Have you ever met someone who you knew would completely change the trajectory of your life?
It may be subtle, you won’t even know it’s happening until they’re no longer around and then is when you realize how much of an impact this individual had on you. Or it could be like knowing Kate. This demanding pull between our souls was so powerful there was no denying once she became part of my life, I would never be the same.
I’ve never written a blog, not sure how it will turn out, but if it’s anything like Kate insisted we live our lives, it will be “Perfectly Imperfect”.
Kate came to my yoga studio in September 2018, just three months after I opened the doors to this space and just half a year after starting my yoga teacher training.
We became instant friends and she was the only friend I had known who was a breast cancer survivor but was now also fighting metastatic disease. She would share a little when I’d open the space before classes for an energy level check-in and was always so inspiring to those around her. No matter what trivial life displeasures we were experiencing, they all seemed pale in comparison to the struggles she faced daily. It wasn’t just her warrior spirit that inspired though, it was her zest for life and the ability to find gratitude in each moment that she radiated to the rest of us. She never outwardly appeared to let her fear have the upper hand. To be near her was like being in the warmth of the sun and to be lucky enough to embrace her was just a blessing. Many times during these first few months of knowing her I remember crying and just trying to continue learning more about myself, how to quiet the chatter, how to live life the way she was, like she was dying. One morning of class when I just couldn’t hold myself together to teach, she made me understand my feelings were valid. I wasn’t battling cancer, she was. I didn’t need to experience what she was experiencing. She always made space for me to feel whatever I was feeling in my own life.
They needed each other.
When Kate realized I had a horse at home who was getting a lot less attention than he deserved while I was trying to start this new business, she politely asked if I’d mind if she started visiting with him. She had owned a horse ranch in Hawaii where she trained horses and children to be equestrians. I was SO relieved that she’d asked because it had been weighing heavily on me that I was not being a good horse mom. To the point where he was losing weight and I would just dump the feed and try not to look twice at him as my heart was breaking and quickly walk away to start my day away from the farm. She was such a blessing to me as she came out and quickly jumped into action ordering my husband and I to buy certain supplements and change feeds and do this, do that. She lovingly calls this part of herself “Commander Kate” and it fits, trust me! She knows her horse stuff and I knew I didn’t so I was thankful for all the extra help. I sometimes live in la la land and think I can do things on my own, jumping head first into something(with great intentions!) without knowing a fraction of what I should to be “successful”.
There were many days, 2-3 times a week, she’d come out to the farm to groom and do chores. She even started trimming Low Ryder’s hooves herself. She WANTED to do the chores and I couldn’t believe it. This was something that made me cringe, that took time away from all the other directions my days were pulling me and here she was making time for such things as scooping horse shit out of a run-in. Her body craved the physicality as her cancer continued to spread making her unable to exercise in some of the ways she had loved to before her body had started to betray her so being in her element and feeling her muscles strengthen just made it that much more special to her. If you know and love horses you know much you miss the smells when you’re away from them and how peaceful the barn/pastures can be.
Raising Goats Began! Kate and her baby boy Bradley 10/25/20
I had been teaching Goat Yoga at our local zoo, (yes it’s a thing), for over two years and finally decided to get some of my own. We had recently experienced the slow down of the pandemic and two shut-down’s of the studio and this along with Kate’s love of the mundane day to day farm duties, helped me really start to prioritize and value my time at home with the animals. I wanted to have my own goats to socialize and take with me to my classes at the zoo and Kate was ecstatic to hear this news. Her reply when I said I’m thinking of getting baby goats was “Oh Gracie, I’ll never leave!” I felt confident embarking on this new adventure with her by my side knowing all the ins and outs of raising goats when I didn’t. Yes I was jumping into something new again but did not fear the unknown with her reassurance. Gracie’s Goat Yoga became lots more fun as the babies grew and were being loved and pampered by Kate, myself and my kids. Bottle feeding was so much fun and brought us all lots of joy! I’ve since added a couple more babies and plan to breed eventually so the joy of babies will be around a bit longer and I can share the love of these adorable little souls with others. I often have questions and start to doubt myself when I can’t call her but I feel her with me, keeping me moving forward. As she said in some of our last conversations I’m “living the dream” and I know the farm/livestock life comes with lots of ups and downs, challenges and uncertainties.
I want to be able to convey with words the impact Kate has had on me, but I’m just not sure it’s possible.
As she was writing her book “Finding My Grace” I often felt I was getting some behind the scenes conversations in regards to what she had been writing. Grooming the animals will do that, it becomes a form of therapy where thoughts just come to the surface where you’re able to process them easier. We did that for each other though as well. She often felt like my own personal therapist. Sometimes I even felt a little dread, as terrible as it sounds, when I’d see her pull up because I knew once she asked me how I was doing, it would all come out and I’d be “forced” to work through whatever was going on. It was such a blessing to talk with her, to feel truly heard and seen and understood. She always knew the right things to say and would somehow reframe or draw something to my attention that maybe I just didn’t notice before. Maybe it was all the internal/spiritual/emotional healing work she’d been doing since her initial diagnosis in 2013, but I’d never met someone who was so much like a therapist without the degree.
“Warrior Kate” The original drawing of her metastatic tattoo tribute by Curt Sage
As I write with the lump in my throat that has come and gone for the past few weeks, it’s been just twelve days since she left this earthly realm. I’ve gone through the roller coaster of emotions, strongest it seems when she first shared the news of how much her cancer had spread and her choice to end treatment and start the transitioning process. I was angry then that she was being robbed of life. That her sweet husband would be without the love of his life, her father, step mother, her sisters, countless family and friends would be void of her uplifting presence in their lives. But I knew she had often struggled with this same thought and I didn’t want her to feel that. I wanted her to only feel peace in this decision and I was in awe of her surrendering. I wanted her awful sickness to be over. I am forever grateful to have had the opportunity to pour my heart out to her and explain as best I could how much her friendship meant to me and how she’s changed me.
I’m writing this now because I don’t want to lose these feelings and lessons. I tattooed her feather over my heart because I want to look in the mirror each day and know who it is I want to be. I want to live like Kate, full of Grace and Strength. Without fear of the future, always taking power of the inner bully who tries to say we aren’t good enough. I want to continue inspiring others to do the same. To love themselves so fully and to know this love is intrinsic. That this love comes from a source that is overflowing and everlasting. Kate describes her encounter with this love in her book and when she shared her testimony with me through her tears, I felt it too. I want everyone to feel this love. To know that we are not disconnected from it or the ones we’ve loved just because they’re not physically with us anymore.
I pray you remember to smile through your days, even if things aren’t going the way you’d like them to. If your circumstances change, find new small joys. Things could always be worse. You are here for a purpose and it is not to suffer. It is to rise above your suffering and make every moment matter. Take time to rest and reconnect with the you that you want to be. Not for anyone else. You are loved, you are love.
Love & Gratitude,