I first met Kathy 24 years and 3 months ago. I jokingly say that the 2 of us spent the first eight years thinking that neither one of us liked each other. It wasn’t until I became a mom to a son that I was able to understand and appreciate our relationship a bit better and over the next 16 years I grew to love and respect her more and more deeply.
I began reflecting on why it took so long. I kept likening it to the Foreign Language method that Skip uses. It’s called Comprehensible Input or the belief that languages are ACQUIRED and not learned. Language is only acquired when we understand messages (CI) We acquire when we understand what people tell us or what we read, when we are absorbed in the message and that message is repeated again and again over long periods of time just like when we acquired our first language. You may be thinking that that’s great if you’re a language teacher...how does it affect me or apply to this? The link is this...modeling. I could spend hours TELLING you that mariposa means butterfly and at the end of the day, you may or may not understand, or remember it. However...if I SHOW you this, and repeatedly say mariposa….chances are almost 100 times greater you will remember, or acquire, that BECAUSE IT HAS MEANING.
Kathy entered Hospice care on April 8th. She was admitted to Hospice House on June 6th, and called all her family & friends together on the 10th to impart what were to be her final words of wisdom. This was her final attempt to make sure WE had ACQUIRED the things she always strove to model for us.
**The first thing was to LOVE each other. Kathy was a master of modeling this in ways both seen and unseen. Would anyone dare to guess how many meals she missed over the years because she was up & scurrying about the kitchen serving others? What about the countless hours she spent rocking babies...any baby would do, but her grandchildren were her favorite (after all,they were just so custard cute!) Bridget, Tina, and I can attest to her willingness to babysit any day, any time so that we could go grocery shopping or simply take a shower. The 30 years she worked as a CNA/Med Tech lovingly caring for those who, for various reasons, could not care for themselves - sometimes it wasn’t glamorous and sometimes it was as simple as doing a little jig with them. She selflessly became an angel for her neighbor Dana as she battled cancer…. And her rolls - her rolls were in and of themselves an expression of love. If you were sick, grieving,or hungry...her rolls were just the medicine you needed
**The second was PEACE: To keep the PEACE. In the family. At work. At church. Within friendships. Whether it was due to her genetic DNA or her psychological make up, Kathy had zero tolerance for drama. How many of us can hear her voice echoing the words “Keep the Peace!” or “peace in the Family!” If she overheard discussion she was always quick to remind us not to judge because we don’t know what we’d do in that situation. If we were complaining or trying to wallow in our misery she liked to remind us that things could be always be worse.
Show love….keep the peace….
The next was simplicity. Kathy’s power was in simplicity. She modeled being happy with and enjoying what she had and making sure that what you have consists of having those you love around - a lot! We were reminded this of this the Sunday after she passed. Mark had a campfire at Gordon and Kathy’s house. As we each pulled up to the driveway and saw all of her family, closest friends and grandkids sitting around the fire having Kathy missing was a very bittersweet reminder of what made her most happy.
Love, Peace, Simplicity….
Then there was faith. In the final hours of her journey she wanted to make known that she new EXACTLY where her journey would take her and that she was ready….The path to her final destination began deeply rooted in the faith of her French Catholic family. Though faith always involved tension for her, in the end Kathy, simplified this too - crying out that she “only wanted Jesus.”
Love, Peace, Simplicity, Faith
And laughter. Kathy made us laugh - sometimes, OK most of the time, at her own expense. I call them “Kathy-isms.” From stating that she was “glad I’m not in their feet!” to telling about how someone had died in a car crash from “falling asleep on the wheel” Did you ever hear her proclaim that someone was a controlling freak? Don’t you dare forget those custard cute grandkids of hers! Kathy had her own special way with the English language. She became even more humorous in her final stages of life. While rehabbing at D’youville after her fall, she and Skip were on pins and needles to learn if Skip was going to be named Maine Teacher of the Year. One night before leaving her room for the night she asked Skip to take her bra off. Horrified, he refused and said that that was the limit and there was no way he would do that to which she replied in a very irritated tone “well - you sure wouldn’t be named caretaker of the year that’s for sure!” Then, on the last day before she lost consciousness, the boys were feeding her pudding. Pudding got on her mouth and nightgown. When asked if she wanted more she quipped, “no - you’ve done enough damage….
The past 22 months had not been easy ones for her and I am so grateful that she "let me in" to journey this with her. Over her last 10 weeks her sense of humor grew, she became wiser, and she showed us how to approach death with dignity & grace (even though she stated it "wasn't fun.") Last Friday, she somehow summoned us together again without saying a word. As we all sat around the hospice house dining room feasting on ice cream, at 5:10pm she quietly completed her earthly journey confident we had ACQUIRED what she spent her life modeling for us.
So, as you leave her today - remember: Show love, keep the peace, live your faith simply, laugh and make others laugh.
Thanks Kathy, for showing us how! We love you and will miss you so much!