This has been a very different day. Early this morning I awoke to a song. I wake up with a song in my heart nearly everyday. Usually the song is a praise song that I've heard on the radio or during worship service. I noticed the slight difference in this morning's tune. Instead of Israel Houghton's "I am a friend of God," I woke up to Kenny Rogers. I could hear the melody of "She believes in me." Only, the words were "I believe in you." That one line replayed over and over again:as I wrestled with the sheets, ate my usual bowl of Blueberry Frosted Mini-Wheat's and lathered myself in the shower. Twelve hours later, I was suddenly reminded of that early morning song, so full of hope, and I am compelled to share a little about my friend, Kathy.
Just a couple hours ago I received a call from my pastor. He had just received word that Kathy had passed away yesterday. He and I worked closely with Kathy over the last couple years. Kathy was a facilitator for an organization called The Pacific Institute. Kathy was a brilliantly bright teacher as you can see above. Moreover, she was a genuine friend. Kathy was nearly always bursting with the three finest qualities in life: faith, hope and love. I can't believe I am writing this right now: I can't believe she is gone.
In person, I experienced Kathy's warmth and professionalism during our yearly seminars. I never did get to observe her in a family setting. Someday my husband and I planned to visit her and her family in Aloha, Oregon. She lived on a hazelnut farm and her husband put up thousands of Christmas lights during the holidays. Kathy was absolutely in love with her grandson, Jake. She had a mother's passionate love and tender concern for the well-being of her daughter, Danyel. Kathy was a true lady who lived her life by design: loving her family and friends without restraint but always with respect.
The news of her untimely passing has left me heartbroken. I don't think I've been touched by death for a very long time. I feel robbed. The world has been robbed. Kathy was one of the good guys. She was on my team. She was on everyone's team. There are few people in the world that truly look for the good in everyone. So, why did we have to lose her?
A few moments after hearing that we had lost Kathy, my first thought was that Kathy had called and I had forgotten to return her call until a week later. Was she too sick to call me back by then? She had sounded a little different on the voice-mail. Oh, why didn't I call her back right away? I didn't know she would be gone so soon. Then, I suddenly remembered that I had just cleaned out my emails. Kathy had sent me so many emails filled with encouraging thoughts, messages of hope and affirming words. I deleted them all never thinking that they would be the last I would ever get. I don't even have any pictures of Kathy. How will I remember her? Oh, why did she have to leave?
They say that she had been ill with flu-like symptoms over a period of fourteen hours and then suddenly she was gone. Her heart had failed her. I am sure she had put her heart to the test during her lifetime. Kathy cared deeply, very deeply. Perhaps we rely too much on the Kathy's of the world. Speaking honestly, I know I have. I can get so very busy and spread my cares so thin. Honestly, I know I wasn't really a friend to Kathy as much as I could have been. Recently she was troubled with a gret deal of "challenges": serious health issues. How much did I really pray for her and her family? Not nearly enough. Kathy valued me for my tenacious transparency and wisdom. If I am to live up to her belief in me, I must admit that deep down I didn't open myself fully to loving her as a friend because I was afraid of the pain left in the wake of love lost. What a lesson to learn. She is gone and my heart is broken. Kathy lived in the deep waters of love. Even though those waters can be dark and tumultuous at times, she was determined to live free. If she were in my shoes right now, it wouldn't be long before she'd find a way to learn, grow and become a better woman in the midst of pain. Moments like these test our faith. Will I continue to wade in shallow waters where I have a sense of safety or will I finally dare to launch into deep waters?
A few moments ago I was hunched over: bent by another wave of grief. It was a selfish moment, really. All I could think was, "Who's going to believe in me now?" I know that I have many people in my life that believe in me. However, Kathy was different. She was unabashedly affirming. I truly believe that I received more praise, compliments and honor from Kathy that I have from any one person. She had a way for really seeing people. Most of the time we filter out the actual person and retain our perceptions, beliefs and theories. Not Kathy, she saw the essence of my value: as well as the value of countless others. How many times did I exercise my affirming muscles in return? Not nearly enough but Kathy would say there's still time left.
One of Kathy's gifts shines bright now. In the past few months I have been extending my wings as an apprentice "caring person." Several new friends have taken residence in my heart much as I was invited into the safe harbors of Kathy's heart. I always looked forward to our chats. Kathy encouraged me to talk. She posed insightful questions designed to cause me to think for myself. Our earliest chats revealed a common struggle we both shared: a challenge as she would say. We bonded in our transparency. Through her influence I've grown the strength to reveal myself to many others. I think she would be proud to know that her influence is growing even in her absence. I just wish I had taken the time to tell her how much she meant to me.
I was pretty young when my grandfather died. For some reason, I felt responsible for his death. It was a childish concern stemming from a healthy dislike of going to my grandparents house after school. They had retired to a small trailer home and I wanted to be out exploring: not watching boring soap operas. I remember leaning onto the wooden porch railing looking at the night sky. I had just read a book about someone who experienced loss like me. My recollection is foggy but the theme of the book involved a shooting star. That night, as I gazed into the mourning night, I saw my own shooting star. Suddenly, I felt remembered and loved. Tonight, in the wake of another wave of grief, my heart beat to my morning song, "I believe in you." At that moment, I wondered if Kathy had requested to sing to me this morning. Suddenly, I knew that I am remembered, loved and designed to live in greatness: just as Kathy always knew I would. Over and over, I could hear the words, "I believe in you."
Perhaps I am being silly. On the other hand, what if Kathy was singing to me this morning to prepare me for the coming mourning? What if our hearts continue to sing our life-song after we are gone? What songs will your loved ones hear in your absence? I know that Kathy has lived a life that has pleased her Maker. May we all like with such courage! May we all impart faith, hope and love into the lives of those around us. May it ever be that we embrace each other, as we are, looking forward to experiencing the greatness emerging from within our hearts. I believe in you. What a wonderful song. I believe in you. Oh, don't you know how much I believe in you?
Out of the blue, a friend sent a scripture to me this morning. It describes Kathy well. It also well defines her legacy for us all. And the work of righteousness will be peace, and the service of righteousness, quietness and confidence forever (Isaiah 32:17).