It’s been a little more than a week since my friend Kate passed away and I still can’t believe it. She was 30. She found out she had a rare kind of ovarian cancer in August. Just six months later—she was gone. It’s shocking and tragic because Kate was the eternal optimist; one of those people whose smile was infectious; who brought light wherever she went. She threw herself into whatever she was doing with joy and enthusiasm. She was selfless and supportive. She didn’t seem to have a drop of cynicism about her. Her spirit was wide-eyed and wondrous. Every single one of us who had the privilege of knowing Kate really just thought she was going to pull through. It didn’t seem possible that someone that radiant, so full of life, could succumb to cancer at all, let alone so quickly. She was one of the good ones. And now she’s gone.
Her death has wrecked me more than I expected. Probably because Kate was an angel on Earth and in these dark and uncertain times, we need people like her more than ever. In the wake of her absence, the force of her presence has emerged. Kate inspired people all over the world, their collective sadness overshadowed by the shock. And I know the grief I feel is only a shadow of what her parents and sister are feeling. A loss that never ends. Maybe it dims. But loss changes you. Forever.
It’s been a long year of loss, not just people lost to COVID, but ‘deaths of despair’ are also at record high numbers; overdose, suicide, depression and anxiety are all on the rise. There is the cost we see constantly in media—the number of COVID deaths—and the ones we do not. Even in the wake of someone’s death, there is little room for proper closure. Zoom goodbyes to loved ones in hospitals are barbaric. Zoom memorials are barren of the ability to comfort one another, reach out and hug someone who is breaking down. The stress our frontline workers have been under and the decisions they’ve had to make—and live with—will haunt them long after this moment has passed. Many of the ripple effects on small businesses we won’t even know about until we go to our favorite store and it’s gone—but every one of those businesses represents sweat, blood, tears and a dream, now gone.
Almost everyone I know, for one reason or another, is grieving. I see this playing out in our virtual spaces. The process isn’t linear so millions of people, in our little bubbles, are projecting rage, denial, bargaining, depression and our collective coping mechanism, memes, into the world. Myself included. Grieving the loss of a way of life. Grieving lost potential. Lost loved ones. In the midst of all of this—our institutions are crumbling around us. It’s easy to look around and say “what’s the point?” But don’t give into despair. Old towers crumbling gives way to new ideas. Fresh life. Rebirth.
Kate’s smile lit up a room. She gave you her full presence and attention. She made the world better wherever she went. She was selfless and thoughtful and even when things were getting bad and she was staring down her mortality, she just wanted to listen to your dumb, petty problems or talk about boys.
Her death has given me a lot to think about. How fleeting this all is. How precious. How we really have no idea how much time we have—and how much of it I squander. Most importantly, how will I use the time I have? Kate’s benevolence was a reminder that meaning doesn’t come from asking what we can get out of life—but what we can give to it. Kate gave us her all. I will miss her dearly. Rest easy, sweet Angel.
Love to you all,