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.
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.