How do you accept the death of one of the most lively people you’ve ever known?
My stepmother Kitty came into my life five years ago and immediately blessed me with her seemingly endless joy for life and love for many things, most touchingly for my sweet mother.
Kitty was outrageous. An enormous personality. She laughed longer and harder than anyone in the room. She loved deeply, she spoke her mind, she did not tolerate bullshit. She’d order drinks and appetizers for the whole table as soon as you sat down - she just wanted to share her favorite things with everyone. She kept her favorite moments of America’s Got Talent DVR’d and would make me watch them as soon as I walked in the door.
As a veterinarian, she saved and improved many, many lives. After years of dreaming and scheming, she and a partner opened Holistic Veterinary Healing, a full-service holistic acupuncture hospital, in 2013. It still blows my mind that she could perform both surgery and acupuncture on animals. She could do dental work! Not only that, but she could really communicate with animals, sense their needs. Animals would limp in the door and, less than an hour later, trot out pain-free. It was amazing. I don’t know how she did it and I suppose it will always be a mystery.
Last Saturday she collapsed at work and it was discovered that she had a brain aneurysm. She came close to the surface a few times but never regained consciousness and died yesterday afternoon, leaving behind a heartbroken community. I know I am not alone in my deep sorrow that I will never hear that laugh again.
My heart is most broken for my mother. They loved each other so much and they had so such fun together. Last Sunday - the day after Kitty went into the hospital - was their second wedding anniversary. Kitty was just 49 years old. Although I am reminded that we are never promised tomorrow, I feel the deep loss of the decades they expected to spend together and now will not.
How do you say goodbye to someone when you felt like your time together was just getting started?
A few times Kitty told me in a very serious tone that my mother meant everything to her, that she intended to protect her and would never let any harm come her way. I remember being startled by how somber her usually jovial expression became, how intensely her eyes stared right into mine as she said it. She told me that we are family and that she wanted us kids to regard her as a mother. She told me that her life had started when my mom came into it. At the time it felt goofy, almost overly formal. I tried to slip out of it like a squirmy child from a hug. But now I wish I could remember every word verbatim.
I have never worked as hard as I have this week, in the hospital with my mother and Kitty and their army of friends and family. We slept in overnight shifts in the ICU and worked hard by Kitty’s side to bring her back to consciousness. Gradually she slipped away until, finally, she had a massive stroke. There was no going back after that. I realize now she was giving us a little time, taking us on a journey of letting go.
I wish I could wrap my mom up in a cocoon and shield her from what she has to do next; all the goodbyes, all the explanations, her completely understandable desire to comfort those around her who are suffering. Learning to live in this new reality. I have told her we will get through it together by putting one foot in front of the other and taking each day - each moment - one at a time. I know she can do it; she’s a strong and powerful woman. I just wish she didn’t have to.
Huge thanks to all of her friends who have asked how you can help. I will have some concrete answers for you soon but for now please just keep sending your love to my mom and Kitty. They are both transitioning and need your support now more than ever.
With love and gratitude for every second we have together on this little blue marble,