The older I get the more precious I find life and my relationships with others to be. Our time could be over at any given moment, without warning, and each day is a reminder to prepare for that unfortunate truth.
When I was in elementary school, my family moved from Whittemore Prescott to Gaylord, Michigan. We were building a home in a newly developed subdivision where there was only one finished house, and another being built across the cul-de-sac from us.
Amidst long trips back and forth from our old house to our new house, we ran into the owner of the house being built across from ours one day. She was a middle-aged, divorced mother of two grown children. She lived in Gaylord most of her life, and explained to us that her parents had bought her this new house that would accommodate her needs. After a few minutes of talking with my dad, she told him that she was previously diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
In the months after we were settled into our newly finished home, we became good friends with this lady across the street, named Kathy. My brother and sister and I spent the most time visiting with her, as my parents were overwhelmed with work and getting used to a new town, something I didn’t relate to until much later in life.
Kathy loved having the three of us over for visits and considered us the grandchildren she never had. She told us stories of when she was little and gave us various life lessons. She was like our personal version of Mr. Feeny from “Boy Meets World” or Wilson from “Home Improvement”. One story I’ll never forget is the one she told of when she was a kid and while playing outside on a nature-made ice rink with friends, Gordie Howe, himself, showed up and taught her how to hold her hockey stick correctly.
Since Kathy was mostly bed or chair-ridden due to her MS, she owned a plethora of books and movies. One movie in particular that, bless her heart, she let me watch over and over at her house was “Matilda”. It wasn’t until about the tenth time in a row that she said “No more, I can’t watch this movie anymore!” But of course we did watch it a few more times before we put it back on the shelf for good.
Kathy had a caring heart. She loved having us around and watching us grow up. She felt like family in a very short time and even on the holidays we wanted to visit and help her decorate the Christmas tree and hang decorations.
Unfortunately, with the great memories also came the bad ones. Kathy got around by an electronic scooter. Her MS progressed and she could no longer get around with a walker. One year she adopted a kitten from the animal shelter and about a week later accidentally ran it over with her scooter and fell into a pretty deep depression for a week or so. We were young and didn’t know how to comfort her at the time.
A couple years after that, Kathy developed breast cancer in one breast and had a double mastectomy to prevent the disease from returning. Cancer ultimately took her life, and I never got to say goodbye. There were many opportunities for it, but I didn’t know how to face death. I didn’t want to see her that way. She was always a strong, bubbly individual, and now she was fragile and could barely lift her head to smile.
I didn’t realize how wonderful a person Kathy was until much later in life, and it made me miss her more. I wish I could somehow thank her for all of the great memories, and for loving us so much.
It’s easy to be bitter, but it takes a lot of effort to be kind. Very few people in my life remain who are as kind-hearted as Kathy was. Those are the people who have something to teach us about living a good life, even in the worst of circumstances.
Kathy has taught me that nothing in this world exists that is more precious than loving one another. If I keep that in mind, then this life will be a lot easier.
Never go a day without letting those close to you know how important they are to you, in one way or another.