Fewer second chances

November 23, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

A friend of mine died by MAiD (Medical Assistance in Dying) this past Monday. She checked into a hospital on her own two feet, and five weeks later, the “we-don’t-know-what-it-is” brought her to the end of her life. Well, it was a very rare and undetected cancer, so they said, in the long run, that it began with a lump in her breast, which was diagnosed as not cancer until a little later. The admission was that it was cancer, which had already spread to other organs.

She should have been on tour in Tanzania at the moment, as planned. She should have been able to follow through with a return to Mexico for a few weeks in the good weather during the not-great weather here in February.

She had gone to college; got a run of good jobs, the last one lasting over 30 years, I think. During those years, she brown-bagged her lunch every day, economizing in many smart, small ways that led to her being able to travel by tours three or four times a year.

Kathie. She was Kathie. A childless woman, reserved in her living arrangements. A person with many friends, many of them I suppose, she met while travelling. It mattered to her to keep in touch with her fellows who had seen the sights of India, which she adored and to where she travelled many times. She and her 10-year visa to India.

She once told me that they were the only people who saw the streets and the people and lives of India, the only ones who shared her own much-cherished memories.

Her early tours took her to Italy, where she honed her taste for the beauty and antiquities of that foreign land, where every corner had something interesting to see. The flow of art and history in Italy encouraged her to go there frequently to walk the cobbled streets from Venice all the way south, in no particular order over the years. Probably wonderful Italy laid the foundation of her desire to tour, but it was only the beginning.

Kathie was a vegetarian. She was fastidious about caring for herself. Her travels were always on a tour, for safety and for all the information that came with them.

Every art gallery, historical building, museum, marketplace caught her attention and, no doubt, her tour guides were glad they had done their research well when Kathie was on board.

One year, though, she bought a “conversion van,” a regular van built to be a travelling home without the bulk and weight of an RV. It was her plan to travel south through the Canadian winter and visit friends and relatives across the southern U.S. and into California.

She did it too, all on her own, at one point crossing the arid distance through Texas, where for a great many miles, nary a house nor place for fuel was there to give help should help have been required. Homes of history, museums, art galleries, points of interest, she had researched them all, and they were on her list as she went.

She made the trip all the way, too, and she was rightly proud of herself for the win. The next winter, she was satisfied with just a few weeks in a camp in Florida. Soon enough, another adventurous soul purchased the vehicle from her, and Kathie picked up her next tour abroad.

Of our (at least) 25-year friendship, we had much in common, especially our love of being elsewhere, seeing, breathing in other interesting places. For a number of years, she shared Christmas with Patricia, Colin, and me. I originally met her through her job as a town planner when we discussed policies and programs for me to write about in local papers.

One day, wanting to put a face to the many telephone calls, we met for lunch and have been pals since then.

Yet, to really put a point to this moment of writing about Kathie is the wish to honour her with the big picture lessons she taught, without a single word. Her energy and her desire to be busy; her determined economic cleverness were wonderful to behold. It was all about real attention to minor expenses, like bringing her brown bag to lunch for all those years; like living inconveniently in an old farmhouse where she barely heated the upper floor and slept in her kitchen during the winter for a “peppercorn” rent; when one day, she realized she could afford to buy her perfect condo in Fergus.

Then, she spent her life, working at the thrift store, in the book department, in Fergus and otherwise, there was another tour ready to escort her.

Kathie eschewed the petty luxuries to feed the grander joys of adventure.

She was loving, fun and very, very bright.

And there was a lot of love in our friendship with her.

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