Editor’s Note: The following blog entry was written by Kathleen’s first cousin, Kelly Ryan Collins. Kelly and her husband Steve, daughter Emily, and son Ryan live in Minnesota. Among other special guests, Kelly and her brother Shannon joined my Uncle Bob, Aunt Raelene, and my Aunt Sharon for Kass’s 40th birthday party at my house last May. This was the first time we had all seen each other in many, many years. What follows are Kelly’s thoughts about that visit and some of the lessons she learned from Kass that she still holds close to her heart. We were so fortunate to have all of them by our side through Kass’s battle. I share this piece with you because it offers a unique perspective that I do not have, as it is written through the eyes of a fellow young mother. Her perspective provides yet another reminder about the power of “now”, one of several beautiful lessons from Kass’s life and legacy that will never be forgotten.
No More Regrets….Take Nothing for Granted….Just Love
By: Kelly R. Collins
Has it really been one year? One year since I saw her last? It feels like just days have passed. Yet, not a day goes by where I do not think about her. Not a day goes by that I do not remember the last moments I had with her. Watching her drive away and each of us mouthing the words “I love you” to each other. I should have done that more often. The “I love you” part, that is. But then again, I have so many regrets. That is quite possibly the most valuable lesson that I have learned from Kass’ passing.
When I came out to visit last May and attend her birthday party, I was excited. It had been years since I had seen her. I was prepared for what to expect. I knew she was very sick. But mostly I just wanted to see her for myself. To hug her. To kiss her. To tell her I love her. All those things I regret not having done more before. Wondering why it took something like her illness to get me to come out there to visit.
I really, really loved being there. I loved being a part of her day. I loved talking to her and catching up as if no time had passed. Seeing all the love and support she had. It was amazing. And all I could wish was that my whole family was there. Another regret. I will never get over the fact that she did not meet my children. To this day, it still haunts me.
I remember hearing of Kass’ passing from my dad. A simple message: Kass passed away early this afternoon. I think for both of us, there wasn’t anything left to say. We knew this was coming. But it was hard to speak of it. I was at work. I went into the closest restroom, in the last stall, and cried. I am not sure how long I was there.
When I got home that night, my family and I sat down to dinner. I had always been honest with Ryan (our 8 year old) about Kass’ health. I felt he was old enough to learn and understand about the death of a loved one. He was so sweet. He prayed for her often. He cried for me when I told him. Emily (our 3 year old), of course, was too young to understand. So when we sat down to that dinner, as if the world just kept right on going, it was so surreal to me. When we prayed before our meal, I started crying again.
Kass was laid to rest on Emily’s 3rd birthday. We were up at Steve’s parent’s cabin for the celebration. It was a beautiful, sunny day. I tried my very hardest to pay attention to what I had right in front of me. My daughter, healthy as could be, happy and celebrating. When I put her to bed, I kissed her forehead and then couldn’t leave. The thought of not seeing her grow up took my breath away. To wonder what Kass went through, knowing she was leaving her baby girl…I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. Still, to this day, it devastates me.
I am not what one would call a “religious” person. It was not part of my childhood. It was not part of my adult life. When I met Steve, I had a bit of a re-introduction to Catholicism. And when Steve suggested we send the kids to Catholic school, I was in support of it. I saw how important this part of his life was to him and how much it meant to him to raise his children as Catholics. We visited the parish and school and I was definitely onboard. I saw a great community of family and hope. However, I continue to struggle with my faith. Kass’ passing has been a huge part of this struggle. After Kass passed away, I heard from so many family and friends “God had a plan. It was part of His plan. We don’t know what that plan is, but it is part of His plan.” But I am a black and white person I guess. I just don’t see what that plan could possibly have been. I just don’t see it. But I am not giving up on it.
I saw this post awhile back on Facebook:
Prayers are prophesies! They predict our future. Weak prayers create a weak life. Be relentless! Wrestle with God! He can handle it! #bemore
Maybe I need to wrestle with God more? But there is that black and white factor again. How can I wrestle with him if I am not going to get my answers? I want to know “why Kass?” And I know I will never know the answer to that.
And so here I am. A year later. A whole year since I saw her last. Since we talked about our family coming out that July. When our kids could play together outside while we sat on her porch, drank wine, and chatted about all we had been given in our life.
I know that one should not live with regrets. I just don’t understand how that can at all be possible. However, what I can do is, try not to have any going forward. I will never again take for granted the most important thing in this world. My life. I have a healthy husband that I love so much. That I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with every day. That I wake up and see next to me every morning and it makes me smile. I have two healthy children that I cannot imagine my life without. Who every night I kiss before bed and silently say to myself “Kass, I am sending a kiss to Josie too.”
Sometimes it is hard for me to put into words the way I am feeling. I have been very fortunate to have an understanding husband who listens so well. There are still days that I cry out of the blue because I am sad. Sad that Aunt Marty and Uncle Tom do not have their daughter with them. Sad that Krista, Tom, and Tim do not have their sister with them. Sad that Josie does not have her mom. So very sad that she does not have that beautiful spirit to teach her to dance, sing, read, get ready for her first day of school, find a dress for her first prom, share the moment with her when she meets the man of her dreams, give her something old, new, borrowed, and blue on her wedding day, be a grandmother to her children.
Her death did have an impact on me. I did take a lesson from it. I did learn about what is important in life. She will never, ever be far from my thoughts. She is my daily reminder that life is too short. She is my reminder to live simply, speak kindly, care deeply, and love generously. For we never know when that will be taken away…