Remembering Kate

Note: I don’t do death days and I never repost, but today as I ask my friends and family to take a minute to send a happy thought heavenward and to remember to be kind and to love the ones we’re with, I thought it would be a good day to remember Kate here as well. Original post date: July 2, 2006.

I’d like you to meet my friend Kate. I want to honor her memory. But I’m afraid my words won’t do her justice. It’s always difficult to tell a story that doesn’t belong to you. But sometimes you just have to try.

 

 

I remember–

 

 

The day I first really met her. She had just turned twelve. She wasn’t sure what she wanted me to call her. Katharine, Katie, Kate. “I’ll call her Kate,” I thought to myself. She seemed quiet and unsure of herself. I always thought she was so beautiful and kind. Her smile warmed your heart.

 

 

A few years later I got to know and love her mother like a sister. And I would hear bits and painful pieces of Kate’s story, which parts are not mine to tell. I will just say she struggled and suffered in ways I can’t imagine. Except that because I sensed part of her pain was because she didn’t feel worthy of the love that surrounded her, I felt like I understood somewhat. My one wish for Kate was the same wish I have for so many–that she could see herself through the eyes of those who love her.

 

 

Kate invited me to her graduation from rehab. I was so honored to be asked to attend. She kept telling me not to come if it was too much trouble. But I would not have missed it for the world.

 

It was so real. I remember thinking, “I wish we could do this in Relief Society.”

 

My name is Dalene and…

 

I looked around the room–at broken lives and broken hearts–and willed us all to be better.

 

 

I was so proud of Kate.

 

 

Kate still struggled, but she was working so hard to choose a better path. The spark was back in her eyes. Her smile was dazzling and her heart was as kind and generous as ever. Every time I saw her I just had to take her in my arms and give her the biggest hugs. But with Kate you always got back so much more than you gave.

 

I remember one Christmas when she borrowed her mother’s credit card to purchase a present for me. A candle, a soothing gel eye mask, and some lovely hand-made soap. Gifts from the heart meant to encourage me to nurture and care for myself. How I hoped she would do the same for herself.

 

 

At the beginning of the summer of 2004 I remember one sunny afternoon. Kate–who had recently given me the best haircut I’d ever had–was going to cut my kids’ hair. She was at the house with a friend of hers. Emily was there studying for a test. My kids felt comfortable and easy. Warmth, love, friendship and acceptance hung in the air. It was the perfect day.

 

 

July 3, 2004. My family had just endured one more hot patriotic parade. We have been doing this for years–it’s tradition. And so we know very well the worst time in the world to go to the arts fair downtown is right after the parade–everyone from the region is there. We never go to the arts fair right after the parade. So we headed our van full of hot, hungry and tired kids toward home. Then, inexplicably, we turned the car around in the midst of all the traffic and drove to the arts fair. No one was having a good time, but we went anyway.

 

As we stood in the line for the snow cones we saw Kate and a guy she’d been dating. They fell in line behind us and I bought them a snow cone. It was a simple thing, but it gave me pleasure.

 

Kate and I visited for a minute. She told me of her plans for the future. She was looking ahead with a little uncertainty, but with definite eagerness. She was working to prepare herself to be able to go to the temple in time for good friend’s wedding. She told my Lindsay she was an angel. I told Kate–as I always did when I saw her–”I love you.” She stopped and asked me “Why?” It pained me that she didn’t know. So I tried to tell her what a great person she was, what a kind friend, how amazing, beautiful and wonderful. My words were insufficient, but I hoped she was listening to my heart and not my voice. Now I wish I would’ve simply replied, “Because you’re you.”

 

I hugged her once more and we said good-bye.

 

 

I was at Melody’s the next day when Shane came to get me with the news. My memory of that message stands still-framed in the arch of Melody’s doorway. Sometimes I still stop short when I pass through and remember.

 

I can’t even talk about what followed. But it is one of my worst memories. Such unfathomable grief. Still…

 

The week was a whirlwind. Preparing comfort food for the family that couldn’t bring themselves to eat. Trying to find the perfect way to celebrate Kate’s life. The exact words to say what was in our hearts. The lingering scent of Patchoulli oil for a bereft sister. The desperate search for a banjo player and the perfect venue (I kept seeing the place in my head but couldn’t remember where it was). It all came together as miracles do. Tears mingled with laughter. Love and loss. Hearts that were broken and yet filled. Floods of memories. Never enough hugs. Heartfelt tributes. Balloons floating skyward. Pleading for peace.

 

I wanted to embrace the Smith family and give them some comfort. But what could I offer when I was grieving too?

 

 

I remember getting my kids ready for the viewing. “We need to say good-bye to Kate.” It wasn’t till afterwards, when I still felt empty, that it hit me.

 

We already said good-bye.

 

(Click here to hear a sweet tribute to Kate from local artist Colby Stead.)

 

 

 

 

In honor of Kate’s memory today, please take a moment and do something to brighten the day or lift the load of someone–anyone–around you. Give them a helping hand, a big hug, a warm smile, or a kind word…

Choose kindness.

Pay it forward

When I was 22 I attended the *mission farewell for one of my best girlfriends who was leaving on a mission. I had a great job I loved at the BYU Bookstore Sports Department, was almost ready to graduate from BYU and had been dating Shane already for a couple of years. As I sat there in the congregation as my friend spoke I had the feeling I should serve a mission. It wasn’t until that moment I recalled how, as a brand new 8-year-old I had enthusiastically exclaimed to my bishop: “And when I am 19 I am going to serve a mission!” I also remember feeling totally deflated when he told me “Girls can’t go until they’re 21.” And the thought completely left me until that day.

Once I made the decision I had my **papers in within just a couple of weeks and received a call to serve in the Belgium Brussells Mission. As I prepared to go and to leave my job, my boss called me in and mentioned to me that he would like to help support me on my mission. He committed to $25 a month towards my mission for the 18 months I would serve. It was a generous gift from a good man I had come to think of as family to me and I appreciated both his love and his support. I knew it wasn’t likely I could ever pay him back, but I hoped to be able to pay it forward someday.

About this time last year my friend Rachiel came to our house. “I finally got my answer!” she exclaimed. Rachiel had wanted to serve a mission, but also had a serious boyfriend to whom she was practically engaged. The (previous) “21″ age requirement had come and gone. She had been back and forth over her decision for the past year and had never felt completely sure of her choice. But just like that she had received the answer for which she had been waiting and she too submitted her papers in just a matter of a couple of weeks. Rachiel had been supporting herself through school and would be paying for her mission as well and at one point was planning her availability date around when she would have enough money to be able to go.

All at once I had the feeling that this was the opportunity for which I had been waiting. I made the same offer to Rachiel that my previous boss had made to me, in the hopes it would allow her to leave earlier rather than later. The timing was perfect–we had been paying for half of our sons’ missions for nearly four years, but she would leave just the month before Zack would return. Rachiel graciously accepted my offer. Some twenty-five years later I finally had the opportunity to pay forward the kindness that had been extended to me. It is a small and simple gift, but it does my heart good. I hope at some point I will find another opportunity to pay it forward again.

The true gift came from Rachiel, however, not from me. In the months before she left on her mission to Peru, Rachiel, a CNA, was hired by my mother to help provide care for my elderly grandmother. Rachiel loved and served my grandmother in so many ways that touched my heart–touched all our hearts. She loved my grandmother as her own and was a comfort and companion to my grandmother in her final days. One of my favorite stories, which I did not see for myself, but which I can see and feel in my heart as if I had, is of the time my mother arrived to find Rachiel curled up next to my Grandmother on her bed reading her the scriptures. My grandmother had mentioned that she could no longer read them due to her eyesight and that she missed that. So Rachiel was reading from the Book of Mormon to my grandmother. I know Rachiel’s heart and I love that she has this opportunity to share her loving heart and the testimony of Jesus Christ that is written upon it with the people of Peru.

Hermana Asay, second from right

 

 

 

 

*meeting at which a missionary who is leaving speaks in church (more correctly know as “that meeting formerly known as a farewell.”)

*application papers one submits when one decides to serve a full-time mission, which includes clearances by doctors, dentists and ecclesiastical leaders

Oh the people you meet

One of the reasons I started my blog–and that I keep (more or less) blogging–is because of the stories. Stories connect us to times and places, but most especially to people. Those who are brave enough to share the truths of their lives, to let me witness some small part of their stories–especially the raw, most honest ones–are those to whom I feel closest. Even when separated by time and space.

I remember once having a rather adversarial relationship with someone with whom I worked closely. It was awful. And perplexing for someone like me, who can find something to like in just about anyone. But I still remember the day I found out that his baby sister had cancer. I immediately felt sympathetic, of course. Then one day i was driving in a snow storm over on Bulldog Avenue I was overcome by true compassion. It brought tears to my eyes, but, more importantly it softened my heart. Over time we became good friends. I came to care for him like I would a brother. I haven’t worked with him for years, but when he is in town some of us still get together for lunch. I truly enjoy and am grateful for the bond of friendship we share.

While I was recently out of town, I Facebook messaged a friend I had met through blogging and later in person, told her I was in her area and asked if we could meet. As we met and caught up with one another over lunch, we realized it had been about four years since we had seen each other. We had a lovely visit and it felt great to reconnect. As we said goodbye, I told her the reason I wanted to see her IRL is because she had shared her story with me in a very real and honest way and it touched my heart, forever–at least in my heart–forging a link between us. It was a time when people didn’t really talk about some of the challenges she faces and I wanted to open some dialogue, hoping people in similar situations would feel less alone. She trusted me with a part of her life and a part of her heart, and I gave her back a part of mine.

When I got back home, I found a package waiting for me. In it was some absolutely heavenly European chocolate from a friend of mine from Oregon. Until this past year, I had not seen her in well over 20 years, the last time being when our paths crossed briefly and rather miraculously in Belgium in 1987. We completely lost touch after that until she took a river raft trip and the outfit told her that if she wanted to see photos from their trip she would have to go on Facebook. After setting up an account, she friended me and, much to my joy, we reconnected after all those years. While I was in Portland last December, I happened to catch one of her status updates. I messaged her and told her where I was. Turns out, she had plans to come up to Portland that Sunday anyway. We met and attended church together with my brother’s family. We only had a few hours, but we caught each other up on one another’s families and lives. Our time together that day was a gift, and also a reminder to me that the past we shared together was, I feel, of an eternal nature. Our families were meant to connect, get to know and love and serve each other in this life.

I fully expect the deep bond of that friendship–of many of my friendships–will continue in the next.