I Hate The Past Tense

For those of you who don’t know, a close friend of the family died Friday.  It was very sudden and unexpected, and “devastated” is not too strong a word for what’s going on with Mom and me, and with Kathy’s roughly 11 billion friends and with her family.  I’m heartbroken and angry, and also so, so thankful that I got to know her and be her friend.

You probably didn’t know Kathy Reed, and that is your loss.

I describe her pretty much the same way I do my beloved Baltimore: completely without pretension and unapologetically herself.

She knew who she was and what she liked.  Wine with ice cubes? Sure, no matter which restaurant she was in.  BLTs for breakfast? Why not? She was also the only person I knew who loved being online more than I did.

For the past four years, she came to BEA with Mom, our friend Joy and me.  We generally broke down into groups of three and one—three retired nurses and me; three voracious readers and Mom.  We didn’t see each other much in New York, because I was at Javits all day and generally had plans at night and Mom, Kathy and Joy were busy shopping, seeing plays, exploring and having fun.  Most of the quality time was in the car there and back, although we always managed to have at least one dinner together and breakfast on the two traveling days.

This year, we weren’t sure if Kathy would go, because her stepson had died the week before, and his funeral was the day before we were supposed to leave.  There was a bit of back and forth, but ultimately she did.  And I’m so happy, because even though I probably only spent about 12 waking hours with her over the course of those days, they were 12 really good hours.

I got to see my birth mom twice over BEA and the second time, we all had drinks.  I don’t remember exactly how it came up, but Kathy made a comment about how I was at a table with my four mothers, and that was Kathy.  She was everybody’s mom.  She worried about people a little and tended to fuss over them.  If she saw something that made her think of you, she would get it for you.  She was the one who made sure everyone was okay and more than that, that they were happy.  She ended conversations with “I love you.”

But she was also the party. She was the first person to laugh and the first person to order a drink and get things started. She loved music and life and her people. She had a lot of people. If you were one of her people’s people, you became one of her people, too. Like my mom, she didn’t ever meet strangers.

And it feels so wrong to use the past tense with Kathy.  She loved life and her family (biological and chosen) so fiercely and it feels so wrong that the world is still here and she isn’t.

There are a lot of lessons here.  I mean, yes, obviously, tell family and friends you love them.  Tell them every day, every conversation.

But here’s what I’m taking away from this.  Like me, Kathy was not a fan of having her picture taken.  I’ve known her essentially my whole life and I think there are only a handful of pictures of us together; I only have one.

Whenever you’re with family or friends, take a picture.  Commemorate it.  At some point, it’s all the people who love you will have.


I was looking through the Facebook pictures of the most recent trip to New York.  I only saw one of Kathy (although I know there are more on Mom’s phone).  I’m pretty sure that Kathy was so delighted at seeing a dog that she didn’t even notice her picture was being taken.  And I’m pretty sure her reaction when she found out was, “Oh, LORD, Sue!” and then her big, infectious laugh.

I’m really going to miss that laugh.  And everything that went along with it.

She was a great bonus mom, and an even better friend.

So please, if you take anything away, shut up and be in the picture.  Your friends love you.  Your family loves you.  And whatever flaws you think you have, they don’t see them.  They see your giant smile and even bigger heart.

And if you have a moment, please pray for Kathy’s husband and stepson and granddaughter and family, who are even more shattered than the rest of us.  Pray for her friends, who have basically just lost their glue.  And then hug your own family and friends tighter.


22 thoughts on “I Hate The Past Tense

  1. Oh Kelly! So sorry for your loss. You post make me wish I had known Kathy. What a wonderful tribute to your friend. Praying for you and your mom and Kathy’s family in this difficult time. Hugs!

  2. What a beautiful tribute, Kelly. I never knew Kathy because she came to DHC after I left to start working at the Health Department. But, I felt like I knew her from stories told by your mom and Carolyn. I cannot imagine the depth of pain felt by her family and friends. I’m one of those people who really doesn’t like having my picture taken. But after reading your message I will do my best not to hide when someone gets the camera out. Thanks for the gentle admonition.

    1. Yes, Mom and Carolyn have the best stories. :)

      And do it. I hate having my picture taken, and now I wish I had gotten over it more, and faster, because I wish I had a picture of the four of us in New York someplace.

  3. There are no words for your loss. So I’ll send hugs instead. :)
    Beautifully written and so heart-felt! If I’ve learned ANYTHING in the past year, it’s that life is too short. So you gotta tell people that you love them NOW and stop putting things on hold and DO THEM. We never know how much time we have.

  4. So sorry for your loss, my friend. I try to take as many pictures as I can, whether they are wanted or not. For someday they will be wanted!!!!

  5. I struggle with the past tense too. When my dear friend passed unexpectedly I could not, would not say “She was a great friend. I loved her.” Instead I know she will always be my good friend. I will continue to love her.

    I’m thinking of you and all of Kathy’s loves. So sorry for your loss, Kelly.

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