This post has been rumbling around in my head for a couple days. I hope that I can do justice to this topic, because this is very important.
This week a dear, dear friend passed away. Katie McGuire was an amazing woman who touched many lives throughout her lifetime. I met her 30 years ago when she was at my physical therapy school recruiting counselors for MDA summer camp. When I was told of her passing on Thursday morning, I felt such shock and disbelief. She was still so young, and so vibrant and full of life. Since Thursday I have wanted or almost expected to hear an announcement on the radio, or read about her in the newspapers. She held such an important place in the lives of so many people, extending way beyond the boundaries of her family, who of course will miss her more than many of us can imagine. There is a poem by W. H. Auden that expresses what I feel.
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
W. H. Auden
To me this just conveys the sense of how the world is a little less without Katie, things do not shine quite as brightly. Someone wrote (I’m sorry I cannot recall who) on a Facebook post that when Katie was with you she made you feel like you were her best friend, and that was just so true. She was always so surprised, touched and thankful when anyone would give her a gift, or acknowledge how much she had helped them. She did not see anything amazing in the way that she gave so much of herself. It was just the way she was.
When Katie had a battle with cancer many years ago, I remember that I was doing a home health job, so I spent many hours in my car. I would pray for Katie whenever she entered my mind, praying for her to be pain free, and to have peace in that moment, as well as for her healing. I remember telling God that he could not have her yet, that she had to many things left to do on this earth, too many people here still needed her so much. When I talked to her about this later, she said that she could feel when people were praying for her, that there were times when all of the sudden the pain would stop, or she would feel lifted up and full of hope and energy. When she shared that the doctors felt that she had beat the cancer, I remember being so happy that she would be with us for years to come. How I wish that it had been many more years than this.
Since Thursday I find myself thinking of Katie all of the time, missing her, thinking of her children, grandchildren and other family, I also think of all of us whose lives she has touched. For perhaps the first time ever, I have found myself looking forward to a funeral. If I can’t be with Katie again, I want to be surrounded by people who love her, who understand what an amazing person that she was. People who will understand that all the superlatives in the world are not enough to accurately describe our dear, sweet, wonderful, special Katie McGuire.
And I am thankful for our short phone call a week ago when we made plans for two weeks from now for lunch. I would have much rather had the time spent with her, but at least I got to talk to her one last time.
Death is Nothing at All
Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away to the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other,
That, we still are.
Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way
which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed
at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word
that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effect.
Without the trace of a shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same that it ever was.
There is absolute unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind
because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you.
For an interval.
Somewhere. Very near.
Just around the corner.
All is well.
Henry Scott Holland