Saying Goodbye – #grief #loss #memories

I have been wanting to share what I said in September at Kathy’s memorial, and I feel it’s appropriate today on the anniversary of her passing. Forever missed and loved.

It must have been May because the trail was still muddy. Kathy was wearing her red rubber boots, but I remember that she had a denim jacket tied around her waist. It was that time of year when you’re not sure what to expect from the weather, so you kind of plan for it all. We had been tromping through the woods for a couple of kilometres by now and had just made our way to the top of a particularly steep incline. For the first time in quite a while there was a clearing in the trees, warm sunlight poured onto our cold but sweaty skin. Kathy reached her arms toward the sky, leaned her head back, and let out a great big yell. She shouted out all of her frustration and her pent-up anger. Afterwards she turned back and smiled, “I guess I needed that!”

I met Kathy through knowing Jade. We went to high school together and in ninth grade we made fast friends. It didn’t take long before I was practically adopted by the family. Kathy became a huge part of my life as a friend’s mom first, but as time went on and Jade moved away to follow her dreams, Kathy and I would forge a bond that was unlike any other. When I went on to have my own beautiful daughter, Kathy and Ron took immediately to the role of surrogate grandparents. Our lives continued on, connected by love. We truly became family.

That was the thing about Kathy, though. I look around this room at so many familiar faces, and others who I don’t recognize, but I bet I could interview any one of you to find the same thing existing at the core of how you feel. Whether you’ve known her for decades or just a few short months, Kathy was an expert at giving love. For all of us who had the immense pleasure of knowing her… for all of us who gather together in remembrance today, Kathy was family.

There are 167 kilometres between Errington and Tofino. It was January the first time I made the trek, jammed in the truck along with Kathy, Ron, Emery and my daughter, Abby, who would have been about three. As Ron braved the winter roads Kathy kept my daughter busy with stories and songs like only she could. Just while we’re on the topic, I highly recommend taking a brownie leader with you if you have to drive long distances with kids. Along the way, Kathy told Abby why the hemlock bows his head. She told Abby about the Stellar Jay and his place as BC’s provincial bird. Kathy told Abby that we were going to see Jade at the big ocean and when we arrived there would be lots of waves. When Abby finally got out of the truck and walked down to the uninterrupted pacific ocean, she put her little hand up and waved at the sea. All that time, all that distance and she had thought that we were going to wave at the ocean. Funny enough, though, the ocean waved back. I’ll never forget the twinkle in Kath’s eyes every time she told that story.

Things get hard in life sometimes. We are currently connected to one another in grief, experiencing one of those hard times. For some of us, this is one of our hardest times. When things got especially hard for me a few years ago, Kathy was a pillar of strength in my world. When I needed help she dropped everything to be there for me. There was no judgment. There were no caveats. There were no expectations. There was only love.
My story is not unique though, that’s the amazing thing. Kathy had hard times in her life. She persevered through incredible challenges that, when I really think about it, I don’t think I’d have had the strength to rise above. Kathy did it though, amazingly, and while life threw a whole lot of tough stuff her way she was tougher. Though things were hard, Kathy never let life harden her heart. She was tender, you know, to the needs of others. Sometimes empathetic to her own detriment. It wasn’t out of character for her to come home with an entire football team of hungry people with nowhere to stay. And that’s why we’re here, together tonight. Because at some point or other that love…. That incredibly bright light shone on each one of us and for just a moment we felt like we were the most important person in the entire world. That was her gift, I think. That was a huge part of what made Kathy magic.

I’ve felt loss before. I’ve white-knuckled my way through the pain that comes alongside grief. I’ve stumbled through the stages as I fumbled towards acceptance. This time, though, the experience is different. When I think about the time I got to share with Kath I don’t feel regret. I don’t look back in hindsight, wishing I’d hugged her more, showed her more, told her more how much she meant to me. When I reflect on Kathy’s role in my world, in the lives of my children, I am so grateful for it, exactly the way that it was. It was perfect. All those years with her? Well… they pretty much make me feel like the luckiest girl in existence.

I stand before you, friends I know and friends I’ve yet to meet, to share with you a tiny part of the heartbreak I’m feeling from this devastating loss. See, I’m not ready to say goodbye, and looking around this room I know I’m not alone.
I received a call from England in late June. On the other end of the phone there was a young lady, Helena, who had spent a week at Beltane a couple of summers ago. She shared with me some reflections about her time with us and about Kathy specifically. People here tonight have come together beautifully to do the same. I find myself wondering how many of us could fill a room this size with our “inner circle”. I am in awe of how many people Kathy touched. I am blown away by the ripples she created with her love.

When all is said and done, our legacy is measured by the way we treated those we leave behind. Kathy’s legacy can be measured in this room and beyond. In our hearts, she will never truly be gone.

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