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.

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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Dear Dad..

When I was nine years old you told me I could be an astronaut, in fact you told me I could be whatever I wanted. I now realise that was ridiculous since I was almost legally blind and got car sick.

That is when you planted the seeds. You were raising me not to settle. You encouraged all of my whimsy and ridiculously free-natured mannerisms. I didn’t realise it then but now, I understand. You told me never to accept what I find to be mediocre. Not in love, not with my passions, not with my friendships and especially not with my dreams. You made me laugh when I was sad or angry. You gave me my sense of humour. Now, after a day of lab work that has gone wrong I make a joke and we both laugh. I got this quality from you. When I am broken you help me find the missing pieces and you constantly tell me I could find them without you but I know that isn’t true. You push me when I am on the verge of quitting and you tell me to run when it isn’t worth fighting for. You never doubt me, even when the world is telling me I’m taking the wrong path, you trust me, blindly and totally. This is where I get my blind faith from.

Most importantly, you taught me what true love and mutual respect looks like. When I was growing up I always knew I wanted someone to love me the way you loved mum. It is because of you that I know what I deserve. It is because of you that I didn’t settle in love. I wanted the blissful existence you both had even when times were hard. I wanted someone who looked at me the way you looked at mum even until her final day. Others would say that love like this is fictional and unrealistic but having seen it first-hand I know I too can have that. You made me want someone that really would love me in sickness and in health. You know what? You knew that mum might not live until old age and you didn’t care. You watched her brother lose his battle with CF and you threw caution to the wind and followed your heart. I wanted that. You taught me that love doesn’t involve logic or science. Love doesn’t follow any rules or any perfect path. When everything in our lives was dictated by timelines, rules and regimes you showed me that this one thing wasn’t. None of it mattered. All that mattered was this indescribable thing you felt for her. For all of this, I am eternally grateful. You taught me endless lessons. You are the unsung hero of our story, did you know that? I really mean that. You held us all together when we were almost falling apart. When a mean boy hurt my feelings you drove to my university campus to take me home and when mum lost her damn good battle with CF you promised me everything would be okay eventually.

 

Thank you.

Thank you for being my best friend, my role-model and my inspiration.

I love you.

 

-Your favourite child by default,

Christina.

I can’t hate Christmas.

My mother was one of those painfully optimistic, glass half full kinda people. She could lose a limb and a minute later would immediately comment on how she has three others. I tried to channel that for years. I succeeded for many actually. A few weeks ago as my colleagues were discussing Christmas and I felt bitter. The kind of bitterness you can feel churning in your stomach. It is a disgusting feeling, one my mother would never approve of. You see, on Christmas day last year my gorgeous mother lost her battle to Cystic Fibrosis and on that day I vowed to forget Christmas. My mother loved Christmas cheer. She loved being inside under a fluffy blanket as the frost covered the road outside, she loved the hot drinks while she read her favourite book and the twinkling of the Christmas lights late at night. I loved all of those things too. She loved the streets of NYC on Christmas eve and battling her way through Macy’s to get to the toy section.

Last night I sat down with my dogs and a mug of tea from my mum’s favourite mug. Outside the moonlight hit the frost to create this glittery sheen. The beauty of it hit me hard. What am I doing? I love Christmas. She loved Christmas. Do I want to become one of those people who spends their life avoiding something beautiful because it hurt me once before? That is like vowing never to love again once you have had your heart broken. I don’t want to be that person and my mum would never be that person. Someone told me recently it takes nothing to forgive and forget but it takes constant effort to feel bitter every day. That resonated with me. I don’t want to feel bitter about Christmas. I want to laugh, I want to enjoy, I want to experience like my mum would want me to. I want to stick out my tongue in Time’s Square to catch snowflakes. I want to (badly) sing along to cheery Christmas tunes. I want to be what she was. I want her ridiculous optimism. I want her. That’s not going to happen so this is the next best thing. Because, the thing about my mum was. She suffered. Damn, she really suffered, but you know what? She might just have been the happiest person I had ever known. She was warm and fuzzy. She was a warm hug. She was a shelter in the pouring rain. She was home.

 

I want that.

One day, I want someone to say that I was the painfully optimistic, happy lunatic they admired.

For now, maybe I will hang those Christmas stockings. All three of them.

 

‘ It’s too cold outside for angels to fly’.

 

 

-Christina.

 

Are you getting my letters?

Dear Mum,

 

Is this letter three or four? I can’t bring myself to keep track because with each letter a huge chunk of time has passed. A chunk of time in which I haven’t seen your face or heard your voice. How crazy is that?

I’m angry today. It’s the kind of anger that’s tinged with sadness though so it isn’t very intense. I thought when you left this earth that all the uncertainty would go with you. Isn’t that naïve? You left and so did my opinion on almost everything. I’m stuck in this place I never thought I’d be. The fence. On all things. What am I doing, mum? If there was ever a time in which I desperately needed your guidance it is now. You left me and soon after, so did he. Now, I stand here, shocked like I’ve been in some tragic accident. Winded and bleeding. You see, at first I thought you threw me a lifeline. A loud, unhinged, fun, glittering lifeline. It was right there, handed right to me and I grabbed it with both hands. I was grateful, relieved, I was alive again. I could hear the music and see the blinding lights. I laughed until I cried again and remembered the concept of pleasure.

But then, suddenly, I saw the lights flicker and the music that I once enjoyed seemed brash and a little too loud. I hadn’t anticipated it. You see I thought that it was my life boat, I thought it was the glue that would piece it all back together. I thought, just maybe it was the solution. I realise now that was naïve. I always have been a romantic though, you know that. I wanted this to be it. My silver lining. Now, mum, I’m worried my silver lining will rain on me. I fear that this silver lining is capable of hurting me just as much as the rest of it. Maybe I’ve just been lucky until now. I just don’t know. Are you watching it all? Have you seen the entire thing? Have you seen the exciting beginning and the delicate and sweet climax? Have you seen the end? Is there one? Who am I mum? Is this really me? I pretend to have a hold on it all but it’s slipping away like sand through my fingers.

 

Yours always,

Forever,

 

Christina.

Tales of a cyster.

Throughout my lifetime I have lost many. I have seen my friends disappear because of the same disease that is trying to take me. I often think of them and sometimes I feel guilty that I am still here. They should still be here. They should be here with me, with their families, with their children. One particular friend of mine once reminded me of myself in a lot of ways but more accurately she reminded me of a person I hope to one day be. A person I would admire for years after, a person whose bright face would come to me in dark times and tell me to keep going. She too had a daughter, although much younger than mine. Her name was Lynn*. She was a fighter. She was one of those women you just look at think ‘how are you doing it? How are you that strong? Teach me’.  Lynn and I grew closer with each hospital admission we shared together. I learned quickly that we had a lot in common. She was younger than me and had a beautiful daughter Catherine*. Lynn didn’t have it easier. She was stronger than anyone I had ever met but everything was against her. The father of her daughter was not a nice man and made her life a difficult as it could be. This broke my heart. Her life was already unfair enough. She didn’t deserve any of this let alone added stresses like him. She was a trooper. I remember one hospital admission we shared together. Lynn was sick. Very sick. The doctors told her she was dying. She had very little time to live. Days, maybe weeks. This crushed me. I sat in my room feeling miserable that I might lose another but I felt angry at life because a woman like her doesn’t deserve any of this. Whilst in the pits of my wallowing, my thoughts would be interrupted by her beaming face at my door. First of all, how is she even walking this far? How is she still smiling? How does someone so deathly ill look so beautiful and illuminated? She was pale and thin but her smiling face made you forget that she was even sick. She had an air of warmth and strength and I was always in awe of her. ‘Would you like a cup of tea?’ She would ask catching her breath as she stood in my doorway, her frail body leaning heavily against the door-frame. Is she serious? She has been given the worst news anyone could ever want to receive and she is offering me a cup of tea? What? I can barely come to terms with her news and she is going on as if nothing is wrong? Is she in denial? I soon learned she was not in denial. She fully understood the gravity of the situation she was in but she knew that it was beyond her control and she kept her chin up. If I knew I had days would I offer to make my friend tea and laugh at an episode of friends? I don’t think so. How could I? How could she? What a woman. That night she sat me with for three hours. I learned so much about her life, her loves and her outlook. She told me tales of her little one. She spoke of precious time was and how badly she wanted to be here for her daughter and watch her grow up. We broke down after the lovey chit-chat. She sobbed heavily and for the first time her face wasn’t smiling or illuminated, it was broken. We had so much in common and the paralells of our situations frightened me. Her breaking down like this frightened me. She was never that kind of girl. She was strong. Stronger than me. She didn’t cry however now that she was I was petrified. Petrified for her and petrified for myself. She spoke of how, despite her frail state she went shopping for a gift for her daughter’s birthday. She didn’t go to buy her daughter’s ninth birthday present, she went shopping for her eighteenth birthday gift. A milestone birthday and one she would miss. How can life be this cruel to someone this kind? Each day, however she lost a bit of her battle. The disease began to win, slowly but surely. I could write endlessly about how devastating this was for me. How soul-destroying this was to watch but that is not what is important here. What I think and feel aren’t important. What did she think? How did she feel? Was she scared? If she was she sure didn’t show it. She continued to light up every room she entered despite growing weaker and giving into the heavy fatigue. Her family were heartbroken. Her mother was her biggest supporter. Her mother adored her. It was beautiful and heart-breaking to see.

Eventually Lynn lost her battle. Cystic Fibrosis got her. But it didn’t win because to this day she is remembered as the light that lit up the lives of many. She was a mother. She was a daughter. She was an inspiration. She was the epitome of strength and her smile shoots through my mind in my darkest and brightest times.

Rest in peace Lynn. Thank you for all that you gave to me. You made me want to be better. A better mother. A better friend. A better person.

-Ali.

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”

― Albert Camus

Twitter: @Christina1Kenny

Instagram: christina.kenny.

*All names have been changed for privacy reasons

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