Sunday, July 02, 2006

Good-bye to Kate

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 her mother--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 wouldn't have missed it.

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 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 perfect 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 and Emily was there with Danny. Danny played the guitar--taking requests from my kids. Emily was studying for a test. Kate's friend visited with us while she cut hair. "This is so normal," I thought. I kept wishing Mel and Lynda could see this. Lord knows what a blessing an afternoon of normal would be.

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 brought 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 wanted to get prepare herself to go to the temple in time for Brett'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 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. A banjo player for Kate. The perfect venue (I kept seeing the place in my head but couldn't remember where it was. Thank heavens--literally--for Lorien). 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.

Colby said it best...

"On this 4th of July...we said Kate."

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...