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.
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…