Sunday, August 2, 2020

Dear Mom (Part 2)

(See Part 1 of this series by clicking here)

It's you, me and Dad dressed up as outlaws!

Dear Mom, 

It’s been nearly 4 months since I’ve written. I don’t know why I’ve been away so long. Maybe it’s because it’s too painful to write. Maybe it’s because I’m just trying to focus on surviving. The whole world is focused on surviving. It’s a very weird, and very somber time.

As of this writing (July 31, 2020) we have 4.67M confirmed and 156K deaths.) In NY State alone, we’ve had 420K confirmed and 32,390 deaths. We’re no longer the hotspot in the country - our numbers are still among the highest in the country but we just got overtaken by California and Florida. In Escambia County (your home) there have been 7738 with 95 deaths. Most of those numbers have happened in July alone, and it’s not stopping anytime soon.

I’m keeping an eye on Pensacola’s numbers because we have yet to sell the house. I’m holding off until we can reasonably have an estate sale to sell the household items that Lisa, Sean, Pam, Ronnie and I didn’t take. By the way, I did give Ronnie all of your tennis clothes for his granddaughter, and she loves them. Pam is still trying to figure out if she’s going to take all of the office furniture or just some of it. It’s been a ridiculously hot summer, so she’s been hesitant to take on that job of getting the furniture to her house! She and Ronnie have been doing a great job of taking care of the house - the pool is the hardest thing to keep clean and working properly. It’s so hard being all the way in NYC and trying to manage things from here. There was a little part of me who thought it might be a good idea to go back to FL for a little while, but that doesn’t seem to make sense with everything shut down (not to mention the lack of safety in flying.)

You won’t believe the things that have been happening in the United States since I last wrote. One of the positive things was the solidarity NYC has had with the health care workers, who put their lives in the lines for all of us for so long. Mom, nurses and doctors were traveling here from all over the country to help NYC in the height of the pandemic here. And at 7pm each night, residents of NYC would gather outside or near their windows and cheered for a good 5 minutes, some people singing and playing instruments, many people banging pots and pans together. We can’t take credit for it, though - the idea began in Italy as they had the second international outbreak of the illness (after coming over from Asia.) Which reminds me - our lovely president insists on calling COVID-19 the “China Virus” to put negative attention on the Chinese people, which has sown a huge amount of racist backlash here in the US. There has been a huge wave of hate crimes against Asian people.

And speaking of hate crimes... and this would sicken you so much... on May 25, a Black man named George Floyd was minding his own business when he was approached by a few cops in Minneapolis, who suspected him of passing off a counterfeit $20 bill earlier that day. He was eventually handcuffed and escorted to a police car, when he ask officers to un-cuff him if he was being put in the car because he was claustrophobic. They considered this to be resisting arrest and tackled him, and one of the white officers knelt on George’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. George repeatedly cried out and said he couldn’t breathe, and one of the other officers even told the kneeling officer that he shouldn’t be doing that. At some point during those 8 minutes and 46 seconds, George called out for his mother (who was already deceased) and then fell unconscious. He later died.

Mom - this has sparked the most glorious and necessary uprising of Black people, supported by non-Black allies who have been marching and protesting ever since. It’s called the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and it is repeatedly compared to the protests and march from the Civil Rights era. Citizens around the world have been protesting in solidarity with Black people against the tyranny of the police. Most major cities in the USA have had ongoing protests over the last few months. But of course, these protests have exposed an even larger divide between the right and the left, with the right championing police and the left calling for reform, which is being dubbed #DefundPolice.

Trump has done some truly horrible things related to this movement -- and also related to the virus. I imagine you and I would be on the phone for hours and hours just trying to talk out what is happening, especially about how our world could turn so ugly so fast. And actually, if you were still alive we probably wouldn’t be talking by phone - I would be with you in Florida taking care of you and we’d be weathering things out, together. Or maybe I would have finally convinced you to use FaceTime on your new iPad. Which, by the way, I have with me and I am using. It's still named "Flo's iPad" and still have your same password, which makes me feel close to you every time I open it. Oh, and also... my debit card just so happens to have your birth date in the expiration date. So every time I type it in I think of you. 

Anyway, back to politics... Our country is truly divided. It has been proven that something as simple as wearing a mask can help reduce the spread of the virus by 95%. But the far right refuses to wear them, saying that it infringes upon their civil liberties. There is a major divide in who is out on the streets protesting for BLM - mostly progressives. Moderates and conservatives stand back and decry the destruction of property but don’t decry the destruction of Black bodies.

Also... Joe Biden is our presumptive Democratic Nominee. I say presumptive because we haven’t had our convention yet. Not sure if we’re even going to have one. Pretty much everyone dropped out in March (Bernie was the last hold-out and he dropped out in early April.) As you can imagine, I was DEVASTATED when Elizabeth Warren dropped out. It felt the same as when Hillary lost in 2016. 

By the way - and this was expected because NOTHING surprises us anymore - but the other day Trump actually tweeted this:

As you know, Mail-In Voting and Absentee Voting ARE THE SAME THING. We have all been waiting for him to start suggesting a delay in the election, because he's trailing to Biden in the polls. We also expect him to fight the results if Biden ends up winning. It's a shit show, Mom. A goddamn shit show.

Anyway, I could go on and on about the political implications of everything going on - and I know you’d want to listen. You were always such an engaged citizen, and I know it frustrated you that you felt helpless to do anything. Well, I’m doing something. Though theater worldwide had to shut down all live performances (no group gatherings are allowed) - we have found a way to use an online video chatting portal called Zoom (kind of like FaceTime, but for groups) to broadcast readings of plays to the public. We just did a play called DUTCHMAN, written in 1964 by Amiri Baraka about a Black man who is seduced and ultimately ruined by a white woman he meets on the NYC subway. We used this play to open up a conversation with our audiences about white complicity in racism, even now when things seem like they’ve gotten so much better. 

Just a few other things in this update -

Remember when I teased you for bringing home so many things from the hospital because “they were free”? Well, I want to thank you personally for all of the bottles of hand sanitizer! When the virus first hit the stores/manufacturers couldn’t keep up with demand, so hand sanitizer became like liquid gold. Also, toilet paper. For some reason, people were buying it in hoards and there wasn’t enough left for everyone. I had two friends who had to send me extra rolls to help me get by!

I found Dad’s dog tags from his days in the military. I have one of them on my keychain now. It’s the same keychain we bought when on our cruise at Christmas & New Years 2009/2010. I also have another remembrance of you on the keychain. Oddly, the funeral home include a metal tag (with your cremation number on it) in the box with your remains. So both that and dad’s dog tag are sitting next to each other on the keychain, and I think about you every time I pick up my keys.

When I was at your home for your services (February 26-March 7) I spent a lot of time out on the back porch, just trying to feel your presence. I even sat in your chair rather than the one I usually sit in. I spent time watching the squirrels and birds, just like you used to. Its was such a peaceful place to be. I miss it. I miss you.

When Pam came to pick me up to take me to the airport, and we pulled out of your driveway, I got very upset. I tried to hide it, because I didn’t want to upset Pam. But she noticed and asked, “Are you ok?” I shook my head no, and then started to sob. I also cried as the plane took off. And every time I think about the house - sitting empty, quiet, and alone - I’m filled with such anguish and guilt. Guilt that I’m not there taking care of things, and anguish because even if I were there nothing I could ever do will bring you back. Ever.

This week I watched a bunch of videos I had shot on my camera over the years. I found one from 2008 where you had discovered a children’s coin-operated ride - a yellow cab. You hopped in and asked for quarters so that you could “ride in a cab like all New Yorkers.” You were always so silly and fun-loving, and willing to have a laugh at yourself. I also have a video of you from a cruise you took and you were learning to line dance - it was the Electric Slide, I think. You kept trying and trying to get the steps, often going the wrong way. But your smile never left your face, and you never got frustrated (like I would have!) And you started to get the hang of it toward the end. It was so wonderful seeing footage of you when you were healthy and vibrant. I like remembering you that way.

I’m having a hard time signing off from this letter today. I’m not sure why. I guess writing to you makes me feel close to you and I don’t want to let go. But I have to keep reminding myself that you are always with me. Even though I don’t have a belief in the “hereafter” I do feel your presence each and every day. And though it makes me so, so sad I also know that I’m very lucky to have that feeling. And that will have to do, for now.



Look! It's us! (You, always tanned. And me? Always white.)

Erin Cronican is a Stage IV breast cancer patient, whose career as a professional actor, producer, 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 and appeared Off Broadway with several plays and musicals. She is currently the Executive Artistic Director of The Seeing Place Theater in NYC. For more information, please visit

Friday, July 24, 2020

100 Random Facts About Me - 10 Years Later

Facebook Memories alerted me that 10 years ago I published a blog post: "10 Random Facts About Me", and I thought it would be fun to revisit the post and offer updates/comments on what has changed and what has stayed the same the last 10 years. 

So, without further ado, here are my 100 Random Facts from 2010, with updates for 2020!

1. My name was almost Colleen. It was my parents’ 2nd choice, and coincidentally, the nurses at the hospital randomly assigned me that name to me via the bassinet name card. But Erin won out. 

2. My middle initial is Q. Stands for Quinn. 

3. People always think I am taller than I actually am. And yet, I am almost always too tall for my musical theater scene partners. Murphy’s Law. (I’m 5’5“)

2020 UPDATE: I *just* got my height measured at the doctor's office, and I HAVE SHRUNK. I am now 5'4". I'm so sad!

4. I was born a super dark brunette. With a widow’s peak. I looked like Baby Dracula. 

This is me with my older sister.
My widow's peak is fashionably sideswept.

5. I’ve owned 5 businesses, and been a mid-high level manager at 3 different companies. 

6. I’ve owned 2 properties, the first before the age of 25. 

7. I get really excited when the mail comes. And if my mailbox is empty, my heart sinks. 

8. I often sing songs to my dog, and put her name in the song. Like, ”Sweet Denver Dog, (bah bah bah!) Good Times Never Seemed So Good (so good so good so good!)"

2020 UPDATE: Alas, Denver passed away in 2012 and it took years before I was ready to get another dog. But happily, Feste came into our lives in February 2018, and yes - I put his name in songs, too...

9. I have an irrational fear of grasshoppers. 

10. I adore alphabetizing. And sorting of all kinds. 

11. I am really good at hanging pictures perfectly straight without a ruler or tape measure. 

12. I have a crapload of family I have never met.

2020 UPDATE: I recently sent in my Ancestry DNA kit, so I'm sure that very soon I'll have other family coming out of the woodwork...

13. I love buying cosmetics. Doesn’t matter how many bottles of lotion or tubes of mascara I have, I always want to try more.

14. I have been a Mac/Apple user since 1995 (thanks, Brent!) and I am a diehard fan. I don’t yet have the iPad, but I have an iPhone, MacBook and an Apple TV. And my old iPod, which I still use. 

2020 UPDATE: I am still a Mac geek - add to my "owned" list: an iPad, an Apple Pencil for the iPad, and no more iPod. (Remember when they first announced the iPad and how unpopular that name was?) I don't yet have an Apple Watch, because I don't wear a watch...

15. I am extremely introverted, which no one guesses because I can be very personable, expressive, and attentive. But I then disappear for days because I have to recharge. This is why some of you have yet to receive return phone calls and emails and texts. Oops. 

16. I’ve finally realized that I have been lying to myself all of my life - I DO want to be swept off my feet like in the storybooks. 

17. However, I don’t want kids. 

18. My dog is nearly 15 years old, and I have had her since she was 10 weeks old. 

2020 UPDATE: See #8. We rescued Feste and his estimated age was 1 year at the time. If that's true, he's 3.5 years now. 

Dear, Sweet Denver

Dear, Sweet Feste 

19. I feel things very quickly, and very deeply, but have a huge wall that appears when I am with others. Over the years I have slowly been able to lower the wall bit by bit.

2020 UPDATE: I have been working on this a lot, and nowadays I think I'm much more open.

20. Spaceballs (Mel Brooks) is my favorite movie. Ludicrous Speed- GO!

21. I had a basal cell carcinoma (skin cancer) removed in Oct 2009.

2020 UPDATE: Oh boy. So, in May 2015, I was diagnosed with Stage IIB Breast Cancer - I had the cancer surgically removed (lumpectomy), 16 rounds of chemo, and 32 rounds of radiation. I was cancer-free for 2.5 years, and then the cancer came back as Stage IV (terminal) in November 2018 and spread to my lungs, brain and bones. I am currently in weekly chemo treatments to reduce the tumors and (hopefully) keep them from growing. I look back on the 2010 post and think about how simple life was back then...

22. People actually pay me for guidance and direction, but most of the time I am just making shit up. 

23. I have a tendency to fold things when my hands are idle. Give me a napkin and I will fold, unfold and fold again without even noticing it. 

24. Shows/movies about redemption makes me blubber like a baby. 

25. I write 2 blogs, and am a contributing writer to 4 more.

2020 UPDATE: I do considerably less writing now. I still write for two blogs (this one, and my theater company's blog) but beyond that I only write articles for Backstage.

26. I’m really behind on those blogs (see #15.)

27. My mother knows just about everything about me. 

2020 UPDATE: Sadly, my mother passed away this year at the age of 70, on February 11, 2020.

Me and Mom back in 2010

28. I don’t like to leave things unfinished, so I will probably write all 100 of these things in one sitting. (Postscript: It took me 3 hours, but I did it.)

29. I want to donate my organs, because those who outlive me will be able to see me live on in others, and it is the only way I can guarantee that I will make a difference in this life. 

2020 UPDATE: Unfortunately, due to the fact that I have Stage IV cancer and my body has been ravaged by it and chemo, I'm no longer eligible to be an organ donor. This makes my heart ache.

30. My left eye is much more dominant than my right eye. (Here's how you find out.)

31. You can’t see it in most pictures, but my eyes have a brown ring around the pupil, and depending on my mood or what I am wearing, the rest of my iris can be green, blue/green or a hazel. 

32. I am incredibly intuitive/empathic and take on the feelings of those around me. Thus, people who get really angry or upset can inadvertently make me feel those things too. It makes me a good coach and director but bad when I’m near people who are fighting. 

33. It makes me so sad that that my father never got to visit me in New York (his birth place and my home) before he died in 2006.

Me and my Daddy.

34. I was horribly unpopular when I was a child. I was routinely bullied and often beat up. By both boys and girls.

35. I find filling out surveys like this strangely therapeutic. 

36. I’m a lot older than I look.

2020 UPDATE: And I no longer like talking about my age like that. 😳

37. I don’t believe in God, but I love that other people do. 

38. My sister always had big boobs and it was devastating when I realized I hadn't grown up to be like her. 

39. I love camping, but only where there are outhouses. I will not do my “business” in the woods. It’s just about the only high maintenance thing about me. 

40. I dated someone with kids once - I am not sure I can do that again. 

41. I always paint my apartments with bright colors. 

My current apartment

42. One of my acting jobs is as a standardized patient (SP) - I do improvised scenes with medical students to help them practice their clinical skills. These SP exams are required elements for medical school, and I’ve been doing this for more than 7 years. 

2020 UPDATE: I'm still doing this work, and I've expanded my work to the corporate world, where I work as a trainer/facilitator and use improv/role play to help train executives on leadership skills including emotional intelligence, flexing management styles to each employee, and having difficult conversations. I love this work!

43. I’ve never had a nickname, but I’ve always wanted one. 

2020 Update: This is still true! Leave one for me in the comments!

44. I taught myself graphic and web design in the late 90s, and now I offer these services to actors. 

45. “Groove Is In The Heart” (Dee-Lite) is my theme song, and would be in the opening credits of the movie of my life. “Happy Phantom” (Tori Amos) would be the closing credits. 

46. My brother and sister both have intense ADD. So does my nephew. I do not.

47. I enjoy reading astrology descriptions. Not predications, but the personality outlines. (PS: I’m a Scorpio.)

48. Red meat gives me massive stomach ache, but I’ll suffer it for a good Philly cheesesteak with mushrooms and cheese whiz. 

2020 UPDATE: In 2016 I finally visited Philadelphia for the first time and had Pat's. cheesesteak "Whiz Widout"

49. When I was a kid, my sister and I used to sit with coffee cups and cherry pie and watch "Twin Peaks." 

50. My sister (see #38, #47 & #49) has disappeared, and no one knows where she is at. Worse than that - her disappearance is intentional. 

2020 UPDATE: She has been found! I got back in touch with her in late 2015, and after our mother died she, my brother, and I have had weekly Zoom calls with one another. It's pretty awesome.

Our "Siblings Unite!" Zoom Call - 
my brother and I show off our dogs, and my sister, her cat.

51. I HATE the sound of people eating. Chewing, slurping, smacking of lips. It gives me all-over body convulsions and it makes me want to get violent. 

2020 UPDATE: No joke - my dog is eating and drinking right now and I'm having to meditate through it.

52. I could eat eggs at any hour of the day. I love breakfast!

53. I stay up until 3am most nights (mornings?)

2020 UPDATE: It's 2:07am now...

54. I am rather addicted to thrift store shopping. 

55. I lived in Brussels, Belgium for kindergarten, 1st & 2nd grade while my father worked at NATO. 

56. I have a strange affinity for marketing, and have lots of creative ideas for promotion. These ideas often keep me up at night (see #53.)

57. I inherited my observational humor and penchant for puns from my father. 

58. Being from SoCal, I should have taken Spanish in school but instead I took French. (see #55)

59. I avoid most political conversations, but the issue of gay rights makes me nearly militant. I endorse love between consenting adults. 

2020 UPDATE: My oh my, have things changed. I consider myself an activist and am in what seems like daily fights on behalf of #BlackLivesMatter and other BIPOC causes, causes for the LGTBQIA+ community, as well as rights for the disabled, women, and immigrants.

60. I adore singing in harmony. 

61. I giggle every time I hiccup. The more I hiccup, the more hysterical the giggles get. 

62. Unlike many actors, I like to watch myself on film and listen to myself sing on recordings. I will no longer feel bad about this.

Here - you can enjoy this, too. 

63. I have had braces twice, had my jaw realigned, and had 10 baby teeth pulled when they wouldn’t fall out on their own. I don’t heart the dentist. 

64. I won the high school talent show singing, “Somewhere” from West Side Story.

65. Unless I am on stage, I hate having the focus on me in public. HATE. So, please never sing Happy Birthday to me or propose to me with people watching. 

66. Alec Baldwin, on the set of 30 Rock, once told me I have beautiful eyes. 

67. I am close friends with most of my ex-boyfriends. I chose them for a reason - they were good people then, they still are now, and they're worthy of keeping in my life.

2020 UPDATE: Still true!

68. I am particularly sensitive about people being taken advantage of (especially me.) I am normally pretty low-key and easy going, but if I think someone is trying to use/disrespect me or my friends, my blood boils and I get into fight mode. (see #59)

69. I love spicy food, and am afraid for the day that I get too old to eat it. 

70. I own a lot of DVDs that I have never watched. 

2020 UPDATE: I still have the DVDs plus SAG-AFTRA screeners, and I have no idea what to do with them.

71. I did a 2 month European tour when I got out of college. 

2020 UPDATE: I took myself to Italy in 2017. It started when I was hired to be the assistant of a woman who takes a group of opera singers to Greve in Chianti, Tuscany, each summer. Part of my work agreement was that she would repay me with room/board in Italy for a week. I opted to stay for 11 days, taking an extra 4 days to travel by myself across the Amalfi Coast - as well as Florence, where I had visited after college. (See above.) 

On a boat from Ravello to Positano

72. I’ve been engaged, but never married. Thank the baby Jesus. 

73. I adore watching baseball, but have backed off following the game since moving to the East Coast because I can rarely watch my Padres and it depresses me. 

74. In my first play (at age 9), I played a Gander in “Charlotte’s Web.” Then I played Grumpy in “Snow White.” I went on to play many, many more male roles until well after college. 

75. I look better in skirts and dresses than I do in pants. 

76. I named my dog after a character in the book, “Beloved“ by Toni Morrison. Her name is Denver. 

2020 UPDATE: Our new dog, Feste, is also named after a literary character. Feste is the clown/fool in Shakespeare's TWELFTH NIGHT.

77. If there is cheese dip on the menu, I’m ordering it. 

78. The first inspirational quote I ever put to memory was the Chinese proverb, ”Talk does not cook rice.“ It really speaks to me about motivation and action. 

79. I have an OCD tendency -- I really, really like things to be even. Like, if things come in pairs, do not separate them. Eggs from a carton - I wilt 2 or 4, but never 1 or 3. I skim ice cream evenly across the top of the container. And I’ll straighten anything that is askew. 

80. I have never smoked cigarettes. Not a one. 

81. I find it immensely satisfying when a cat likes me... even though I am allergic to them. 

82. One of my favorite words to use is ”delicious.“

83. I have no tattoos, partly because I am deathly afraid of needles. 

2020 UPDATE: I *technically* have 8 tattoos now - very small, blue, pinprick tattoos on the left side of my chest to mark the outer areas of where the radiation would hit my body when I had Stage IIB breast cancer (before my current Stage IV diagnosis.)

Handy Dandy Radiation Machine 

84. My very first official job (besides babysitting) was at a double feature movie theater. 

85. I am an amazing parallel parker, but I am still terrified of rolling back on a hill with a manual transmission. 

86. It has never mattered to me how much (or how little) money my partner makes. 

87. The first thing people tend to notice about me are my eyes, and I really like that. 

88. In high school and college, I took summer school to get ahead - I wanted to take as many classes as possible. Super geek-dom. I also took a ”zero period“ weight lifting class in high school, which happened before school started every day, to support my varsity tennis playing skills. Super jock-dom.

89. I was the best girl’s tennis player in my high school for 3 years running, and the only freshman varsity player. It must have been all of the weight lifting (see #88.)

90. Italian food is my very, very favorite cuisine, but I crave smoked salmon or salmon sushi almost daily. 

91. I am super, super, super liberal, but came from super, super, super conservative parents. Strangely, my mother is more liberal now that she is retired. 

2020 UPDATE: My mother actually voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016!

92. I’ve never had a one night stand. 

2020 UPDATE: Very soon after the original blog posted, this was no longer true. 😂😳

93. I am right handed, but I shoot pool left handed. 

94. For my next big vacation, I want to take a road trip and not plan where to stay until I find a town that I want to stay in. It terrifies and excites me all at the same time. 

2020 UPDATE: I still haven't done this. Someday...

95. I am terrible at remembering jokes, but most people find me extremely funny. (See #57.)

96. I really, really love taking pictures, but I am afraid that if I get a good camera and learn how to use it, that it will be yet ANOTHER thing that occupies my time and I may never sleep (see #53.)

97. I think Twitter is just about the most amazing networking tool that actors have at their disposal.

2020 UPDATE: This is still true, but TikTok and Instagram are pretty fun for finding new friends/colleagues, too. Facebook is still the best, though, for deepening relationships you already have.

98. I have a ”Wizard of Oz“ Barbie in my living room because I once played Glinda. 

99. People LOVE my coffee-making skills. 

100. This list has just helped me formulate 100 things to talk about when I start dating again...

And here are 10 BONUS facts that have happened between 2010 and now...

101. I have been dating the same awesome person since November 2011. We live together with our dog, Feste, in NYC.

Here's Feste and Brandon

102. I am no longer deathly afraid of needles. (Having cancer will jigger your fears a little bit.)

103. I still talk to my drama directors/teachers from high school. 

104. Throughout 2017-2018 I was a "stand-by" for two Off-Broadway musicals, which means I would be called to perform if one of the leads was out sick or on vacation. Well, one day I was called to perform in BOTH shows on the same day - one at 2pm and the other at 4:30pm - and then I ALSO had a performance for The Seeing Place (my theater company) at 8pm. My brain practically exploded that day.

105. I spent my first time as an inpatient at a hospital in November 2018, for lung surgery after my Stage IV diagnosis.

Post Surgery Loopiness
106. My favorite list of cocktails has expanded past the margarita and dirty vodka martini to include straight up bourbon.

107. My favorite things to watch on TV/film are documentaries. Especially documentaries that are human interest stories or true crime. I absolutely love learning how the human mind works, and I love learning about what humans go through, who fights for them. and how they survive.

108. When I'm in between acting projects, I like to dye my hair with a funky-colored stripe.

Pink hair!

109. I lost my voice for about a year due to a mishap with lung surgery (see #105) which caused me a paralyzed vocal cord. Fortunately it was a problem that was eventually fixed, over time, by a glorious ENT and dedicated voice teacher. It was one of the most devastating things that has ever happened to me.

110. I got a blue checkmark on Twitter. Feels like I've made it...

Erin Cronican is a Stage IV breast cancer patient, whose career as a professional actor, producer, 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 and appeared Off Broadway with several plays and musicals. She is currently the Executive Artistic Director of The Seeing Place Theater in NYC. For more information, please visit

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

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