How Did I Get Here, And Where Is The Next Turn?

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Brought up Jan 11, 2015

Angels Among Us

The other day, the Punk and I were talking about a book he is reading. It's one I read years ago called The Poisonwood Bible. It is a great book, as I recall. I read it many years ago, and have slept a lot since then, so the details are fuzzy. Still, it brought back the memory of a friend from college who was one of the kindest people I ever met.

This past month showed me there is a lot of kindness in this world, in places that can surprise one. I am humbled with the affection showed to me by my coworkers that made sure I didn't have to walk to work, though my stubborn ass did a few times because my stupid pride wouldn't allow me to ask for help. I got chewed out for it by the Boss Lady and one who I have come to consider a real friend at work, both the V ladies. (Thanks!)

Real kindness is a true gift in this messed up world.

My sweet friend in college was one of the first that showed me what kindness and true love for others really means.

My friend's name was Kathy. My daughter bears the name Kathleen as a middle name in her honor, and memory.

Kathy was this brilliant light in our dorm. Many mornings we were awakened to her sweet voice singing Amy Grant gospel songs in the shower. Her laughter echoed through the halls from her room where the door was always open. Kathy had a knack for putting a smile on your face with just her own.

Our paths merged that Christmas time when we did the Secret Santa thing before we left for the end of term break. Kathy was mine, but I didn't know it, of course. I was wracking my brain trying to figure out who was leaving the creative little gifts. Kathy and I didn't run with the same folks. She was an honor student, religious, as were her friends. I ran with a group whose goal was to make it back to the dorm with out hurling our consumed beer on the floor.

After Christmas Break, Kathy and I spoke often. She seemed to make a point to say hi to me when ever we met. I sometimes ate with her little crowd that the rest of us called Goody Goodies. (One from the group became my roommate for the next two semesters.)

During that second semester of my Freshman year, Kathy's glow touched my life in a way I have never forgotten. During that time, she talked of her future plans. Everyone knew she would do well with what she chose.

After Easter break, she came back to school telling everyone she had decided to go to Africa for a year as a missionary. No one was surprised. We cheered her on, looking forward to her tales when she returned.

Kathy never came back to us.

Kathy went to the bush country in Kenya. She worked in a hospital there helping the local folks.

She wrote letters to her roommate that were passed around the dorm, eagerly read until the ink on the thin airmail paper was fading. She asked for sticks of Double Mint gum to be sent in return letters.

We were getting ready for Thanksgiving break when the roommate came to our room in tears. She had gotten a call from Kathy's mom telling her that Kathy, and most of the workers at the mission, had contracted malaria.

All the missionaries had been vaccinated before they left the States. In the bush, though, their diet had become very poor. We were told that too often the trucks that brought supplies to the mission never made their deliveries. The missionaries were surviving on a meager diet of rice. Their immune systems began to fail.

A day or so before we were all supposed to leave for our country's holiday of thanks for all our blessings, we were told that Kathy, and 10 others she had worked with to Kenya, were gone.

That night, we all gathered in the small common area of our dorm floor. One boy from Kathy's church group played his guitar. A few lit candles. Mostly, we hugged, wept, and grieved for the light that had been taken from us in a country where bands of greedy men could starve our friend until she became ill.

Kathy is buried there where she died, away from those who loved her.

There is no place where we could place flowers, no place where we could remember that sweet girl.

She was only 19 years old.

I could dwell on the ugliness of her death. I could yell about how a government should protect those who try to help their people instead of allowing bands of marauders to steal the food and medical supplies to sell.

I choose to remember the light instead.

Kathy was too good for those who didn't appreciate her.

Kathy died in 1983. Thirty-two years ago. I still grieve, mourn the loss of that sweet girl at times. Other times, I try to celebrate the light that touched my life so briefly.

Kathy is the reason I try to be kind to people, even when they are not kind to me.

Kindness is the way to keep sending Kathy's glowing light out into the world.

May we all pass on, and leave behind, such a glow in this troubled world.

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Fae » 3 years ago

I also read The Poisonwood Bible several years ago. A mad male missionary. And his family. That book made quite an impression on me. The little girl, "My little favorite". Never was anything good about serpents. But, onto 19 year old Kathy. I grieve her loss. 1983. Somebody's darling. My own daughter traveled to West Africa, as a student, when she was about Kathy's age. Also had her malaria shot before going. A different part of Africa, and a later time, 1999. Thankfully, she came back healthy as ever after her 6 month study-abroad. It's so good that you're remembering Kathy's light after 32 years. And life goes on.