Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Dear Mom (Part 1)

You always used bunny ears in our photos
Dear Mom,

Hi. It’s April 14, 2020 and it’s been two months and 3 days since you died. Two months and 4 days since I last heard your voice. I don’t think either of us knew that it would be our last time to talk to one another. I’m sure we would have had a different conversation. I was in the middle of tech rehearsals for our production of ANIMAL FARM, and I admit I was a little distracted. You were lying in a hospital bed as you had done, on and off, for many days over the prior month and a half. You called to let me know that the doctors said there was nothing more they could do for you. We talked about hospice, and I think both you and I expected that you would get to go home soon to live out your weeks/months in comfort and solace. We expected I would see you on February 26 - just two weeks later - when my flight landed in Pensacola, as it always did after I finished our first show of the year. Neither of us knew that you would be gone 12 hours later. Would that have changed much? I don’t know if knowing would have made any difference. I wouldn’t have been able to make it in time.

It’s taken me two months and 3 days to work up the courage to speak with you. It’s just been too painful. But, Jesus Christ, YOU WON’T BELIEVE THE SHIT GOING ON since you died.

I know you must have been somewhat aware of the Coronavirus - you watched CNN compulsively and in early February you would have known that China was suffering from an epidemic. You might have also been scared of it coming to the US. You tended to be on the nervous side, and you knew that, but it didn’t stop you for being nervous. Your worry is one of the biggest things I miss about you. Whenever something big happened in the world I could always count on you to check in on me - half the time I didn’t even know something had happened because I don’t have cable and only get my news from the New York Times online after I woke up (which, more often than not, was late in the morning.)

So... we’ve been in lockdown for nearly a month. I’ve been locked down for more than that, knowing that I am more susceptible to the virus because of preexisting conditions. The last time I spent time in crowded public was March 11, when I went to see HADESTOWN on Broadway. I also got my hair done on March 16, and that was the last time I was with people (except for chemo treatment.) Several parts of my medical history make catching the virus more deadly -

1) the fact that I have cancer and it spread to my lungs

2) the fact that I am on chemotherapy, which lowers my immune system

3) The fact that I have asthma

Mom, people are dying all over the place. And New York City is currently the hotspot in the United States. The numbers have plateaued somewhat, but as of last night 110,465 people in NYC have contracted the virus and 700-800 people are dying PER DAY. We have an overall death toll in NYC of over 10,000 people. And THAT’S only the ones who have been tested - thousands of people are being turned away for tests to save them for those who really need them - those are people to be deemed with the worst symptoms (fever and inability to breathe.) And thousands of people are dying in their homes without ever being admitted to hospitals.

This all would have made you SO nervous for me. Frankly, if you were still alive I imagine you would have convinced me, Brandon, and our dog to join you in Florida and hunker down there. That would have been so lovely. I would have liked nothing better.

It’s not lost on me that you were suffering from all of the same symptoms of COVID, even though you didn’t have it. It’s also not lost on me that I had the same symptoms of COVID last year when cancer was first taking its toll. The inability to breathe. The loss of appetite. The extreme fatigue. The low blood pressure. The truth is, the more and more people talk about their symptoms the more flashbacks I have to last year when we both thought I was going to die. This virus is very triggering for me.

Another thing that really would be freaking you out right now is the stock market. I know your life savings were wrapped up in an IRA that was connected to stocks and bonds. Sadly, the stock market crashed day after day in March. It was at its highest on February 12, at 29098. On March 24 it was at 18602. It has rebounded somewhat - as of right now - this moment - it’s 23860 and hovering.

People like to say that the stock market is just for people on Wall Street, and I’ve been trying to educate people so they know that most people’s 401Ks and IRAs are in the stock market, too. I know that the reason you were so scared was not for yourself, but knowing that this money was for us after you died.

I want to thank you for thinking so much about what life would be like for us after you were gone, and preparing your affairs for us as much as you could. I had no idea HOW prepared you would make things, though! The amount of things you saved, and their organization, was quite surprising! I didn’t know that you had saved every single card I received as a baby from neighbors and family friends. I didn’t know you still had all of my grades from elementary school. (It was quite sobering to realize that I was not the angel at school like I thought I was - apparently I talked a lot??) But it was finding YOUR own memorabilia that was most surprising - and the fact that you labeled it, as though you were doing so for the people who would find the items after you were gone. I found two cards which you had labeled, “The only cards I ever received from my father.” Who else would that labeling be for than for me, who you knew would go through your belongings? I felt like you were speaking to me, guiding me through your past as I took everything in.

Man, you were organized. Now I see where I get it from. I cleaned out all of your filing cabinets, with hundreds of folders that held things like receipts, warranties, user manuals, and of course, financial statements. For everything single thing you bought! And don’t worry, I put all of the sensitive financial items in the shredding boxes you left out for me. I know how much your privacy meant to you, and even after you’re gone it is protected.

I found your note “After Death” with all of the reminders of things you hadn’t told me yet. This was extremely helpful, and I added it to the folder you had already given me with all of your requests. You’ll be happy to know that I’ve been able to handle your affairs fairly well. I’ve had a lot of help from Pam and Ronnie who are on the front lines down there in Pensacola. Especially due to this pandemic, everything has been moved online so things are a little easier in that respect.

Unfortunately, though, we’ve had to put selling the house on hold. Though real estate agents are deemed “essential” in Florida right now, estate sale companies are not and we can’t put the house on the market until we are able to sell the remaining furniture and items in the house. You’ll be happy to know that the estate company I choose donates any unsold items to charity, so everything will go to a good cause.

As promised, you were cremated, and we did not hold a fancy service for you. It was just Lisa, Sean, Liz, Tabatha, Pam and Me. We went to Johnson Beach. I read the poem that, years ago, you asked to be read at your service, and I asked Sean to read Psalm 19, which I had just learned was your favorite part of the Bible. We took turned scattering your ashes. When all of us had gone, there was still some ash left so I asked Lisa if she wanted to scatter the rest. She said yes, and as we watched her walk out into the ocean I held Pam who had started crying. Lisa said that it made sense that she scattered the last of the ashes, “We came into this together, and I wanted it to be just us at the end.”

Lisa, Sean and I have kept in close touch after all this happened. We’re on a text chain, Lisa is on Facebook more often, and we’ve set up calls on Zoom (kind of like FaceTime) each week to catch up and offer each other support. It’s one bright spot in this whole thing after losing you.

A report came out today saying that they think that in-person events, like theater, sports, conventions, etc may not come back fully until the Fall of 2021. This is so incredibly upsetting to me. You, more than anyone I’ve ever talked to, know how limited my time is here on earth due to cancer - what if I don’t survive until then? What if ANIMAL FARM is the last public performance I ever did? What if my last time singing in a musical was September 2018 - in the midst of the pneumonia I caught that led to the discovery that my cancer had returned?

Sunday was Easter, and I was reminded of this time last year when I visited you after THE MAIDS had closed. I was so sick, and to cheer me up you made an easter basket for me. At first I was a little annoyed because I didn’t bring any luggage with me - I couldn’t physically carry it. So how would I get all of these things back home? I told you I didn’t need all the stuff - that visiting, alone, made me happy. You reassured me that you could ship anything to me that I couldn’t carry in my backpack. Looking back, I only now realize that the Easter basket was mostly for you - it gave you such joy to celebrate the little things and be my "mommy" - how much joy you must have felt shopping for the little stuffed giraffe you gave me, and finding the candle with the perfect scent. And the silly things you included, too.

Speaking of silly, I have Sally. I have given her a good home. She misses you a lot - she doesn’t dance as much as she used to, nor does she pose for as many portraits. But she’s happy that she can bring me comfort and joy when I’m at chemo, just like she did when you were in the hospital.

A text you sent to me on January 21, 2020, featuring the stuffed animal
I gave you when you were in the hospital in 2016.
I had also brought her to the hospital for you at Christmas 2019.
You would often make her dance as you hummed a little tune. I miss your silliness.

I’ll sign off for now. There’s so much more to share, but I’d better space those thoughts out. As you know, we could talk on the phone for HOURS covering every possible topic. But the more I spread the topics out on here, the more I can feel like you’re still with me.



Erin Cronican is a Stage IV breast cancer patient, whose career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has toured nationally with plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. For more information, please visit www.erincronican.com.


  1. Your letter is beautiful, Erin. My condolences on the loss of your mother. Wanted to let you know that I also saw "Hadestown" on March 11. I was at the matinee. That evening, I saw "Darling Grenadine" ... and I have not been to a live performance since.

    1. Oh wow - we were at the same show, then! (I was at the matinee.) It feels nice to know you were there with me.

  2. Thank you for sharing a piece of your heart with us, sweet Erin. I'm so happy to see this post. I have been wondering how you were faring amidst this craziness.
    So lovely to think about your mom. I will always remember the Thanksgiving that you invited we "orphans" (me and Nino) to your parents' home for dinner. Your mother was so gracious and warm. A precious memory.
    Love to you dear one. Anna

    1. Thank you so much, Anna. That really means a lot... ❤️

  3. Dear Erin. I am so sorry to hear of your Mom's passing. My deepest sympathies to you.

    1. Thank you so much, Peter... We miss you here on the East Coast. Hope CA is treating you well...


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