When I moved away from Texas, I left behind a dear friend with whom I shared a birthday. A charming widow who opened her home–and her teapot–to lone souls like myself, Katy was a woman who always inspired me.
To memorize poetry. To collect art. To tell stories. To invite people over for tea. To send handwritten notes in the mail. To pray. To use china.
When we said our goodbyes in 2008, Katy was excited for my new journey, though she confessed to being concerned about who would take over my trusted position in the alto section of our small choir–the one who faithfully pointed my pencil to keep her at the right spot in the music. I was sure someone would dutifully take my place, as Katy had quite a following in our community. She was beloved.
For the first few years after I moved, I received regular letters in the mail from Waco, Texas. Her beautiful scrawling script on the envelope made my heart sing, and I cherished her words, her encouragement, her wisdom. I wrote about her.
As her health failed, she, too, moved away from her beautiful home in Texas in order to be closer to family. From a distance, my heart began to break as I worried and wondered about her, her loneliness, her health. But the truth is, my life got busy. I wrote less and less frequently.
Over the last year, I’ve meant to write to her multiple times, to fill her in on the details of what I’ve been up to, to share exciting updates that have turned my existence upside down. I knew that even if I wrote, Katy wouldn’t remember who I was, and even if she could read the letters, they would probably serve to confuse her. I hadn’t received a letter recently, and I had seen signs of confusion in the last few that made it through. But I wanted to write anyway.
Still, I thought of her often, said little prayers for her, and watched my e-mail for the weekly newsletter from my old church, hoping it didn’t deliver sad news about my dear Katy.
Katy passed away this weekend.
Because Katy had invited so many of us into her home and into her life over the years, there have already been many Facebook posts and other blog entries mourning her passing and celebrating the life of this woman who would never have found herself on a computer.
And so I add my voice to those who are missing Katy this week.
This morning I began a catalog of things I remember and cherish about her. In my journal, I titled this list, “The Blue Goose,” and in honor of all the people who touch our lives through our communities near and far, I offer it to you. We all, after all, have friends like Katy.
Katy loved people.
In her own flowing longhand, she raved about my penmanship and promised to keep a collection of my letters to return to me someday.
She could–and did–recite poetry she memorized in grade school, and found great joy in entertaining us with stories from her escapades, including her early years of dating.
She thought me industrious in my old-fashioned love of canning, gardening, and baking bread.
She loved hyphenated last names and wondered about how different it would have been to grow up and marry in a more recent era.
She would not give me her recipe for Mrs. Peak’s refrigerator cookies until I moved out of state.
She persistently confused my husband with our friend Chris, who was on staff at the church. We blamed it on the beard, despite the six-inch height differential.
Katy never minded when we teased her.
She kept her teapot hot by placing it over a candle, and she served her piping hot black tea on pink depression-era dishware, set next to embroidered linen napkins.
She prayed for people. Once she walked me around her house and told me who she prayed for at each spot. She showed me the stained glass window where she stood when she prayed for me.
She wouldn’t let me take her photo without refreshing her lipstick.
We had the same birthday.
She loved to tell stories about her grandchildren, sometimes even pulling out letters they’d send her and read them aloud.
She loved art, and nearly every inch of her walls was adorned with paintings. Each painting held a story.
She did not know how to change the batteries in her cordless phone.
And last, but not least, she trusted people.
That was my dear Katy, our beloved blue goose.
And now, my friends, pardon me while I go whip up a batch of Mrs. Peak’s cookies.