Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Empty Seat

We lost such a beautiful voice last week.

I’ve been taking this fabulous class “Five for Five” for the last three years and not only have I learned so much about the craft of writing, but I've also had the privilege of meeting some fabulous people.

One of those people was Kathleen, a lovely woman and an amazing writer, who died last week from cancer.

I’m still having trouble accepting this terrible news.

The class is going to start up again in a few weeks and it’s hard to believe that we won’t see Kathleen again, that she won’t be sitting on the couch in our teacher, Rosemary’s, living room, sharing her writing, her thoughts, and her heart.

Every week I looked forward to hearing her work, much of which was autobiographical. Kathleen was an Irish Catholic like yours truly so I appreciated her stories about our tribe.

She was also so insightful and supportive when commenting on our work. One night I was suffering from a hideous cold and I somehow managed to drag myself to class, follow Rosemary’s prompts, and produce something readable.

I was happy to get through the class without keeling over, but Kathleen made a point of approaching me when we were leaving and complimenting my work.

“You did great work tonight,” she said. “And you were sick!”

Those few words did more to make me feel better than a crateful of Vitamin C. And Kathleen and her husband were kind enough to come to my book signing last year, along with the rest of my classmates.

You Will Know That I Am Gone

As her illness worsened, Kathleen started missing classes. She was due to come to a recent class, but at the last minute we learned that she had taken a bad turn and had to go to the hospital. A short time later we found out she had died.

Several months I posted a link on Facebook to Peter, Paul, and Mary’s rendition of the Sixties folk song “500 Miles.”

“That’s from my generation!” Kathleen wrote in the comments section.

The song opens up with the line “if you miss the train I'm on, you will know that I am gone,” and those words have taken on a new meaning for me.


People like Kathleen are rare in this life and I feel so blessed for having known her.

There are so many things that I want to tell her and ask her, and it hurts to know that I'll never get the chance.

I saw Kathleen at our group reading in August. Her work was fabulous, as always, and I was just so happy to see her. I had no idea it would be the last time.

I wrote to her in June to tell her how much we all missed her and she told me how the disease “had me on a roller coaster.”

“I want to get back to my real life immediately and that just does not work,” she said. “If I rest now I will have a life to live.”

Kathleen thanked me for writing and added that “at least I’m over the ‘poor me’,” which is a testament to her courage and a lesson for us all.

She ended her message with “Lots of love, Kathleen.”

That’s what I’m feeling now, beneath this terrible sadness, I have lots of love for you, Kathleen, and I always will.

9 comments:

Rob K said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jay said...

Oh, Rob, I'm so sorry. You've not only lost a member of your tribe and of your writing class, but you've lost a valuable friend - one who knew how to support you both in your writing and in your spirit. Rest in peace, Kathleen. Hugs to you, Rob.

Bijoux said...

That is incredibly sad. I'm glad she touched your life in such a meaningful way and I'm sorry for the loss of a friend and fellow writer.

Rob K said...

Thanks, Bijoux.

She was a real sweetheart and even though she had been sick for a while, it was still a shock when we heard the news.

Rob K said...


@Jay:

Thank so much, Jay. You described Kathleen perfectly--someone who supported me in my writing and my spirit!

I'm so lucky to have you, Bijoux, and all the rest of my blogging buddies! I appreciate you all more than I could ever say!




Ron said...

Oh Rob, not even knowing Kathleen personally, while reading this post, I cried. Your words touched me deeply, as if I HAD known her. Kathleen sounded like such a special person; not only in her talent for writing, but also for her gift of deeply affecting the lives of others. Just from reading your praises, I wish I had met her.

This post also comes at a time when I feel especially tender about cancer because one of my longtime blogging friends has just been diagnosed with a recurrence of breast cancer and is now going through (once again) the hardships of chemo. She's on my mind constantly; hoping and praying that she gets through this. Like Katherine, she is a very positive person, which I find so inspiring.

"That’s what I’m feeling now, beneath this terrible sadness, I have lots of love for you, Kathleen, and I always will."

That is so beautiful. And I truly believe that it is the LOVE that supports us as we move through the grief.

You take care, buddy.

Rob K said...

Hey, Ron, what's up?

I'm so terribly sorry to hear about your blogging friend. What a nightmare! She's lucky to have someone like you in her corner and I'll certainly add her to my prayers.

It never ceases to amaze me how people like your friend and Kathleen can display such courage at such a desperate and frightening time. I caught myself bellyaching when I was in the hospital, but then I reminded myself that if I had fallen on my head instead of my knees, I wouldn't be here.

Life is so precious and brief. It behooves us all to clear up as much negativity as we can: lose the grudges, curb the anger, and thank God for every day.

Take care, buddy!

A Cuban In London said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, pal. It's hard to see the empty space that was until recently occupied by someone we cared about. :-(

Greetings from London.

Rob K said...

Thank you so much, Mario. And you are so right. I still feel like I'm going to see Kathleen again and yet the logical side of me says that this is impossible.

Take care.