Remembering Kathy

Here is Kathy in a reflective mood.

Today (December 1)  is Kathy’s birthday.  I often think of her and always on this day.

Long ago, Kathy died five months before her twenty-fifth birthday.  She is eternally young in my mind, but even if she were here today, she’d still be young at heart.  She was one of those perpetually upbeat people, a good soul, a happy person, a helpful person, a fun person.  She was one of my best friends, and the only friend who traveled through grade school, high school and college with me.  We were so different in many ways, but we had a bond that couldn’t be broken — even now.

She was my room mate on and off in our college town, often leaving town for new adventures before returning to go back to school.  She’d tried a lot of jobs, including cab driver and blackjack dealer in Las Vegas.  She’d wanted to be a doctor to help people.  We were in a chemistry class together, when she told me she’d realized that a scientific career wasn’t for her.  She found many other ways to help, such as driving Meals on Wheels to help people who couldn’t get out of their homes or prepare meals. She always helped anyone who asked.

She’d starting moving into my house to be my roommate again a few days before she was killed in a car wreck.  On a Saturday morning, I was getting ready to attend a wedding, ironing a dress on Kathy’s ironing board (which I don’t think she’d ever used!) when I heard the news on the radio.  It didn’t sink in at first, and then I sunk to the floor in shock.  I never made it to the wedding.  A photograph of  Kathy’s mangled truck was in the city newspaper that Monday morning.   A drunk driver had strayed across the center line and rammed head-on into Kathy’s truck.  She and her friend Susan were killed instantly. The drunk driver survived and was barely hurt.

Our hometown church was packed for the funeral.  It’s a cliché to say that those who have passed on before us were the glue that held the group together, but Kathy truly was the center.  Her place is a gaping hole at every reunion.

On our nonstop drive to Berkeley, California from eastern Kansas, we did make a few stops. Here Kathy and I put the camera on top of my car and set the timer. We're in the Great Salt Desert in Utah.

A week before she died, she’d asked me to take photographs of her softball team in action. She and I both loved photography.  She’d been my assistant photographer on the high school yearbook for two years. I later was glad I was able to give the photographs to her family.   She is buried in the same cemetery where my father is now buried, and after his funeral I visited her grave site.  Kathy’s parents had erected a headstone with their names on the stone carved either side of hers. It was heart-breaking to see.

Even now I miss her so much.  It may sound very selfish, but I feel truly robbed. I have lost family members and good friends since, and each new grief stabs me with the truth of how precious life is, how blessed we are to have family and friends, and that most things we think are important are truly trivial.  Still, I need to learn that lesson again and again, and Kathy continues to teach me. One lesson she always “taught” was to have fun!

One of the most fun things Kathy and I did was drive nonstop (except for pit stops) from the Kansas City area to Berkeley, California, to visit Jan.  Kathy was a tireless driver, although I took over occasionally.  That trip is still one of the highlights among many highlights in my life.  Kathy and I had a great time with Jan, and I am blessed that we are still close friends.  Her blog is Planetjan.

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7 Comments

Filed under Friendship, Life

7 responses to “Remembering Kathy

  1. It’s strange looking at the picture of Kathy – forever young. I remember that you told me because you were both named C/Kathy, people began calling you “Sherman.” Ah, the trip to Berkeley. I believe that was the first time I met Kathy. Our lives did not overlap except through you.

    Maybe it’s because I just lost one of my best friends, albeit a four-legged one, but I find that more and more, I treasure the time I spend in the company of people I enjoy who make me laugh. In these moments I think, “How lucky I am!” I often tell my third graders that if they have one true friend, they should consider themselves lucky. Thanks Cathy for taking the time to offer a tribute to dear Kathy. And thanks for being my best friend through the years. 🙂

  2. So very beautiful and inspiring. Friends remembered live forever. You love is infectious!

  3. Cathy,
    This post was so sincere and a good reminder to love our friends. I feel so blessed that you are one of mine! Kathy sounds like someone I would have liked too…I was on the high school yearbook staff myself back in the day.

  4. What a moving post and provoking post.

    That is a very beautiful picture. You have a way of seeing people. Knowing that it shows someone who was taken too young gives it a powerful aching quality. Those kind of photographs always get me.

    With every fiber of my being I know that we, as a society, still continue to do practically nothing about the problem of drunk drivers. It angers me so much every single time I think about it. I personally believe that any DUII offense should result in immediate confiscation of the vehicle. Period. Irrevocably and forever. The revenues could fund enforcement and help victims of DUII. Second offenses should result in a lifetime ban on driving. Period. Know someone who drinks? Trust me. You’d think twice about loaning them your car. And if a drunk loses their own car, that makes it a bit harder to go out and do it again. I think more people would get the message. The time has long passed for something to be done.

    I’m very sorry you lost your good friend. It’s so awesome that you remembered her birthday and introduced us to her!

  5. This is such a moving tribute to your dear friend. I could hardly imagine the loss and sadness that you have experienced, and are still feeling. Putting into words your thoughts and sentiments could well be a soothing way to deal with the memories. Thank you for the inspiration.

  6. Nancy Dawson Chapman

    Cathy, your Mom sent me this website. What you wrote about my dear sister is so touching. It brings back so many memories. I have a cousin in CA. that works for the Sheriff Dept. Two years ago we emailed her that newpaper article about the wreck. She was using it to co-teach a class for new Los Angeles County Sheriff deputies about why it is worth the paper work to arrest someone for DUI. I hope everything is great with your family.

    Nancy

  7. Mike McRoberts

    Cathy, that’s a beautiful remembrance of Kathy. I was a friend of Kathy and Nancy and I are still friends. It was heartbreaking when the accident happened. My old college roommate of 6 years and lifelong friend was recently killed in a head-on crash, probably by a drunk driver. Nancy was the one who notified me.

    It’s always hard to lose a friend. To me, Kathy is frozen in time and will always be young. Thanks for writing this.
    Mike McRoberts

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