When their only child was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF) at the age of 2, Maryanne O’Hara and her husband were told that Caitlin could live a long life or die in a matter of months. Thirty-one years later, following an excruciating, two-year wait on the transplant list and a last-minute race to locate a pair of healthy lungs, a story that attracted nationwide attention, Caitlin lost her battle with this pernicious disease.

The sudden spiral of devastating events left Maryanne in an existential crisis, searching to find answers to life’s eternal questions: Now what am I for? Why are we here? During her final years, Caitlin had become a source of wisdom and comfort for her mother, the partner with whom she shared deep spiritual and intellectual quests. After Caitlin’s passing, she began to notice signs—persistent synchronicities that seemed to suggest Caitlin’s enduring presence. She consulted medical research and mediums in her quest to find answers to the question, “Does consciousness survive death?”

Little Matches: A Memoir of Grief and Light is Maryanne’s intimate recounting of Caitlin’s journey and her own, weaving a rich narrative of memories with text messages, emails, journal entries, and even drawings. By sharing how Maryanne navigates her existence during and after an adulthood dedicated to Caitlin’s care, the book chronicles one mother’s reckoning with what comes next when the worst finally happens and you’re left with the fact of yourself, still existing in a world that must make sense if you’re to continue living in it.