On January 11, 2019, my friend Kate Shrum died of cancer.
When she publicly shared her diagnosis at the beginning of August 2018, I reached out to her with an encouraging message and no doubt in my mind that she would kick cancer’s ass. Less than 6 months later, she was gone.
Kate and I had not talked to or seen one another in years. We’d exchanged messages and emails here and there, but she wasn’t as constant a presence as she was during the chapter of our lives when were were getting our Masters in Education at the University of Oregon and teaching across the street from one another in Parkrose School District in Portland from 2009-2011. I always looked up to Kate. I admired her vivacious energy, her brilliance, her quirky, spirited humor, and her warmth. Naively, I didn’t realize how treasured a space Kate occupied in my heart and the depth of influence she had on me as a person until she passed.
Often, my mind wanders to people in my life who have made a lasting impression on me in the past. I momentarily daydream of poignant moments we shared, whether they were a teacher or a colleague or an ex or a doctor or a family member or friend. In that instant I consider reaching out and sharing the gratitude I feel for them. And then I do nothing.
My only regrets in life are words and time not shared with my loved ones before they died.
Before they died, I would have thanked Brenda for being a second mother to me. I would have thanked Grandpa Bill for the gift of guitar and grit, and Grandpa Ed for laughter that radiated and his encouragement that I be a writer.
Reaching out to share gratitude with those who have loved, inspired, and impacted me is precisely the kind of thing that Kate would have and did do. She lived with passion and meaning, love and light.
In Kate’s honor, I’d like to begin a ritual. I’m calling the project With Gratitude Always. Perhaps you’d like to do this with me.
- Keep a running list of the people from all chapters in your life for whom you have gratitude — large or small.
- When a moment of gratitude pulls at your heart, sit down and write one or a few thank you cards to people on your list. Emails and texts feel good, but nothing replaces the feeling of opening a letter. Kate appreciated this.
- Dedicate the message to a loved one lost or to Kate.
- Include Kate’s story by writing in this link: https://bit.ly/withgratitudealways
- Repeat over and over.
- Send with gratitude always.
I wish I would have told when you when you were alive how thankful I am that our paths crossed. If I had sent a card to tell you, this is what it would have said:
Thank you for helping me find my feminist voice and teaching me how to speak truth to power with compassionate yet unapologetic authority. Thank you for the wisdom of remembering to seek beauty in the natural world and with loved ones in order to nourish, sustain, and sometimes rescue myself. Thank you for being hilarious and filling spaces with your infectious laughter that always made the darkness easier to bear.
With gratitude always,