It was early January of 2008 the first time I met Kathleen. Her favorite time of year –snowboard season– and my least favorite –so cold and windy!– We were paired up in Marketing 110 for a class project that involved promoting the Battle For Burlington, an annual ski and snowboard competition between Burlington’s three colleges Saint Mikes, UVM, and Champlain. Although I saw Kathleen in class twice week, it took some time before we really got to know each other. Our first –of what became many– real bonding experiences occurred at the end of March, the day the Battle For Burlington took place. We trekked to Jay Peak to help promote the event on the mountain. What could have easily been a beautiful spring skiing day turned out to be 25 degrees, so we bundled up and froze as we stood outside the base lodge, telling mountain skiers and riders where to go to watch the event.
While Kathleen had been smart and brought her snowboard, I had left my skis in Burlington, thinking I would be working the event all day and wouldn’t have time to use them. Because of this, I hiked up the mountain to where the event was taking place rather than taking a chair lift, and after the event was over, I had no choice but to hike back down. Or so I thought, until Kathleen suggested that the two of us sit on her snowboard and ride it sled-style to the base of the mountain. As we took off down the mountain, we quickly gained speed; too much speed. Part way into our ride, we bailed off the snowboard, tumbling and rolling a good distance before coming to a stop, hearts racing.
As I said, this was my first epic memory with Kathleen. Since this day, we went on to be roommates my sophomore year of college and randomly ended up getting apartments in the same building the following two years. We’ve shared birthday gatherings, holiday parties, Halloween extravaganzas, heartbreaks, laughs, and way too many pieces of sushi and bottles of wine to count. We hit it off as friends and there’s no doubt in my mind that we’ll stay in touch forever. Kathleen even loves Disney almost as much as I do!
People enter your life every day. Whether they become a part of your life and leave an impact is up to you.
We recently experienced our first truly horrible memory together.
At the end of August, Kathleen’s mom, Jane, passed away from cancer. I’ve come to know Jane –and Kathleen’s whole family– over the last few years. Jane was the most active and healthy woman I’ve ever met. She ran more than I do. She worked as a trainer at a gym. She lived a healthy lifestyle and had a healthy mind. She was always a present and supportive mom, similar to my own. Not only was she Kathleen’s mom, but she was also her best friend. Read Kathleen’s beautiful post about her mom’s passing on her blog, Wamser and the World.
How do you support a friend who goes through the pain of losing a parent? It’s not like I can relate to this tragedy. Fortunately for me, I haven’t even had to go through the loss of a grandparent yet. Do I tell her I’m sorry, words that at this point probably sound empty to Kathleen, after she’s heard them from so many people? Do I go on with our friendship like nothing has changed? Knowing that Kathleen is the type of person who shares her feelings, ignoring the situation doesn’t seem like the best answer. But where is the line? When is it OK to talk about her mom and when will it only stir up sad feelings?
It’s pointless to ask Kathleen “Are you OK?” Of course she’s not. she’ll say she is, just like anyone would, but the truth is that life is not the same anymore without her mom and it will never be again. However, you have to go on. You don’t have a choice. Kathleen knows this more than anyone right now and even mentions in her post that “if there was one thing she made sure I knew it was that there was more life to live and I had to get up and do whatever would make me happy.”
Jane’s memorial services took place the days following my move to Boston at the beginning of September. Because of this, I was unable to attend and provide Kathleen and her family with the support that I would have liked to. On Kathleen’s recent visit to Boston, I told her that as much as I wish I could have been a part of her mom’s passing, I’m so happy that all my memories of Jane are so positive. The last few times I saw Jane this past spring we were having a fun night out in Burlington, celebrating our graduation and preparing for Kathleen’s summer departure for Europe. This is how I will always remember her; not from somber funeral events.
As hard as life will be for Kathleen without her mom, I know she’ll keep living life to the fullest, just as she has always. This is one of the reasons Kathleen and I get along so well. We’re both go-getters that constantly surround ourselves with friends and things to do.
The future is unpredictable, but what I can confidently is that I will continue to be there for Kathleen no matter what obstacles there are to overcome, just as I know she will be there for me.
“Life is not fair. Occasionally the bad guy wins, people do play favorites, some good people die young, some people will let you down and not everyone is honest. While we can accept this, it shouldn’t stop us from dreaming big, working hard and doing what is right.” -Corey Wells