Constructive Creativity

Thursday, July 21, 2005


On Tuesday, July 19, Ray, one of my oldest and best friends, called me to let me know that his sister had passed away the previous day. I was very sad to hear this news. I am also sad and disappointed that a prior commitment will prevent me from attending Katy's funeral. However, I have promised to drive down and visit soon.

Since I heard the news, I have been trying to put my thoughts and feelings into perspective, but it is not easy. Although I did not know Katy anywhere near as well as Ray, she did have a very important impact on me. It was through her that I met a young woman who was to become one of the most important people in my life, thus far. But, this post is not about me, and that story will have to await a future telling.

In the past, when someone that I knew passed away, I have always tried to recall the most vivid memories that I have of that person. However, with respect to Katy, I have only a few memories and they are spread apart by many intervening years. The oldest vivid memory that I have of Katy occurred when I was about 17. At that time, Katy would have been about 12 years old. Ray and I were outside the front door of his house playing with some young kittens that were recently born to one of his family's cats. We heard a loud squealing meow from just inside the door and we rushed inside to see what had happened. Katy was franticly asking us to see if the kitten was ok. We saw one of the kittens lying on the carpet and Ray asked her what had happened. Katy said that she had stepped on it as she was coming down the stairs. I looked at the kitten and it wasn't moving. Then I looked at Katy and there were tears in her eyes. Ray bent down and picked up the little kitten. Still, it did not move. Katy was standing nearby and kept asking Ray how the kitten was. I felt bad for the kitten, but I felt much worse for Katy. I looked again at Katy's eyes. They were, as usual, unfocused and looking about somewhat randomly. Katy had lost much of her vision years before to a condition that I did not understand well at the time, but that I knew she shared with her mother, who was also visually impaired. After a few moments of silence, Ray gently told Katy that the kitten had died. Katy asked Ray to hand the kitten to her. Ray placed the kitten in her hands and Katy sat down on the stairs and shed silent tears while stroking it slowly. I cried too as I watched her. There was something beautiful in her gentle caring and quiet sorrow.

In later years, I saw Katy from time to time under much happier circumstances, the best of which was the occasion of her wedding to a man that I found to be a genuinely likable fellow. In the past few years, Ray and I have kept in touch by phone with infrequent, but long and enjoyable conversations. I would always inquire about how Katy was doing. I don't remember exactly when she was first diagnosed with cancer, but I remember feeling shocked and worried upon first hearing that news. She was so young. It seems to me that she must have been in her late 20's at the time. She underwent surgery and chemotherapy, and for a few years it seemed that she had beaten the disease. I was happy for her and relieved. But, as sometimes happens, her doctors eventually found that the cancer had returned. I sometimes tried to imagine what she must have thought and felt throughout those years of struggling to reclaim her health and life. I think that she was a very courageous person. Almost certainly, more brave than I would have been in her place. But, she had the love of her family, her husband, and her daughter to nourish and sustain her throughout those long and difficult months.

Katy, farewell, I will always remember you! Ray, my friend, my brother, I will see you soon!

July 22: End Note Update:
I am sure that for some of my visitors this will be a difficult post to read. It was certainly a difficult post to write! For the past few days, I have been in a state of emotional turmoil and I haven't been sleeping very well. Finally, last night, I slept fully and soundly. I have reread the post and I have been asking myself if the anecdote about Katy and the kitten was really appropriate in a post intended as a memorial to someone that I cared about. Unfortunately, I just don't have many memories of Katy. If I did, I would have probably chosen something else. However, it occurs to me that the true measure of a person is not found in their response to happy moments, but rather in how they respond to adversity. By that measure, I think that Katy was indeed a rare and special person.