I’d planned 10 days of blogging on ONE DAY WITHOUT SHOES; however, my Aunt Kathy died today. If I recall, Kathy is actually my second cousin, maybe my third; I don’t really know. It’s always been wrapped in a shroud of unimportance because she was ‘my aunt’… always is my aunt. Her battle with uterine papillary carcinoma ended as abruptly and as unexpectedly as it arrived. Like a thief on a midnight binge, cancer pried open the door of her life, sneaked in, poked around for what it found valuable, and snatched her health. No alarm sounded until it was far too late.
Kathy epitomized life. Her tenacity, her strength, her charisma drew others into her wanton web of friendship. My first memories of her seeping into my life, really seeping in, were in junior high. You remember that time of life, when adults are not chic? When in our youth we label authority as squelchers and duds? At just that time, Kathy jumped into my world feet first.
Kathy taught sex education at my local junior high. She was edgy. Not at all flat or bland, dry or stale. Nor was she crass. Just edgy. Between her job and her personality, she was primed to impact me and the other youth she touched. Her presence was not an after thought. She anticipated this role like a general planning for war. She plotted. Then, she struck for eternal good.
In junior high, Kathy made my transition into a new school easier. She paved a path of familiarity and friends. She reached out. She reached in. She found time, and she made time to make my days in that school, an unknown land of strangers, bearable, tolerable, and finally enjoyable.
During high school, my path diverged toward many a slippery slope. Kathy saw, from personal experience, the handwriting on the wall. Not a move I made, that endangered my future, was left unchecked. Instead, when my pawn moved into a position of compromise, she readied her knight, her queen, and her king to combat my stupidity. And her swift approach worked. Too many times to count, enveloped in love, Kathy would bypass my parents, come straight to the source, and remind me of the purpose of my life. Please, do not hear me say this meant I always chose her wise counsel; but I do mean to say, Kathy’s tough love shaped my future.
Accepting… that characterized Kathy as I single parented through college. My Aunt Kathy’s consistent love blended with reproof spurred me toward grace and kindness. Kathy was one of the first examples of Ephesians 4:15’s idea of speaking the truth in love. Kathy did not shroud truth to make it palatable. She didn’t wrap it in the shinny wrapper of judgement that we like to call righteousness. Truth was simply truth. Love delivered truth. Kathy carried the torch of both. Hunter and I knew that outside our nuclear family, Kathy was for us.
Like a piton for rock climbing, Kathy’s advice on marriage and family wedged itself into my heart. As we celebrated our marriage, Kathy charged Josh and me, “Whatever you do in marriage and raising a family, remember these things: Love God and keep Him central. Enjoy one another. Always find time and money for vacations. Play hard. Your kids won’t remember all the work you put into the perfection of life. They will remember the time you spend playing with them. As much as we played, I still wish we had played more.” It’s funny, I don’t remember much of the advice offered up by well-wishers. I do remember my Aunt Kathy’s advice like it was yesterday (maybe because, even as an aunt, she and Tony introduced us to frolic and diversion). We’ve lived by it, too. Thus far, she’s been right.
I spent last night recalling the progression of that stealthful attack. The sneak approach. That lurking in the darkness undetected and then cancer’s raid on Kathy, her family, and her friends. I’ve recalled the fear prior to the diagnosis, the moment we were told the who and what, the surgeries, the chemo, the continued brutal torture by the disease, and the ups and downs, the love of her family, the support of her friends and church, the wonder, the hope, more surgeries, the pain, the medications and trials, and all along more HOPE. I don’t think I’m alone when I say I never REALLY expected this day to come.
I suppose for me this is still too surreal to process fully. At intervals, pain harrows my heart and mind, then disbelief tells me not to believe that Kathy’s time on Earth ended. I cannot say the fight is over. She wouldn’t say that. It is not. Kathy knew the real battle. She fought the battle well… glory for the Almighty, a life given to Him, hope in what is to come, taking and living each moment, loving deep and rich and fully, not giving in to what is easy but persevering, and in all things, all things, pointing to the Father. I miss Kathy already; and I think, even today, in her death, Kathy has done it again. She made me stop and think, evaluate life and what is important, and find myself on my knees at the cross depending on Him.Well done, Kathy, well done. I love you.