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 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.

IMG_0991

Those lazy, hazy, crazy days of Summer.

It started on a hazy summer night. Two incredibly broken people and one bottle of champagne. Nobody else understood. We danced beneath the moonlight and everyone else melted away, we were the only ones left. We celebrated our flaws and embraced each other’s broken pieces. Turned out that my missing pieces almost fitted yours. Where had you been this whole time? I had no idea this dark utopia existed until you came into my life. You were that music that penetrated the vacuum. We moved fast. Trauma does that to you. It binds you. It bonds you. It’s kind of a permanent thing. We danced in that same moonlight until your mind started to wander elsewhere. Suddenly our safe haven wasn’t enough. It was too safe. You craved the broken, the wild, the untamed, the unconventional. All I ever wanted was a peaceful existence. Not you though, you craved the noise, the lights, the entire world outside ours. The same world that never understood you, was now pulling you further and further from me. Why? You wanted me because I defied your expectations. You celebrated my loud voice and brash opinions, remember? The same opinions that you are now trying to shape, the same voice you are now trying to silence. Where did I lose you? Were you ever mine? Was it just circumstance? Was it just a bottle of champagne and pure chance? Was any of it real?

I wanted the man that danced on the edge with me, the one who was raw and authentic and totally flawed. I don’t recognise you now. You are bored. You seek a new trauma, a new life-changing event, a new partner in crime. I am finding it harder and harder to listen to your remarks and critiques. Remember when you craved my flaws, creating poetry out of each one, letting them melt into us? My flaws are now the butt of your jokes, your tired, over-used jokes. You perform to this non-existent audience. We used to be on that stage together but there isn’t room for me anymore. You take my trauma and turn it into funny anecdotes and droll party pieces. When did that happen? I’ve heard a lot about love and this isn’t it.

 

-Christina.

My womb but not my choice.

In the wake of Donald Trump’s rise to power I have been forced to confront my own feelings on some things. Everywhere I go there is some mention of reproductive rights. Something, somewhere always acts as a trigger. Websites chiming in, celebrities tweeting their own personal beliefs, a statement T-shirt on a crowded college campus, news headlines, a friend absent-mindedly discussing his overt views over drinks on a Saturday night, blaring radio segments, magazine covers, trashy red-top papers with misleading headlines, it doesn’t cease. Everyone has an opinion and most are forcing theirs down my throat. I sat in a crowded room, each of them bickering casually over their own thoughts and feelings. I reached into my bag to get my phone and instead met some old tablets. My mum’s tablets. Then it occurred to me that I hadn’t used this bag since before my mum’s passing. I held them tightly in my hand and my breath became shallow. Must. Keep. It. Together. Just as Birdy’s voice began to wind down I was transported back.

I sat in the kitchen of their house. It hadn’t even been four months since I had faced my greatest challenge. They had two children, their first has CF, now in her thirties, fit and healthy. Their second was lucky enough not to receive two copies of the gene. They spoke of their experience with their first child. They had never even heard of the disease. They faced shock, sadness and a steep learning curve. They spoke about all of it in such a ‘matter of fact’ way, emotions of their distress clearly in the past. They then spoke of their second pregnancy. This was when the tone changed. They tell me it was then that they realised they were pregnant with a ‘decision, not a baby’. My heart sank. I felt sick. I felt the colour drain from my face. I was already upset but now I was just disgusted. Did they really just say that? I had no idea how to feel. I was outraged, horrified, hurt, bewildered and just outright irritated. How am I supposed to respond to that? I zoned out. I was too busy immersed in my own grief and misery to defend my personal opinion. Then, they stated in a rather aloof ad stolid way ‘you too Christina may be faced with such a decision, since you carry the gene’.

 

Please allow me to set the record straight: I will never be faced with such a decision. A child’s life is not a decision for me. It isn’t a choice or something I can play with. Any child of mine will be loved and cared for regardless of their health or their life expectancy. How dare you confront me with your ideals.

 

I understand everyone has a journey and I don’t understand that journey unless I have lived it myself but this is my opinion. Please don’t talk to about my future. I believe in being informed, prepared and educated on these things but I certainly don’t believe I have a say in any of it. I don’t want a choice, not in this scenario. Unless I explicitly ask for it, I don’t want your advice or thoughts.

 

-Christina.

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.