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 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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Surviving the tsunami.

Here’s the thing about grief it hits you in waves. These waves are small and gentle sometimes. You can dispel them easily. Just motioning your body through them and watching them quietly break up and turn to foam. Other times they are tidal and you just stand on the shore watching this giant wave coming towards you. You should run. You should scream. You should do something, anything. Sometimes you do. But, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you do nothing. Not because you don’t want to but because you can’t. You are paralysed by the mere sight of this huge, intimidating body of water gradually coming straight for you. Slow at first and in the blink of an eye. You just swallow hard and feel what you are feeling. That changes with each wave. Sometimes you just feel sad and empty. Sometimes you feel defeated. Sometimes you feel angry. Sometimes you feel nothing, which is often worse than the anger or melancholy.

 

On August seventeenth I stood on the shore and I could see that huge tidal wave in the distance. Far away. I saw it. I heard it. On my uncle’s forty-fifth birthday I saw the tidal wave. It stayed in the distance for some time. It slowly got closer, edging closer to the shore with every passing thought. He would have been forty-five. He would have been almost middle-aged. He would have been here. He should have been here. He could have been here. Instead I was left with my Facebook feed flooded with images. Images that demonstrated his strength, his courage, his sheer determination. Standing there, oxygen on, fists raised like Rocky, a coy smile on his face. Walking, so soon after transplant. He almost made. He was so close. Then much like that tidal wave, in the blink of an eye a tsunami came and took everything. We were all so shocked we stood there, bleary eyed and wet. Dripping, cold, confused. We didn’t get it then. We get it now. What is soul-destroying about Cystic Fibrosis is that the scene after the tsunami, it happens more than once except eventually you aren’t surprised anymore. You are just heart-broken. Just when you think you literally can’t physically hurt anymore you do. You try to breathe but there is a heavy weight on your chest. You are panting but you never really catch your breath. You are just trying to stay above the water and for a long time that is enough, until it isn’t anymore, just like my mum and uncle, there is only so long you can make it that way.

So today, on my uncle’s birthday I think of them both. Laughing, running, screaming, joking, being silly. I think of them toasting. I think of them being truly happy and truly alive. I think of them living, a thing I could never picture when they were actually here.

Happy birthday Maurcie. I hope you are blowing out candles somewhere and getting to stare into my mum’s beautiful eyes and seeing her truly happy.- Christina.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear wise woman. 

Dear wise woman,

It has been a year since our last encounter. A year since you touched my heart and reminded me of who I am. I did not realise it at the time but you were right. On that cold, bitter October day you knew me better than I knew myself. I was looking at my life through very tinted glasses. You were looking at my life with a wealth of experience and wisdom. I didn’t even notice the warmth, compassion and empathy you had for me. I failed to see that you were a woman who had been there, done it. You had lived that moment I was in. You had been there once before and you could see it all with 20/20 vision. You told me I could do it. You told me I could pursue a PhD. You told me I could finish my last year at University, no matter how sick my mother was. You told me I would make it work. You told me I wasn’t thinking clearly. You told me I needed a break, not a permanent one. I was convinced you were wrong. I thought you couldn’t possibly understand what I was going through, what I was feeling. You didn’t know me.

How wrong was I? You spoke like a true mother that day. I look back on that dark day and I don’t recognise myself. I was scared. I was lost. You tried to guide me. You did your best. I see that now. Thank you. Thank you for everything. It is because of you I am back in College. I hope to one day have a more prestigious title than ‘Miss’ and that is down to you. Women like you are rare. Women like you are the women made to be mothers and teachers. One day, I want to be a woman like you.

Your kindess may have gone unnoticed in that stressful moment but it is recognised now. It fills me with warmth and empowerment. I am grateful. Thank you for everything. I hope one day I can be the wise woman advising someone as lost and hopeless as I was that day.

I will never forget that moment.

Big hugs,

Christina.
   
 

Moments and memories. Part one.

The place is crowded, loud and obscenely bright. I swear it is one level off interrogation bright. How are all of these people so alert? Trolleys and annoying, repetitive beeping sounds surround us. The atmosphere is strained and everyone seems rushed and in a hurry. The only thing separating us from the harsh, pained coughing beside us is a flimsy curtain. My eyes are sore with fatigue and my temperature is off, my body refusing to be awake at 3am. My mother rocks back and forth on the hospital bed, somewhat incoherent on and off with the pain. Pancreatitis strikes again. This time the pain was unbearable, she needed IV fluids and serious pain relief, not to mention anti-sickness medication. The entire situation was bleak. It was the dead of winter. The roads were icy and dangerous. We drove here, in somewhat of a panic that forced me to switch my brain on. Most people are in warm, cosy beds dreaming right now, listening to the harsh winds outside their windows. I’m in tracksuit bottoms, a pj top and duffel coat. Please kill me. My dad is keeping his cool, as usual. He doesn’t even look tired. Sometimes I wonder where is natural ability to be ready for situations like this comes from. I hate how perky he is. I’m irritable and exhausted. Despite my bad mood, I know how easily stressful situations can escalate. In an attempt to lighten the mood, seeing how my mother is gradually more alert and chirpier I decide to take some photos to remember the night. Fourteen selfies, several photos (some with medical staff) and six, unrepeatable swear words later (all from my mother) the three of us are in stitches of laughter.

I don’t even remember what happened after that really, I just know it was funny and we laughed a lot.

Laughter is the best medicine.

-Christina.

‘If Heaven exists, to know that there’s laughter, that would be a great thing.’ -Robin Williams

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Working days, a distant memory.

After I had my lower lobectomy on my left lung I missed out on most of my last two years of secondary school. I didn’t mind missing the Biology classes or the boring Algebra lessons but I missed my friends. I missed normality. I missed feeling like an ordinary eighteen year old. I missed everything I took for granted a mere few years before. School had ended and suddenly I had found myself on the doorstep of the big, bad world. Now what? I was dying to get a job. I craved the financial security, the independence and the new-found freedom. I went to a job agency. They advised me not to mention the fact that I had a life-altering illness until I was offered the job. I understood. I had gone for previous, smaller jobs before and everything seemed great until I mentioned I was ill, then suddenly the position had been filled. It was infuriating. It was frustrating and it was down-right discrimination. It was the eighties though and I wasn’t exactly acquainted with the idea of equality, feminism or a union. I was young and naïve.

Eventually I got a job in retail. I was excited. Bright-eyed and ready to work hard. The money wasn’t great but try telling that to a wide-eyed, eighteen year old me. My life was fast and fearless. I would wake before 7am, shower, head to work, work until closing, leave at 9pm. I would do a quick wardrobe change and head out with my friends for the night. I had boundless energy. I didn’t think about tomorrow. I thought about right now. Was that naïve? Or was I smarter then than I am now? Was I closer to the meaning of life then? When I was just happily living for the now? I am not certain of the answer to that question right now but I am edging more towards that latter. I was enjoying the now and it was great. I look back now in awe of my eighteen year old self in every way. Does everyone do that? Sick or not? I was so energetic, so open to everything, so free from burdens or worries. I was dancing all night and working all day and I was healthy. Compared to my peers I probably wasn’t healthy. Coughing, constant infection, dropping weight like crazy. I would be doing IV antibiotics while working. Is that crazy? Now I think that sounds incredible. Healthy, happy, energetic. In contrast to my today; I have next to no energy, I am far from healthy but I am still happy, just a different kind of happy.

Sometimes I think, as I age I get closer and closer to my eighteen year old self. That crazy, fearless woman who lives far beyond her means, health-wise. I don’t really care about tomorrow now either, just like her I live for the now.

-Ali.

“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”

― Friedrich Nietzsche

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