Im so happy Diane asked me to say something about Mallory as a writer.
By 25 Mallory had…..written one book, was at work on another
one—or possibly two , made a film, a radio documentary posted a long
list of pieces on sites like Medium, kept years of journals and probably did much more than that.
I probably should have been getting writing advice form HER.
But here’s the thing…….
Mallory had something to say. She had a lot to say.
As I was looking back over her work—and it’s an intimidating task—
I was struck by something.
So much of the way we experience each other these days is through social media.
Smiling in pictures on Facebook and Instagram. Uploading funny videos of this and that.
And I was thinking of that now iconic picture of Mallory in her “Live
Happy” t-shirt, with her IV line running nonchalantly down her chest.
And all the other happy images I had seen of her over the years.
And my experiences with Mallory herself, when we would meet at the Montage to talk about a big writing project she was working on—on we would go over something on the phone. .
She was always, in the moment, present in the conversation.
Excited about what she was doing. Utterly delightful.
We didn’t talk about her being sick. We talked about writing, laughed about ridiculous things in the news. Compared funny notes on Diane.
And I realized yesterday, I had used all these pictures and experience to wrap myself in avery comforting lie---that Mallory actually lived a kind of double life:
The one that included CF. And the one in the pictures and the lunches that didn’t.
Of course, I know this is ridiculous. And Mallory was nothing if not transparent about her illness.
But the urge to compartmentalize and sugar coat things is powerful.
Which brings me to her writing.
Mallory was a lovely and ambitious writer
She was full of ideas. And the possibility that she could help bring about change.
Heal the planet in some small way through her words and her work. Protect her precious Hawaii.
But most of all, she was honest and brave and unrelenting when it came to telling her own story.
The one where there were good days and bad days, but they were all CF days.
As she put it in one of her posts: I am limited in what I can do, but not in what I say .
She left behind a chronicle of a real life. Of a girl trying to make sense of the world and her place in it.
Of a girl, who at age 11, learned that cepacia had taken up residence in her body, and changed the calculation of her future.
Or to paraphrase Mallory….. a girl…. who through a random encounter with an opportunistic pathogen….., had walked up to the devils vending machine, and was now expected to feel the heaviness of a mortality consciousness.
Who writes like that at 24?
Mallory understood that she understood something--- that few of us do. She didn’t choose it, but she stood defiant in front of that vending machine.
And told her story. She was disciplined about her writing. She was disciplined about her Happiness. She didn’t know the meaning of self-pity. She celebrated the good. She made no bones about the bad. She dared us all to learn the weaponized language of CF. She questioned the tragic bargain that would bring her the new lungs she needed.
Truth is under assault everyday in this country. Mallory left behind something honest and true. A compelling and heart-wrenching collection of pieces.
She said writing healed her in some ways. Her writing will surely heal others.
I had secretly hoped that I would be the person to produce the first radio piece Mallory made with her new lungs, when she could breathe deeply enough for the demands of audio. Sadly, we won’t get to make that piece.
But for all of those who knew her well, and with all due respect to EB White, I offer the last line of Charlotte’s Web.
“It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Mallory was both.”