Kate lost her mom yesterday morning after a years-long battle with severe illness including emphysema and COPD, among other serious complications. Kate's been caretaking her mother for close to 3 years in Massachusetts. How she's done it, I'm not sure, but geez, if we were talking about the Guy family being full of tough broads, Kate and her mom were spitfires of epic proportions.
Being EXTREMELY Irish, Kate told me of a profound yet beautiful custom in which the true Irish participate when a loved one dies. They open a window. Why? To let the soul free to go to God. I thought that was pretty amazing, and she did it.
Kate's been great this week helping me reel in my emotions regarding the loss of Guy's mother and having to go to that wake tomorrow (too much Irish Catholic death this week), reassuring me of my belonging at the wake (and Meg is indeed going with me) and helping me figure out Catholic wake protocol and easing my impetus not to scratch out the eyes of Lady GuyGuy (or vice versa). Everybody--me, BMF and, uh, WC, got the mass card things straightened out as to what the heck they are and what to do with them.
Thelma Carroll was a force to be reckoned with. I never met her, as I never met Madame Guy, but I talked to her on the phone in MA several times, and you'd have to scream into the phone "IS KATHLEEN THERE?" or I'd try and chit-chat with Thelma when I could before she got too sick. She had a fierce temper, as I understand it, but tried not to take it out on Kate. Other douchebag relatives were fair game, but that's a whole other Newcomb Place book to write.
Kate is the youngest of 3 children, far younger than her brother and sister, and also far more fragile and chronically ill, yet is the smartest and the strongest of the bunch of them.
She admires my strength, but a lot of it, I garner from her and her own fortitude. I have been friends with Kate since we met in the Knox laundry room in 1992, me shooting her a deadly glance should she mess with my hanging-to-dry Eric Clapton t-shirt. She was my dorm supervisor, along with her husband, my Russian professor. I knew she was a painter. No, like a REAL PAINTER. We formed an instant connection which has stood the test of time for almost 22 years based on mutual respect, a dedication to intellectualism and to one another's souls. Plus, we both love Yoko Ono.
What's so rare about Kate, and she honed this trait from her father, which I'm sure made her mother ask for her specifically to take care of her her, is her empathy. Buddhist philosopher and monk Thich Nhat Hanh calls it "noumenon," or "neumona," an object(s) that can be intuited only by direct knowledge (intuition) and not perceived of the senses, or an object independent of intellectual intuition of it or of sensuous perception of it. Also called thing-in-itself. Conversely, in the spirit of Kant, "an object, such as the soul, that cannot be known, through perception, although its existence can be demonstrated." (Living Buddha, Living Christ, 214). Kate and I may not have been in one another physical presence for over 20 years, but she feels things in and about me and I about her that are naturally mystical. Had it not been for her, I'd have given up on Guy, or shunned BMF years ago, but she was right about them. She's always right about them.
When Kate moved back from her home on Long Island (where her Harvard-trained husband teaches at SUNY Stonybrook) to take care of her mother in Massachusetts, I had trepidation. She was so frail and weak herself, with so many chronic, serious conditions. But put to task, for someone you love, someone who's asking for your presence, she soldiered on and did a wonderful job. Yes, there were many, many rough patches and challenges, but Kate forged what she was meant to do, and observed the peace of her mother's passing.
Kate has said she's felt a strong connection to Guy this whole week, and I can sense why. Guy was gallant, sympathetic and kind in conveying to me yesterday the fact that he'd keep Kate and her mom in his prayers. (I've been trying to give him space this week, which is hard, but we all have to make sacrifices.)
Kate has a unique gift of relieving suffering. That's another reason why I believe she was destined to care for her mother towards the end of Thelma's life. Shifting back to Thich Nhat Hanh's "Living Buddha, Living Christ (20)," he says, " When your beloved is suffering, you need to recognize her suffering, anxiety, and worries, and just by doing that, you already offer some relief. Mindfulness relieves suffering because it is filled with understanding and compassion." Those times when Kate was separated from her mother were torturous for Thelma. She needed Kate. I thank God that they were united at the end. Yes, I know, Kate's too pretty to describe.
Damnit that I have midterms and school and a kid about to be confirmed and all these local commitments, because I'd be on a plane to Boston right now if I could be. Still, as was discussed in some previous recent blogs, Kate knows my soul is attune to hers, and our families. Sometimes,though, you just want to give your buddy a hug. I hope Kate knows how (though either Luke or I would break her fragile bones) much we'd hug her and hold her hand and reassure her that peace and joy outweigh grief and sorrow.
Blessings and congratulations to Thelma M. Carroll for the joy of eternal rest and peace with our Lord Jesus Christ.
This was one of Mrs. Carroll's favorite songs, so I'm posting it here.How progressive of her!!!!: