Wednesday, July 10, 2013


July 11, 2011, 3 a.m.  I wake with severe abdominal pain, in a half-dream of Mom, snickering with her usual sarcastic wit, “This is how I brought you in, so it’s how you can see me out.”  At 7 a.m. my brother called to say she had passed away in her sleep.

June 29, 2013, 3 a.m.   I wake with my abdomen in knots, in a half-dream of Kathryn, in a sweet breeze around me, smiling and telling me how happy she was about the gathering we had had for her the week before.   Later that afternoon, I take a deep breath when I get her answering service, and leave a message to let her know I’m thinking of her and I love her. 

I feel simultaneous joy and relief when she returns my call a few minutes later.  Her voice is breathless and raspy but laughing, telling me the party went on for hours after most of the crowd left.

At the end of the day, with just a few of us remaining to tidy up, she had said she was really in the mood for shots, and sent her daughter out for tequila. “What the heck,” she said, contrasted with her years of dietary perfection, “at this point it can only help.”  As I drove away, I passed Jen returning with the goods.

During our call, talking is difficult for her, so we keep it brief.  She’s had a recent scare when not being able to catch her breath.  We say what we know, but always needs to be said again and again… I love you, see you in a couple of days.

The next morning I’m delighted to receive an email with her name in the subject line, initially thinking it’s from Kathryn.  My breath catches in my throat when I read that it’s written by our friend…  Kathryn died early this morning with her daughters by her side.  

We met a few years ago when a friend referred her regarding professional services.  Within a few minutes of our phone conversation, we were chatting like old friends.  Kathryn had a way of connecting to your heart gently, instantly, as soothing as a breeze on a sweltering day.  No wonder she came to me that way in my dream. 

Whenever I was with Kathryn I met remarkable, unforgettable people. She was brilliant and brave and relentless in her efforts to find answers about cancer causes and effects and treatments.  Her breast cancer had started long before I met her, and there was a period of time when we first met, after the chemo and radiation and mastectomy and reconstruction, that we thought it was all behind her.

When she later learned about the metastasis, she attacked it head on.  She had successes and failures, tumors that came and went. She researched and shared medical and complementary ways she was fighting and often overcoming yet another challenge.  She survived and thrived much longer than I thought possible, and I believed she would win. 

We had spoken a few months earlier; she had just sold her house, and was excited about a beautiful place she had found to share with a remarkable roommate.  I later found out that they had connected within 11 minutes of this woman listing the opening on Craig’s list, of all places.

She loved her new home, was feeling great and we were trying to set a date to get together.  The good & bad news is that the house was in a spectacular rural setting – and the cell reception was awful.  Through a static connection, she said she’d call when she was closer to civilization.

Time sneaks by all too swiftly as we tend to our to-do lists.  After our last conversation, I thought Kathryn was on the road to recovery and would be here forever.  While talking to a mutual friend a few weeks ago I asked if she had seen Kathryn lately, and she told me she had gone into hospice the day before. The next day her daughter Jen called to invite me to a “Gathering” that Kathryn’s roommate was hosting that weekend. 

Kathryn is an artist and loves beauty and color and nature; I wanted her gift to delight her senses.  I made her something beautiful to wear and shopped for the perfect box.

 I arrived early to help where I could and have a little quiet time to visit before there were too many distractions for her. 

Her daughter & granddaughter had gone makeup shopping, and Kathryn was a willing victim as we fussed over her and primped and decorated. 

She laughed about her “muskrat hair” and delighted in all the loving attention.  Although some gently argued with any self-disparaging hair comments, we smiled at each other with the shared secret that comes only from having been there. 

At some point, all you can do is laugh at the thick regrowth that looks as if it slept on an eggbeater.

As we set up the outdoor celebration, the clouds drizzled gentle tears of resignation.

Within a few minutes everything was refreshed and sunshine welcomed the dozens of friends who arrived with food and spontaneous live music and laughter.

Kathryn greeted everyone blanketed in a pastel pink cloud, surrounded with love.

We all gathered around, her family embracing her, to toast her with love and gratitude for the blessing her friendship has been in our lives. 

The more eloquent among us poured forth what we were able only to feel, and the rest of us toasted our “ditto!!”

In responding to our good wishes, she looked deeply into my eyes, saying thank you, and how much our friendship meant.  Although she made me feel like I was the only one, I know she somehow did this for of every one of us in the group.

That’s how Kathryn is. When you are with her, you feel deeply that you are important and loved.  

I was one of the last to leave.  After hugging me with extraordinary strength, our eyes locked as she said, “Everyone has been amazing. This day has been so wonderful. I’ve never experienced anything like this. Ever.”

Thank you for being in my life, Kathryn.

Thank you for the unconditional love and wisdom you shared that will ever expand to touch people you have never met.

I’ve never experienced anyone like you. Ever.

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