Things that made me cry this week: A letter to JK Rowling
I love a good cry.
I’m a big softie. I love to have a good weep. Most of my favourite films are tear-jerkers. In fact, I love films that move me, affect me or make me cry like a baby! My favourite film is Stephen Spielberg’s 1985 American period drama, ‘The Color Purple’, based on the Alice Walker book. It tells the story of an African-American woman called Celie, (played by Whoopi Goldberg), living in the Deep South during the Great Depression. As you watch the story of Celie’s life unfold, it takes you on a roller-coaster ride of emotions, but in the end it’s essentially a story about the triumph of the human spirit. I recall watching it for the first time when I was a teenager and crying for about five minutes after the movie finished. It had such an impact on me. My mum wondered what on earth was wrong with me when I stumbled into the kitchen, choking back sobs and wiping tears from my eyes. I couldn’t even explain why I was so overwhelmed.
If I’m not crying over films, then its programmes like ‘Long Lost Family’, ‘Noel’s Christmas Presents’ and ‘Surprise! Surprise!’ You know the one’s I mean? They usually involve fulfilling someone’s dying wish, reuniting relatives who haven’t seen each other for years or meeting the sibling they never knew they had. I’m usually a puffy-eyed mess of tears and snot (I am not a pretty crier) before the long lost relative has even stepped off the plane, never mind had their first hug from the brother they’ve never met.
The programme that wins the award for the ‘most tears shed by the Taylor family in one evening’ is ‘The Pride of Britain Awards‘. This annual award show turns the spotlight on unsung heroes, recognising ordinary people who do extraordinary things: like being brave in the face of danger or triumphing against physical disability or saving someone’s life or raising thousands of pounds for charity or fostering two hundred kids (or all of the aforementioned things). Again, I’m a mess by the time they’ve shown the preview clips of what to expect later in the show. By the time the last award has been handed to another remarkable person, I’ve gotten through half a box of Kleenex tissues and instructed my kids never to go near open water or play near a railway line ever again. As the end credits roll, I find myself wondering what I have done with my life, after spending a few hours in the company of such incredible people.
However, this week’s tears weren’t prompted by a movie, an award show or even a couple of octogenarian siblings meeting for the first time. Instead, my tears flowed unexpectedly in response to a letter.
A mother’s letter to JK Rowling
Some of you may already have heard this story but it had such an impact on me. Whilst travelling back from a weekend in London, I was reading through the news stories on the BBC website when I found an article about a thank you letter that the mother of a young cancer sufferer had written to J.K. Rowling. The letter was read by Ellie Bamber, (the Pride and Prejudice actress), during a performance of ‘Letters Live’, where remarkable letters are read aloud to an audience by actors. It moved Daisy Ridley, the young actress in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, to Tweet:
‘One of the most beautiful letters I’ve ever read. From a mother to JK Rowling, about the impact Harry Potter had on her daughter, who was diagnosed with cancer. The power of words is undeniable…it may make you cry.’
The letter made me cry too, especially when I started reading the article aloud to my husband, Richard. I choked my way through the piece, moved to tears by the words of a mother as she spoke of how J.K. Rowling’s story about a young wizard and his friends was ‘a castle for her daughter to move into when the prognosis got worse.’
She died last week, a month after the letter was written.
I have printed her mother’s letter to J.K. Rowling in full but I have also supplied the link to the original article below:
I write to you as a mother, a Mummy, of a beautiful little girl. I’m sure you hear people tell you all the time that your words, your imagination helped them, or their children, in some way. Maybe they were helped out of depression by your works, maybe they drew strength from the knowledge that Neville grew up to be a hero against all odds, maybe you taught a bookish boy that there are friends to be found between the pages of a novel.
I want to share with you what you taught my daughter, who was recently diagnosed with cancer. When I read her your stories, she didn’t take to the clear distinction between good and evil, but instead loved the grey characters. You taught her that for every chemo she has to go through, there will be the opportunity to fly across a lake on a hippogriff. For every time her heart seizes with fear of pain, there will be me chasing it away with a patronus charm.
Your words built a castle for her to move into when the prognosis got worse. Mrs Rowling, cancer threatened to take everything from my daughter, and your books turned out to be the fortress we so desperately needed to hide in.
And the things you taught me? You made me realise that a mother’s courage might come in the form of her tears. I might not have the physical ability to block her from what will take her away from me, but I can be loving and gentle like Molly, stoic in my affection like Minerva, protective and loyal like Hermione, and waiting to welcome her home like Lily.
But the most important lesson you have taught us both: cancer may take her away from me in just a few short weeks. I might not be able to spare her the pain. But for every child that is taken too early, people will come together, huddling close in a big group, wands held high to light the dark sky with the love they felt.
You built Hogwarts as a home for her to return to. And for me.
For that I shall remain forever gratefully yours,
-CHRISSY HART’S LETTER TO JK ROWLING
The Harry Potter author tweeted on social media after hearing that Chrissy’s daughter had died:
I think I wanted to write because words were always my safe place. I only wish words could bring her back to you.
I can’t imagine what it must be like to watch your child lose their battle with cancer but I can imagine how much it would mean if there was something to help her find refuge from her pain and troubles. For Chrissy’s daughter, there was power in the written word. For others, there is comfort from the words of others or the love of family and friends or from their faith. This poignant story will stay with me for a long time.
So are you a crier like me?
What makes you cry? Do you ‘blub’ during movies or TV shows? Do you cry when your kids make you a homemade card? I’d love to hear from you.