Years ago, my friend called and told me she felt lonely. Life was hard for her at that moment in time, as it was for a lot of folks during the mortgage crisis and market crash of 2008, myself included. She wished we lived closer and I wished for the same. We comforted each other with phone dates, an occasional girls' weekend and trips to each other's homes with our families. It was never the ideal amount of time (it never could be), but it filled in our need until the next time we could be together.
Around this time, she started making new friends through her social network with the work she was doing. Initially, if I'm being honest, I was a little envious. On one hand, I was glad she wasn't as lonely as she had been, but I felt left out and maybe even a little worried I would lose her to these newfound relationships. With hindsight as my superpower now, I can see how naive and immature I was about this worry. She was building her tribe and, of course, I would still be a part of it.
Over the past nine years, my friend collected people to help bring more contentment and fulfillment into the areas of her life that she wanted plumped up. It was like she was adding in people to her social sphere that clearly represented all of the different facets that she, too, possessed. She was amplifying who she was and she did this with vigor and purpose.
Her tribe consisted of both men and women, mothers and fathers, creatives, spiritual seekers, entrepreneurs, life-long friends, animal and nature lovers, yoga practitioners, caretakers, friends of friends, humorists, truth-tellers and people who possessed beautiful souls that complemented her own.
She ended up gathering people that she connected with spiritually, emotionally, practically and, always people who had a sense of humor. Always. She was a friend and mentor to hundreds of people through her work alongside her husband. She was a good person. She loved being surrounded by people, but she also loved laying in bed with me and watching reality t.v. Kacy was most definitely larger than life at times, but she was also solitary and introspective. She definitely contained multitudes.
As my plane touched down in San Francisco and we were taxiing to the gate, I turned my phone on and slid my finger across the screen to turn off airplane mode. As soon as I did, the texts and voicemail icons started filling up. The closest members of her tribe were reaching out to me. It was time.
As I was running through the Virgin terminal to catch the next plane back to Las Vegas, memories sprang up in a constant loop like a schizophrenic slideshow - a memory of us laughing so hard in a redwood sauna that we almost peed ourselves; a memory of her laying baby Jack across my swollen, pregnant belly so that he could hug my unborn child; a memory of us riding on a jet ski in Laughlin with her hair whipping me in the face and me holding onto her tiny waist; a memory of her making me get up on stage so she could tap a tambourine on my ass. That one is one of my favorites.
I have never witnessed someone dying before. As unbearable as it was at times to watch her be in pain, it was also a privilege and an honor to share space with her family and close friends and feel the love emanating off of all of them for her. There was an undercurrent of gratefulness running through me as I held her hand, gently rubbing her smooth head and whispering sweet nothings into her ear during her final days. When her husband hit play on his iPhone and Amazing Grace came out of the tiny speakers, I knew he had finally accepted that she was leaving us. It is a moment that will be forever burned on my brain. That man loved her with a ferocity I have never seen before and probably never will again. He did everything he could for her and, in the end, he had to do the hardest, yet kindest, thing he could for her...he gave her permission to let go.
As the time was upon us to say our goodbyes, I realized how clever she was in collecting all of the people she did over her lifetime. Whether physically in the room or not, her tribe was holding her up and would continue to hold up her family long after she was gone. I know she orchestrated all of this, either on a conscious or subconscious level. She was just that kind of lady.
As she was taken off life support and all the extraneous tubes were removed, there was a quiet, reverent pall over Room 22. Her family and friends were present, music was softly playing and we witnessed her taking her last sips of air. It was hauntingly beautiful and achingly sad to witness her leaving this realm, but I was immediately comforted by the fact that she was no longer suffering, no longer in any physical pain. She rose up and left us with all of our memories of her on February 22, 2017.
I am deeply honored to have known this woman for 28 years. It will take me some time to unpack all of this grief and sadness, but I'm so fucking grateful to know this pain and actually feel it and not want to numb out from all of it. I think feeling this way means I have loved and been loved greatly, right? And, there is deep satisfaction and seeds for healing planted in this knowledge. I believe this to be true with my whole heart, but it may take me awhile to cultivate it and rejoice in the new growth. For right now, I just want to simmer in all of my memories of her and try to learn from this hard lesson that life has just bestowed on me.
This is a special installment in the Ray of Light Series to honor my best friend, Katherine "Kacy" Christiansen. I gifted her a certificate for her last birthday (her 50-one-derful birthday) that promised her her very own Ray of Light art piece to celebrate her recovery from breast and brain cancer. She had one picture that I wanted to use, but she was unable to access it from an old hard drive. Time slipped by and I never got to make it for her. To process some of my grief, I will be making her one of her very own and will gift it to her family in the future.