I remember, so don’t act like I have forgotten.

Dear Mum,

I read somewhere recently that every time you remember an event, you aren’t recalling the actual event. Instead, you are recalling the last time you remembered it. That killed me. Does that mean every time I think of you, I am just thinking of the last time I recalled a memory of you? There is something so removed, so aloof, so unnatural about that. I want to believe that each time I think of you, I think of you exactly as you are, as you were, just you.

People tiptoe around you now. Not everyone, just most people. They act like we should pretend we have forgotten because it is easier than recalling you and your death. I hate it. I want to remember you, daily. You were and still are the biggest influence in my life and that hasn’t changed just because you aren’t here. I want people to ask about you. I want them to the fun, beautiful, bright memories of you that we all share. I want them to acknowledge you. There is no elephant in the room. You are gone. Your influence, however, will never be gone, not for me.

You might just be my favourite and most inspiring subject.

I guess I have been dealing with the fact that you haven’t met him and that you never will. That is a real shame. He has that annoyingly brutal honest bluntness that you had. He also has that absurdly self-deprecating humour that you adored. He’s not what I expected but he is exactly what I think everyone wants in another human. He has your tenderness. You would like him. I think, in time, you would love him. I don’t even know why I am bothering to detail all of this to you. You see it all now. You’ve seen him, seen us.

To quote you ‘I miss ya kid’.

Love and love again,

 

Teeny.

‘When did she tell you?’

“When did your mum tell you she had CF?”

I’m not sure she ever did or, perhaps, she constantly did, it is hard to differentiate these two things. From the moment I could walk, before I even uttered a sensical word I knew not to touch her medicines or equipment. She told me they were important for her health but dangerous for mine. She would sort through her tablets, explaining what each one was for. That stayed the same most of my life. She would explain that she had to be admitted to hospital sometimes because she is “different to other mothers” she has “CF” and that means “sometimes she is sick and she has to let the doctors take care of her” and this was enough for me. It was enough to me until I was 6 or 7 and my uncle, who also had CF had just received brand new lungs. He was so sick just before the transplant, unlike my mum who was running around after me and swimming every week.

She thought this would be his big break. His freedom. His life. We all did. We rooted for him. A few weeks later he died.

I couldn’t understand any of it. “How could he die? The operation was supposed to make him better? How could this happen?” It was during this period I started to think: “If he died, could my mum die too?” She explained that he was much more ill than she is but there is a serious probability that one day, she too will be that ill. Initially, I was so shocked I couldn’t ask anymore questions, despite my parents best attempts to openly talk about. Eventually, I just stopped believing it. She was too strong, too healthy, too stubborn to ever be that ill.

There were moments that made these words echo in my ear like a cruel joke. Moments when I saw her slip through my fingers and barely just make it back.

Eventually, as more of our friends and family got more and more ill and passed away I realised that maybe it didn’t matter how strong or stubborn or lucky she was.

Those dark thoughts were part of normal daily life and learning to compartmentalise at times was important and often necessary.

-Christina.

An unexpected bestseller.

 

I planned each chapter meticulously. Every plot and goal carefully detailed and dictated. It would be a masterpiece, a best-seller. It couldn’t possibly fail, not with this level of attention to detail. There was only one part of the narrative I couldn’t control. One detail I couldn’t write into the climax. The great loss that was my mother would be a bitter, unexpected tragedy, so everything else had to perfect, to allow for this huge demise. I would finish my PhD exactly as planned, on time. It would be a portfolio of meaningful, scientific, impactful work. I would find a job with equal meaning, making a difference, fixing things to make up for the one thing I couldn’t fix. I would always strive for more. Pushing myself to be better, stronger, more determined. I would marry at a reasonable age to a reasonable man, a man with good morals, a man my mother would approve of. I was ready for all of it. I was almost ready to publish when you disrupted my entire plan. I didn’t write you into my story. I didn’t have room for you. Every character had already been accounted for. I didn’t think there was room for you. What I didn’t realise at the time was, you weren’t a character I would write-in last minute. You, you were the entire story, the entire plot. Now, the story I didn’t write or plan for is the only one I care about and you and I are the main characters. And now, none of the other details, storylines or plots are planned. The only thing we can count on, is us, You and I. For the first time in my entire life I am unsure of everything, everything but you.

-Christina.

I tell him about you.

I tell him all about you. I laugh at your attempts to set me up with a Starbucks barista who really just wanted to take our order and never see us again. I cry at your pain. It is all mine. Your moments of pure joy, were my moments of pure joy. Your pain cut through us both like a sharp knife. I tell him so I won’t forget. I tell him because one of the saddest things in the world, to me, is the fact you will never meet him and he will never meet you. He would make you laugh. He does that self-deprecating, underdog thing you would have rooted for. He would have admired you in every way because you are the literal meaning of the words ‘strength’ and ‘determination’. You would have debated and playfully argued. He would have feared you. And loved you. I tell him about your past. I tell him about your journey. I tell him about your final destination but I tell that story with tears strolling down my face and onto his.

 

I tell him because with each passing day you get further from me.

I tell him because I am scared.

More than anything I am petrified that one day I will wake up and I will forget how you would sip your tea.

I tell him because you were mine and now he is too.

 

– Christina.

Dear Stranger.

 

 

Dear Stranger,

I sat on the old park bench with my two incredibly lazy dogs and people-watched. I saw you run around, laughing, smiling with your adorable son. I’m guessing he is around four. Both of you, in hysterics over your game of peek-a-boo. It made me laugh. It is one of those perfect sights that makes a young woman like me think of herself as a mother one day. It also made me think that you must need boundless energy to keep up with your giggling little munchkin. As soon as he caught sight of my little balls of white fur he ran straight over, you, a few footsteps behind, trying to keep up. He insisted on hugging both of them and asked me if they were twins. Then as I was responding to his many questions he coughed, abruptly and intensely. You were unfazed and apologised insisting he isn’t contagious.

He has “Cystic Fibrosis” we both stated in unison. We spoke about Orkambi and research and you told me about how you encourage as much physical activity as possible. You were so optimistic and enthusiastic, it was contagious. You made me think of how different life is now for people being born with Cystic Fibrosis. A far cry from my mum’s birth and odds in the seventies. You brought me back to a place I hadn’t been in a while. I am in this constant battle of emotions. I am torn between feeling resentful that my mum never lived to avail of the numerous treatment options out there today and also incredibly grateful that so many others lead such different lives and will have different fates. Most days, I focus on the positive. The endless emerging therapies and the stepping stones leading to an eventual cure. Some days, every so often though, I wallow. I wallow in that dark place where those options didn’t exist. Where the light at the end of the tunnel got further and further away from us and every passing day our hope diminished. You know what though? That’s okay. Grief is a complex thing.

 

Thank you, kind stranger, for the reminder that now, there is so much light. So much hope. Even in my dark spaces, people like you interrupt my solitude with your bright lights and music. I hope your son has a life filled with light.

 

Always,

 

Christina.

Dear Dublin…the return.

Dear Dublin,

 

It has been too long. I said I would be back, do you remember? Well, I meant it. I am returning to your busy, mean streets for a while. This new city makes me long for the trad-music in Temple Bar that I once hated and the donuts from the O’Connell kiosk, of which I ate far too many during exam periods and the memories of the heartbreak that I cherish now.

Your back alleys and dingy side-streets are tainted with broken love, loud laughter and bold curiosity. I can’t forget any of it. I shut my eyes and suddenly I am on Grafton Street at two thirty am, in a summer dress, my eyes wild and hopeful, staring into the mischievous face of my best friend, believing that anything really is possible. Where will tonight lead? Neither of us want to know. The anticipation of what might be, is enough for us. Tonight, we live. Tonight, we dance like we are the only two people in this whole damn city. We thrive on the lack of any real direction because in this moment all that matters is us. I miss that audacious delusion. I miss you. Because you, Dublin, are painted with the faces of my brothers and sisters that fought for the things they believed in. You are haunted by the faces of the rebels. You are woven from the faces of the renegades who dared to be different, the souls who insisted on being authentic and not just liked. You are composed of the men and women who took the right road, not the easy one. You are the embodiment of authenticity.

You see, the things that chased me away from your unhinged heart are now the things that make me crave your noise, your scent, your energy. The shattered promises, the shared secrets, the laughter between old friends, the tears, the memory of that first kiss, I crave them all.

That little café I avoided for the last year is the first place I will drink my coffee. Instead of grieving what I have lost, I will celebrate the fading memory of intertwined hands and how it feels to wear your heart on your sleeve.

I will lose myself in the street music along with the hopeless romantics dancing alone to the sound of hope.

I will decipher the numerous languages being spoken around me while I cycle like my life depends on it down Leeson’s street because although you are forgiving, your bus drivers are not.

I will indulge myself in the atmosphere of Café en Seine on a Thursday night in a pair of over-priced shoes and a dress that isn’t weather appropriate.

I will write crappy poetry in St Stephens green while a man I barely know tells me his unfiltered life-story.

I will pour my heart out to the handsome barista in a confusing, hipster café over a beverage I can’t pronounce.

I will, once again, look into my best friend’s defiant eyes and suggest a stroll in our drunken states, so we can, for just five minutes, soak it all up.

You are steeped in history and heartache.

I’ll see you on the flip side, I have a suitcase to pack.

 

Yours always,

 

Christina.

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