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.

IMG_0991

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.

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.

It has been a while.

Dear mum,

 

Sorry I haven’t written in a while, life kind of got in the way. I’ve been thinking about you even more than usual lately. I have wanted to write but knowing you will never write back destroys me.

Remember when you said ‘when you know, you know’? I thought it was just one of those meaningless statements. The ones people bandy around along with other, over-used clichés. I thought it was just one of those things older people say to younger people.

A few weeks ago, it clicked. When you know, mum, you know. A year ago I told you I didn’t know and you told me that was my answer. I didn’t fully appreciate what that actually meant. Or perhaps I just wasn’t ready to appreciate the gravity of your words. I always knew. You knew before I knew. How did you do that? How did you always know? Is that a gift that comes with time? Is it a mother thing? Is it just an Alison thing?

You were right. I sat on the edge of my bed sobbing as he packed up his things and left. All I wanted to do was run to you. I wanted you to work your mother magic and fix it. I wanted to see your face and know, no matter how bad it hurt, you would be there for me, with me. I lay in my big bed that night and begged you to tell me what to do. You didn’t answer. I was low. I gave it a few days and waited for the storm to pass. I imagined what you might say had you been here. You would have told me that it would get easier. I would have rolled my eyes and disagreed. But, once again you were right. Every day got a little brighter and the puzzle pieces started to slot together. He wasn’t mine. He was the one I wanted to want, so damn bad. He reminded me of you in some ways. His gentle nature and warm embrace.

Are all of those clichés true?

One last question, why is the right thing so damn hard?

 

P.S I spilled coffee on your favourite pink coat, the one you always told me to take off when I am drinking something. Sometimes, I hate when you are right.

 

Your best friend,

Always,

 

Christina.

 

Memorial, memories and denial.

It has been 7 months.

Actually, I am not even sure if that is exact as I can’t bring myself to do a count. We have yet to produce an official memorial card. Everyone is always asking if they can get one and every time I have to tell them that I actually haven’t made it yet. The first question I get is ‘why?’ The answer is always the same ‘I have been too busy with work’.

Total crap. I could have made it anytime but I can’t. I just can’t. The prospect of looking through all of those photos, videos, letters and poems makes my heart sink. It is a feeling that takes over. Once you let it in, it drowns you and I have only just learned to swim again. If I let it in even a little the flashbacks flood my mind, taking up all the space. I go right back to that day, that awful, horrific day. The day I lost my best-friend. The worst day of my life (apart from the day I got that weird fringe that made me look like a young, German boy). It shoves out all the light and fills me with darkness.

I haven’t made her memorial card yet because I simply cannot bear to. Making it makes is just too real and I am not there yet. I am not ready to admit that this is forever. I am not ready to give up the fantasy of her returning and embracing me like she had just had a long hospital stay.

I hope one day I can open the photo albums with peace in my heart. I hope I can re-read her old text messages and recall the best and the worst memories. However, that day is not today. I don’t know when that day will be. Maybe tomorrow, maybe never. You don’t go through a trauma like that and emerge from the rubble totally fine. It takes time. It takes lots of things, things I don’t have yet.

 

For now, I will take it in bite sizes. Little bits here and there. Let the acceptance creep in. Let the grief creep in. Trickle in, bit by bit, drop by drop.

– Christina.  

 

“When a stargirl cries, she sheds not tears but light.”

― Jerry Spinelli, Stargirl