–Speak to Me in Joni

Somebody somewhere recently posted a meme I agree with:  Belief + Doubt = Sanity.

That said, I’m just going to relay what happened.

Previously, I’ve talked about the fact that three of us saw a couple of well-regarded mediums and that Caitlin ‘came through’ with details that no one could possibly know.

Here is a small part of the transcribed recording of my session. K is the medium:

K: She keeps also showing me that she’s very music-oriented. She’s saying, “I’m trying to send my mom music but she didn’t always like the same things that I listened to.” But she’s very music-oriented and she’s wanting to bring through speaking to you through music as well. She’s saying, “Just keep paying attention.”

K: Now, going back in time, she makes me feel like you love–I feel like there’s shared undertones of music that she grew up with with you. Did you listen to Joni Mitchell?    She keeps saying, “Listen to Joni Mitchell.”

Me:  Joni Mitchell??? (I was like, what???)

K: Yeah. Or something of this era, maybe?

Me: She loved Joni Mitchell. Loved her.

K: She’s saying, “Let me speak to you in Joni.” (laughs) “When you put this music on,” that’s what she’s talking about, when you want that experience, it’s like you have these express pathways to her, when you put that music on, you read her stuff, it’s like the sense of feeling her essence come to you, okay. She’s saying, “Mom, it’s more important than any words anyone’s going to say to you.” It’s the essence of her soul just being connected to you.

So that was in February. And we’ve been traveling and I haven’t listed to a whole lot of music. But last week, some of Caitlin’s close, local friends came to dinner here. Instead of my usual Pandora jazz stations that I put on for dinner gatherings, I decided to create a Joni Mitchell station. As I cooked, I noticed that it was playing no Joni, and that the songs it was playing seemed ridiculously message-like. I started jotting down the titles.

Spirit in the Sky, Norman Greenbaum.

Let’s Live for Today, The Grass Roots.

Turn, Turn, Turn, The Byrds (To everything/there is a season).

Stairway to Heaven, Led Zeppelin. (Aside from the obvious, we used to laugh with horror because a volunteer harpist who played in inpatient units at Brigham & Women’s Hospital always played that song!)

Last Dance with Mary Jane, Tom Petty. (This one has special significance because it was a lifelong joke. When her fifth-grade class was graduating from Lower School, they all got up on stage and sang their made-up lyrics, “Last Day in Lower School,” to the Tom Petty tune, and they sang in such a morose and funny way, we parents couldn’t stop laughing.)

The Sound of Silence, Simon & Garfunkle. (see earlier post)

Finally, a Joni song came on, one I didn’t know. At first I thought I wasn’t hearing correctly. 

Willy, Joni Mitchell. (Nick’s brother Willie died at age 29, when Caitlin was 5. Caitlin loved him.)

The friends arrived, and someone said, “Hey, this sounds like Caitlin’s music.” I didn’t really pay attention after that, but when we sat down to eat, I mentioned how the music had been a bit spooky. And as I was talking I realized what was playing. I couldn’t believe it. I said, “I can’t believe this.”

You Can’t Always Get What You Want, Rolling Stones.

I ran upstairs and brought down the little notebook I recently found in her bedside table. She had only written on one page, back on January 14, 2014 when she was first on 24/7 oxygen and very sick, obviously ready to be listed for transplant.


She had written, “You can’t always get what you want, and if you try sometimes, you get what you need.”

She went on to tell herself to “Let go. Just be strong. You will not be able to predict the future. Accept that. You are getting what you need.”

But “It is going to be scary and you might die.”

Last Thought for Today, on this 4 Month Anniversary

Yesterday, I went to the mausoleum. I’d only been there once before. I don’t find it comforting, and I don’t feel my kittycat there. I mainly went there to cry, after a particularly good Daoist Yoga class. But while I was doing so, I realized a crazy thing. Kitten is in the space adjacent to someone whose last name is PARIS, and whose first name is BIRDIE.

I texted a few people to tell them. I wrote, Come on !!!

And as I drove out of the cemetery and merged onto the main road, I found myself behind this:

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You can’t make this stuff up.

Here’s a little more of what Caitlin herself wrote about writing, and inspiration, and music.


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I published this post, got in my car, and this:

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Also, I’d almost included a link to this but had taken it out. Now I will put it back in, as a few people called my attention to it. The lounge-y cover of the song that played at the end of BIG LITTLE LIES. Have been listening to it over and over.

JANUARY 9–Portals to Real & Close

After I wrote about signs the other day, a line I wrote in Cascade came to mind, to haunt me:

That was the thing about signs. You could read them any way you liked.

I thought about that as I went to get a pedicure in my hotel. I actually don’t really enjoy pedicures. I consider them to be maintenance, and I like them to be quick. Well, this was the slowest one in the world—-it took almost 2 1/2 hours. I tried to relax and enjoy it but all I could think of was how horrible and ultimately needless had been our darling girl’s partial amputation. I kept picturing us getting pedicures at various points in our life, at MiniLuxe in Boston, or on vacations in Miami, and later, when she had to drag the oxygen tank in with her. Her last pedicures I did myself, on her bed, because she no longer had the energy to go to a salon. The past year, I gave her leg and foot massages almost every day because it was the only thing that gave her relief from the near-constant painful aches she experienced.

I spent a lot of time with those legs. I have been mourning that left leg perhaps more than I should. I didn’t want to start crying in front of the pedicurist, so I tried to distract myself and halfheartedly looked through the basket of predictable women’s magazines. But—a surprise. Tucked in there was a New York Times Magazine from the end of November, with a cover story on Martin Scorsese. I’d brought that particular one into the hospital to read, and to give to Caitlin, because she had a deep appreciation of his movies. When she went on life support and we had to clear out her room, it must have been thrown away.

I’d forgotten about it.


On Faith:

“In his new film, “Silence,” Martin Scorsese returns to to a subject that has animated his entire life’s work and that also sparked his career’s greatest controversy: the nature of faith.”

I read the article with interest and an ache in my heart, wishing Caitlin had been able to read it and discuss it with me. I wondered what she would have thought of the film. It seems to have received quite mixed reviews, but Caitlin’s opinion would have been the opinion I would most been interested in. She had a keen ability to analyze and to consider, with empathy, the most complicated subjects. See things other people didn’t see.

It’s a wonderful thing when your kid grows up and you can step back and marvel.

Her first day in the CTICU, when she was still able to speak, her nurse mentioned having been to Mass the day before.

Caitlin: “Do you believe in God?”

Nurse: “I do.”

Caitlin: “Why?”

Nurse: “Why not?”

I wish I had the ability to remember, in detail, all that Caitlin said, but basically she talked about how she believed in something greater but thought that the various religions hadn’t gotten it right.

Now I think: Now she knows. All the stuff we talked about is no longer theoretical for one of us.

And I’m going to have to figure out faith for myself.

Backtrack: ‘Have Faith’

When Caitlin was 11, we realized, nearly overnight, that a stealthy mycobacterium had completely ravaged her left lower lung. The lobe needed to be removed. It was the only hope of stopping the organism from invading the rest of her lungs. There were many unknowns and absolutely no guarantees.  One day, before the surgery, I was sitting in my living room sobbing, sick with fear and dread, when I heard a voice—-clear and strong and female. The voice said, “Have faith.”

I sat up straight and looked around.

I thought about how it would be very easy to doubt what I had heard but that I must always remind myself that I had indeed heard it.

During these past 3 years, I hoped to hear that voice again. I never did. One thing that did happen, though, was that about a year ago, I was doing chest PT on Caitlin when I heard her voice, not her real voice, clearly say, “I’m dying, mum.”

I tried to unhear it. Tried to “have faith.” Hoped that that long-ago voice had been ‘good for’ forever.

Caitlin wrote about faith here in November:

Tolstoy had an existential crisis where he couldn’t figure out how to have faith…and decided the only logical thing he could do was to kill himself –  He spiraled out of control… he couldn’t think himself out of the problem of living, the meaninglessness of life, and the uncertainty of faith. He thought that if life had no meaning, which his reasonable mind believed because he could not prove the opposite, then the brave thing to do would be to end it. But he did not want to kill himself at all. He finally found his kernel of faith exactly right in front of him. His desire not to die, to keep on living despite the fact that he KNEW he was going to die, was a kind of miraculous leap of faith that we all do every day when we wake up. He figured the fact that faith even exists at all makes it a truth in and of itself. And he went on. (you can read this in his “A confession”).

I finished reading the Scorsese article as the technician finished the pedicure. Then I went out onto the beach. Down near the water stood a big flock of seagulls. I started to pass them, telling myself I couldn’t desperately look at every seagull you see, hoping for a sign.

But I turned to watch them anyway, and saw that the one closest to me was standing on one leg. He stood on it for so long that I thought perhaps he only had one leg. None of the other gulls were standing like that. I kept watching and waiting for him to move and found myself getting all choked up and happy and talking to Caitlin. She felt real and close for those moments and I thought, This is what you’re going to have to do: take whatever portal is open, whenever you can. 

A Santa Monica gull