For Kitty

This week Mike and I have been talking about what constitutes a ‘relationship’ in this new world of the internet, this world that sometimes seems so very small. Is there such a thing as ‘Friendship’ when one has never met the friend in person? How can our hearts be touched in a personal way by people we have met only through the graces of social media or over email? This is new in human experience. We are all the pioneers in this era of connecting with people solely through the world wide web of energy known as the internet. After this week, Mike and I know that these connections are real, if different, and that they can break our hearts just as surely as if the people involved lived next door to us.

This week my friend Cidnie (Our Life with Ceol Mor), and her husband Mark, lost their precious little girl, Kitty, at age 5.  Even as I type this I cannot believe it to be true. How could it possibly be true? How could such a vivacious, precocious, sassy, smart little girl be gone from this world in the blink of an eye?  How could my friend be living every parent’s worst nightmare? Kitty fell into the water at the dock by their boat and slipped away before anyone could find her.

Mike and I were both as stunned by our visceral reactions to this loss as we were to the news of her death. Shocked to the core, we were both enveloped with overwhelming sadness;  a dense fog that has yet to be cleared. We went through the day on auto-pilot. I got lost driving to work. Mike came home looking tired and tearful. Kitty was on our minds and hearts all day and still is. Kitty was not our child. We know Mark and Cidnie Carroll only through our blog and Facebook presence. But we felt as though we had lost something precious and dear in our lives.

I  know we are not the only ones. On the Women Who Sail Facebook page (which is closed to new members at the moment) where Cidnie is one of the administrators, thousands of women all over the world share the grief. People set up a go-fund-me site, which seems to be the modern day equivalent to neighbors bringing food and taking care of chores where a family can grieve with support. I know we are not supposed to equate money with love, but in this new era of friendships where we live far apart, money is physical energy that represents our most fervent feelings sometimes. It gives people a tangible way to say that they care, that they are suffering along with others.  Donations to this fund will allow Cidnie and Mark to continue paying their bills, which don’t stop just because a child has died, while they piece their lives back together. People are keeping their anchor lights on in her honor. Candles are burning all over the world in her memory. Children blew bubbles today at a specific time, wearing pink; Kitty’s favorite color. It is a touching display of human kindness on a deeply personal level. Most of these women have never met Cidnie in person, much less met Kitty. But many are grieving deeply, even so.

Mike and I have been talking much about why we are having such a truly emotional reaction. Is it really about Kitty? Or is it about some other grief we are holding that has yet to be resolved? The sad truth is that little children die every day. We can read about it in the news, we might comment on how sad the parents must be and make noises about how we don’t know how they will ‘go on’, but we quickly move on to other things in our lives because we don’t know those people and the world is full of sadness every day. If we felt this way for each child who died, we would never be able to function in the world. What makes this child different to us? We begin to examine ourselves.

Mike remembers a little girl next door to us when we were first married. She died because she had phlegm that could not be cleared. We did CPR on her until the medics arrived, but she died anyhow. He still holds that memory and it is painful for him. For me, that was terribly sad but I do not feel the same way about it that he does. I saw that child, I touched that child, but I did not know that child or her parents.

Then, of course, we are parents of a child who had a tragic accident, in spite of the fact that we are good parents. All tragedy involving children triggers us back to that day. We know the guilt that parents feel when their beloved child is badly hurt. We know the ‘what if’s’ and ‘why didn’t I’ thoughts that beat a continuous tattoo through the mind. We know how it feels for people to judge us as parents because of his accident. Time never erases that wound, but it does make it easier to bear and to put in perspective. And we have done that. Our son is a strapping young man now and while he has his own burdens to bear because of his accident, he survived it and you can’t tell by looking at him that anything ever happened. We are grateful for that. That particular flavor of grief appears in my body in brief, intense flashes of pain now. I recognize it, I know it well. It’s there, but it isn’t sustained for long. No, I’m pretty sure that’s a different grief than what I am feeling. I cannot speak for Mike on this one.

I am forced to go back to Facebook and blog ‘friendships’ and see if I can make sense of things.  I don’t remember who found whose blog first, but Cidnie and I followed each other’s blogs, became ‘friends’ on Facebook, and then I think it was she who invited me to join Women Who Sail back when there were about 500 women in the group. Over the years we had personal conversations about sailing, boats, Scotland (Mark’s native land), and kids. I loved her blog. Her writing is entertaining, her photographs stunning. They, too, were preparing a boat for long distance cruising. I feel a connection with her, even though we live far apart and our children are of different ages.

But it was when I made friends with her on Facebook that I got to ‘know’ Kitty. I looked forward every day to my daily dose of Kitty on Facebook. Her cheerful, saucy little face, her sweet little songs, her love of playing dressup, her complete ‘attitude’, how she loved to work with tools with her dad. She reminded me so very much of our Claire when she was little; filled with life and spirit. Lots of people I know post photos and stories about their kids on Facebook. They are entertaining sometimes, but not the same. No. There are many beautiful children in this world.

But I had a special place in my heart for Kitty in some intangible way. I looked forward to meeting her in person some day. Each morning I would sit down with my coffee to check things out on Facebook and see what the world was up to, hoping Cidnie would have posted something starring my favorite four year old. I would share these posts with Mike and we would both dote on her from afar. In this everyday, mundane way, Kitty worked herself into my heart.

Our hearts are broken for the loss of this beautiful child and for the grief, no, devastation that her parents are experiencing. We are forced to reckon with the fact that the friendships we form online are real, even if different from friendships we have with people who live close to us. We are forced to acknowledge that being on-line friends will not insulate us from feeling grief when there is suffering, nor joy when there is happiness. We should keep this reality in mind as we make comments, write blog posts, and post updates on Facebook. We bring ourselves to the community of the internet just as we bring ourselves to the communities in which we live and work. The people we connect with online are real, our relationships with them true.  Our hearts have just told us so.

Bon voyage, beautiful Kitty. Until we meet again, sweet girl. Our lives were happier knowing of you. kitty

 

 

25 thoughts on “For Kitty

  1. Oh my God!
    I saw the report on the Forums but didn’t realize she was the girl from Ceol Mor. I love following their blog. I thought the name was familiar but for some reason, didn’t put that together. It’s always nice seeing that beautiful smile on that little girl.

    My deepest sympathies for this family.

  2. This is so incredibly sad. We met Kitty 2 years ago when we went to the Kemah area for the Harvest Moon Regatta 2013. She was around 3 I believe? She was unique, vibrant and you could tell she had great parents and a sibling who loved her dearly. She was going places.

    I can’t imagine what Cidnie and her family are going through right now :(. I wish them all the best. Great Post about friendships.

  3. I’m not really sure I can add anything to your post, it expresses so much of how we feel. I’m in the Kemah area but, as you, only knew of them through their blog and Facebook. Yet the loss touched me and my husband in a way so deeply that is almost unexplainable. I’m still not over the tragedy and find myself tearing up even as I write. My heart bleeds for the both of them, particularly the dad. I pray they pull themselves together, as hard as it will be. I just can’t imagine the pain and heartache they are feeling.

    Thank you for this post.

  4. This is beautiful and really captures what so many of us have been feeling. We have all watched her grow up, and feel we knew her even though we never met. I hurt for Cid and all her family.

  5. Melissa, thank you for such a lovely articulation of WHY we feel this way, why our community of people-we-love-but-haven’t-met can still be so important and connected. This is it: “our hearts have told us so.” And so, tears again. Grateful to have you in my life.

  6. Sad beyond words! Just found out about Kitty yesterday as we were out of range sailing down the BaHa! This scenario is always on my mind as we sail with 2 kids. You have written what most of us could never put in words the pain, fear, and sorrow. Thank you. Blessings to little Kitty and I hope Cindie and Mark will find some comfort in your tribute.

    • Yes, Deb, I do, too. I know we all feel so helpless to make anything at all better in the face of this profound and lasting grief. Fair winds on your own journey!

  7. I’m without any good words. I read through the other touching blog tributes after seeing your post and it’s just shattering. Thank you for the way you summed up all the conflicting feelings and new frontiers of blog friends. Sending peace and strength to Cidnie and Mark and keeping them in our thoughts.

  8. I read about this via 3 Sheets NW. What a stunning tragedy! I am an avid reader of their blog, and I can’t even imagine what they are going through. But you are right. a relationship is an active interaction between people, and it doesn’t matter whether it is face to face or via a blog or Facebook. and we hurt just as deeply when something like this happens. My prayers are going out to them right now.,.. go fund me site visited and shared…

  9. Melissa, this is beautiful. You so poignantly articulated why this tragedy is devastating even to people who have never met Kitty or her family, and that community is community, in whatever realm it exists.

  10. I had never met this young girl, but this news hit me after a day spent at Kemah. The news broke my heart because that very day I remember seeing this sweet girl eating lunch with her dad at a seafood restaurant. I remember my mom and I talking about how cute they looked and precious it was for a dad to take his daughter out to a nice place like that. I remember watching them for a minute and then going back to our meal.

    When I saw her very picture on the news I broke down for days, grieving as if I had met her before. I constantly thought about her and prayed for her family. I prayed that her parents would find hope after this tragedy, and I have wanted to contact them everyday since that day to tell them that. The song and story behind “Beauty Will Rise” by Steven Curtis Chapman is something I wanted to share long ago with her family. I pray that in the storm of heartache unimaginable they will still find life at the end of the story.

    • Thank you, April, for your heartfelt comment. With your permission I would love to share this with Kitty’s mom. It’s been a long and difficult journey for these sweet parents. Kitty’s precious life touched people well beyond her years. It’s been a long time since I’ve visited that post, and the reading of it again has me in tears all over. Such a precious beautiful little soul.

  11. I had never met this young girl, but this news hit me after a day spent at Kemah. The news broke my heart because that very day I remember seeing this sweet girl eating lunch with her dad at a seafood restaurant. I remember my mom and I talking about how cute they looked and precious it was for a dad to take his daughter out to a nice place like that. I remember watching them for a minute and then going back to our meal.

    When I saw her very picture on the news I broke down for days, grieving as if I had met her. I constantly thought about her and prayed for her family. I prayed that her parents would find hope after this tragedy, and I have wanted to contact them everyday since that day to tell them that. The song and story behind “Beauty Will Rise” by Steven Curtis Chapman is something I wanted to share long ago with her family. I pray that in the storm of heartache unimaginable they will still experience hope and peace at the end of the story.

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