Tributes to Kate

If you would like to contribute a tribute to Kate on this page, please email it to me.

From Cynthia Sabiston:

I was friends with Kate for close to 20 years. We initially knew each other through our mutual interest in botany, specifically herbal plants and their medicinal uses. Over the years our connection and friendship grew naturally as we discovered a variety of similar interests. At the time we were both single women, close in age, and therefore spent a lot of time with each other. I joined her women’s choir, received voice lessons from her; we partook in the Pathwork community gatherings and interest groups; we both loved movies and borrowed them from the public library and watched them together; we also shared an interest in photography (a couple of her framed photographs adorn the walls of my home and cottage) and healthy living. For years we spent New Year’s Eve together, a tradition we enjoyed by having dinner at her home, listening to music, and maybe watching a movie, but the new year was heralded in with choral music at high volume and Kate singing along. Kate loved to sing, always, anytime; she told me that she was happiest when she sang. Kate was also a sponge; her desire was great for knowledge, learning about anything — she was a walking encyclopedia.

Kate also had a big heart and a smile to match; she loved to laugh but it was never at the expense of someone else; she had a sensitivity about that. Her humour elicited the participation of others. One did not feel left out or excluded in her presence. She classically was the life of every party.

She was a woman who was highly principled and vocal about such matters that struck her as being false or an injustice. She always voiced her opinions and at the same time accepted that others had differing points of view. She was interested in the dialogue and not just winning the fight; she really wasn’t interested in discord. I experienced many times when she was true to herself, even if it meant losing a friend. She always honoured herself by doing what she felt was right.

She never gave up on a valued friendship by choosing rejection when things became difficult. Instead she would find a way to address the situation with her friend, explaining what her experience was like and how difficult it was for her. She sought resolutions. She definitely had a beautifully developed sense of right and wrong from a conscientious point of view.

Kate also could be inwardly in denial about certain aspects of her life, not wanting to face the truth of the situation that she had gotten herself into. I witnessed her for four years struggling with getting her financial issues addressed and dealt with. She came to me for help because of my own financial experiences and how to get out of debt. I learned from that episode that Kate would avoid any situation where there was the potential for her to feel shame; this was her tender spot.

She was a big support to me, there at times when I was really sick with the flu or when I felt down about my life. When both my mother and sister died, she was steadfast in her care and support, and our family still to this day cherish that Kate sung a solo of our mother’s favourite hymn at her funeral. She took the morning off work to be there.

In the last four years of our friendship, I met my husband and we moved part time to South Africa, spending Canadian winters in the Southern Hemisphere. Kate had a keen interest in getting to know my future husband; she loved speaking to people she didn’t know, learning about them. She also rejoiced in my new-found happiness and wanted to participate in our wedding by being our photographer; that was an opportunity for her and my fiancé to become better acquainted. They found a mutual love of ideas and words and would spend many hours exchanging their ideas, thoughts and views on a variety of subjects.

Kate was deeply spiritual, with a profound faith in God, and it is with that foundation that she passed into that world. I miss her, and it was close to a year before I could accept that she was gone, but I did know that she would be alright and keen to be on her next adventure.

From Madeline Dietrich:

I met Kate in the summer of 1998. Mutual friends who were involved in the women’s spirituality community introduced us. Kate did some graphic design work for my small business, and about a year later I moved into her neighborhood. We formed an easy friendship based on shared dinners, walks, and conversations about myriad common interests. We also provided mutual support as mothers of young teenage daughters.

In about a year’s time our connection shifted to a dating relationship that lasted a couple of years. After this time it morphed back into friendship with that special bond that one can have with someone you love, even though you can’t “live with them”!

During the many years I knew Kate, we shared many experiences, and I got to know her very well. Kate was such a lively personality. She had so many talents. So good with words, she loved editing to find the just right phrase or expression. She was a very talented and devoted singer. She was in the St. Barnabas Anglican Church choir in Ottawa for 16 years. She led a community women’s choir that I was part of for some time. She helped so many women find their voices in one way or another, in song or writing.

I always thought Kate was a natural counselor. We joked that she should hang out a shingle on her front porch because people so naturally gravitated to her for love and support. She was a good listener and had a great sense of humour – she could make you laugh even when you were crying! And she had a very compassionate heart – I often thought she was the heart of kindness to so many people. All the older parishioners of St. Barnabas’s loved her, and she looked out for them. She knew their stories and their worries and took the time to talk with them after church or follow up with a visit or a call. Patience of Job I’d say!

Kate made an art of enjoying life. She was famous for being late, usually because she was caught up in something so engaging or interesting to her she lost track of time and of those waiting for her. She loved to cook, garden, read, photograph nature in all its forms, camp and go to the famous Blue Skies music festival. She liked to attend parties and talk with people but equally she needed her quiet time. Even though she could be quite extraverted she was, I think, rather shy and introverted. Frequently she would burn herself out with activity. She didn’t want to miss a thing.

In light of her dying an early death I imagine she would not have had many regrets about life left unlived, as she usually burned the candle at both ends, packing more into one day than many of us do in three! But she was a devoted mom – she loved her daughter Harriet, was proud of her – and I know she would have wanted to be here to share all Harriet’s triumphs and challenges as the years passed.

One of the things we shared was that we had both lost children. When my daughter Alice died in 1998 and then a bit later I got to know Kate, she was one of the few people who could really understand what the process of loss is like for a mother because she had lost a daughter at birth. Each year she grieved this death and carried this child in her heart all through her life, as one does. We supported each other at anniversary times each year, which could be hard.

When I moved out to Lanark County in 2005, about 100 km from Ottawa, I used to stay with her at her apartment in Ottawa central when I came to the city to work. Then she moved out east of the city to Casselman and it was harder to stay in touch. I was really excited to move back to Ottawa in 2014. We saw each other a few times that summer, discussed her mom’s declining health, gardened together, and shared a meal. I was looking forward to seeing more of Kate and perhaps returning the favour of a guest bed in the city when she needed it.

It was so shocking to hear of her death. Unreal actually. My greatest sadness was that she was alone when it happened and perhaps very frightened and panicky. For a person who was so good to so many, it really felt so unfair and didn’t make sense that she would die in this way. It’s been such a loss to so many people, but especially her daughter Harriet.

Kate had managed her health issues over the years. Perhaps we could say she lived past what might have been expected with so many severe allergies and asthma. Not on a few occasions we went from a restaurant to the hospital after she had inadvertently been given something with shellfish or peanuts in her dish after grilling the wait staff about what might be in various dishes and of her problems. More and more we just ate at one of our homes, as we were both better chefs than what we would find at most restaurants anyway.

I don’t mean to paint a picture of a person with no problems and only good hearted and joyful, though she was that. Kate had struggles with finances, with her health, with finding meaningful well-paid work, with self-discipline to do the things she didn’t like to do, with balancing her own needs and those of others. She could be exceedingly annoying when she would correct me about this or that in this “all-knowing” voice of authority, and especially that often she was right! Or when she was late for planned events, or when she needed to control things and people around her.

But don’t we all have annoying traits – that in the final analysis mean so little. And count for so less, when we know under it all, we are loved by the person. I know Kate always loved me even if she didn’t always like me, and it was the same for me. I hope she knew that, and that it was some comfort to her. Frequently on parting we would hug and say, “I love you.” I miss hearing that. I miss her.

© 2017 BRENDA MISSEN | ALL RIGHTS RESERVED