The last time many of Catherine Malatesta’s friends saw her, she sparkled. She wore a long, navy blue gown with a sequined bodice. Gold earrings dangled from her ears.
It was May 29, 2015, the night of Catherine’s junior prom at Arlington High School in Massachusetts.
Two months later Catherine died of cancer.
A popular, athletic, never-missed-a-day-at-school student, Catherine had complained out of the blue of shoulder pain in the fall of 2014, reported the Boston Globe.
She was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive cancer called epithelioid sarcoma in December 2014.
Through radiation and chemotherapy, she went to class when she could. She ran for student council president from her hospital bed, where she recorded her campaign speech.
“I would like your vote for student council president because I am strong and I am not afraid to fight for the good of our students and to challenge the norm,” she said.
She won the election.
Her mother, Jennifer Goodwin, watched her tenacious daughter hold on.
“It was herculean, really herculean,” Goodwin told WBUR in Boston. “Literally she’d have chemo on a Thursday, she’d hole up in bed Friday trying to sleep off the aftereffects, and then she’d have play practice all day Saturday.”
Catherine had worried about prom since her diagnosis, wondering what boy would want to take a girl with no hair, Goodwin told WBUR in Boston.
When prom rolled around in May, Catherine was confined to a hospital bed, where she stayed until her death. But she had found a pretty blue prom dress online and she wanted to wear it. So her doctors let her go.
She had chemotherapy the day before prom. So during the dance her classmates watched out for her and made a place where she could lie down and take breaks when she needed them.
As her health declined in those last weeks, friends visited Catherine’s church and held impromptu prayer meetings. Hundreds met there spontaneously the day after she died.
Nearly 3,000 people waited in line for four hours at her wake, the Arlington Advocate reported.
Goodwin later invited some of Catherine’s friends to take what they wanted from her things. The blue prom dress still hung on the closet door. One by one they tried it on.
Then it hit them.
We should all wear Catherine’s dress.
One girl wore the dress to Arlington High’s junior prom on Friday, the same dance Catherine attended last year.
Three more friends will wear it to their senior proms between now and June 2.
“I think that prom was a very special time for Catherine last year, with everything she was going through,” friend Carly Blau told the Globe.
“By wearing her dress, it’s a way to connect with her, and have some closure and shine as bright as she did at prom.”
Goodwin is in charge of the dress between wearings, the dry cleaning, alterations and transportation. She’s dubbed the project “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Prom Dress,” after the best-selling novel and 2005 movie about a special pair of pants that forever bonded a group of teenage girlfriends.
“I know my daughter would be overjoyed that her friends wanted to honor her memory in this way,” Goodwin told the Globe. “She will be with them at their prom.”