Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A New Chapter in Katie's Life

A New chapter in all our lives...(I write this with extreme prejudice)

My thoughts today are on my niece, Katie. She is our family jewel; a diamond amongst the rough and tumble lumps of coal, her brothers and my sons. Don't misunderstand here, those lumps of coal are precious, but Katie has distinguished herself as the only girl in many admirable ways. I am extremely proud and excited for her as tomorrow night she leaves for Pennsylvania to attend LaSalle University as a freshman.

She has never been to me, your typical teenager. Working at a high school, I see them everywhere--fish following a crowd; the I-Pods in the ears, texting non-stop and OMG in every sentence; their whole world consisting only in "My Space".

In fifth grade, Katie had a love for Egyptian history, the pyramids and pharaohs. In junior high I gave her "Les Miserable" and she absorbed the novel and today we share a love for the characters and story of redemption. She loves Parisian toile print and making her own flavored coffees. She has always been an avid reader (like her mom), taking on Tolstoy's "War and Peace" in tenth grade. She is an independent, confident achiever who possesses a natural insight into people's situations and is not afraid to share her opinion or listen to advice.

In high school it wasn't the paint brush she discovered, but the "painter". She desired to know what inspired them, what angst led to their creativity, what time periods were masterpieces and artistic innovations in architecture developed. Art history became her passion. I am sure she acquired some of that from her mom, my sister Lauren, with her love of all history, especially American. Her desire now (last I heard) is a philosophy/sociology major with the hopes of one day running her own non-profit organization. I do believe she will continue her love for art history as well.

On her graduation night, she would show me a mobile she had created for a class that blew me away. Modeled after the creations of Alexander Calder, in black, red and silver wiring; she had created the beautiful and tragic life of Princess Diana. It was so impressive, which brings me to another item I would like to share; an essay she wrote for school after the death of Timmy, my son. I have asker her permission to share this on my blog.

REGRET Written by Katie Henry

In my lifetime of almost seventeen years, I have been to three funerals, yet not one wedding. To understand my own hardships with loss, you must first understand that I had only one grandparent by the time I was born. I can remember as a young child not really enjoying Grandparents Day; not to be disappointed by my Grandma, but I never had a grandfather and always wondered what I was missing. Hearing the other kids laugh and talk about both of their grandparents, it made me sad. All of my deceased grandparents had died from either a form of cancer or heart disease. Death has stolen three people that were close to me; their deaths are my struggles.

As the years passed by, my grandma had met someone who could comfort her; his name was Mike. Although I always wanted to have a grandpa, there was not anything about him that I did not like; but I just never accepted him as part of the family. After a few blissful years together, Mike's old habit of chewing tobacco had caused throat cancer. Ironically, he passed away in the same hosp ital, the same floor, with the same devoted woman at his side as my Grandpa that I never knew. I can remember going to his funeral because it was my first at the naive age of nine. I can scarcely remember what occurred during the funeral, but can clearly remember none of his family came. I can recall asking my mom where his family was, astonished they were not there, and then she explained to me in the simplest way she could.

After following his dreams, Mike left the reservation, burning the bridges of his heritage and the connection between his families. I guess I was not the only one who did not accept him as part of the family.

Being the only granddaughter and the youngest, I was always treated as the baby of the family. This is why I believe my Grandma, I had such a close bond, and why she identified with me; her being the baby of her family. Thinking back at my short career in dance I can picture my first recital. She was there holding pink roses and her eyes full of joy and life just to see me. But as far as important memories go, she was there for me when I made the decision to be baptized. After praying and being cleansed in the water, I glanced up and there was my mom and my grandma right beside her, ready to congratulate me on an important decision in my life. She radiated pure joy and was eager to give me a new Bible and a bouquet of pink roses. But, one of the most significant memories I have of her, was when she was in her last weeks of life. I can remember the smell of sickness, the feeling of hopelessness, and the sense of death. My mom was untouched by her conditions and her appearance because she was with her so much. Not realizing this would be the last time I would see her until the funeral, I did not know what to say. She was a petite person as is, and with lung disease, her face was sunken, her bones were more delicate and visible than ever, and her eyes lost all spirit and hope. I can remember she was talking to my mom, and while she was talking, she was swallowing pills casually; by the peak of her illness, she was taking 23 pills a day. I was so innocent up until then; I had always thought that medicine helps you get better, that doctors can fix you.

It was Thanksgiving morning, 3 o’clock to be exact, which is when we lost a seat at the dinner table and were left with just the memory of her. I did not cry as my brothers, cousins, uncle and dad gently laid her coffin down on the damp grass. It was late afternoon; the clouds in the overcast sky were swelling; about to burst. Trying to contain myself I remember my grandma’s voice always encouraging me, “Remember to be strong, self-sufficient, courageous, and above all be proud of yourself.” I begin to shudder realizing that one day I will have to refer to pictures to remember her face and a forgotten memory. My body so numb I did not feel the chill of the wispy breeze or the mist of the rain, yet her words captivated and motivated me to get the strength to say goodbye. Laying a single pink rose on the coffin, catching a glimpse of myself in the reflection, I hope to live up to such an inspirational person.

Since the youthful age of three, my cousin Timmy was diagnosed with kidney disease; although this would not be the only medical problem, he would have throughout his short-lived life. Growing up I always seemed to admire him for his courage; whether it was his ability of making friends with ease or fighting his way through disease and recovery. It was recently in the last year or so when he began to worsen again. Since he was three he has had to increase the dosage of his medicine, and ultimately it stopped working. That year we had both been fighting; I for a CIF championship win and he for his life. My mom had told me that he was getting worse and it would be a good idea to go see him. I had training, I had my own battle. It wasn’t until after the game my mom pulled me aside. She told me how proud she was of me, and yet there was some hidden message I could not decipher. She knew I could tell something was up, and then I knew. Dropping to my knees, tears streaming down my face, hands clasped over my mouth, shushing the silent screams only for a moment. Another moment, another burden. February 27, 2007 one battle won, while the other was lost forever. The doctors said that when they started operating that his stomach was delicate and bled profusely.

My selfish acts left me feeling guilty with second thought, when all I wanted was to say goodbye. His medicine was the enemy, yet I felt like the culprit. Regret is said to be sorrow created by circumstance that are beyond one’s control or power to repair. Yet can not it be because of the person’s lack in action in the circumstance that causes regret? If so, than these are mine. For Mike, I wish that I would have accepted him and treated him as my grandpa. For my Grandma Joyce, I only hope that she knows how proud I am to be her granddaughter and how much she really impacted my life. Most regrettably, for Timmy, I only wish he knew how much he was truly loved by the many people whose lives he touched; even in the short twenty-six years he lived. Regret only comes to those who find out it is too late. For them, I was too late.

Katie, if Timmy could tell you anything, you have to know he would have wanted you at your CIF championship game winning that title. He loved sports, especially high school and college and he knew the importance of being a team member and the excitement and anticipation of being champion. One thing I am proud of about Timmy is that he did enjoy everyone’s greatness and took the time to honor that in another person. He was everyone’s “No. 1 Fan”. I believe Timmy gave you strength you may not be aware of as he let go of his own “treading of water “. That strength continues in you only to add to the already gifted, strong young woman you have already become. May God bless you in your endeavor to gain your first college degree, may you stay strong in your beliefs, may his protection surround you, and may you meet wonderful people and lifelong friends and begin to fulfill all your dreams. I love you and again we are so proud of you. Aunt Coke.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Coleene. I'd love to send you a personal email (in response to your comment on my blog). Can you email me from the link on my blog so I can have your email address? You're quite a lady.
    Your new friend,
    Dancing Barefoot on Weathered Ground