A Word from Kathleen
Updated: Aug 21, 2020
Well, what can I say.
I mean, honestly, right now, life may seem a little unfair. I mean it does seem unfair. However, at my core, I believe that things happen in life for a reason. And I may not know that reason yet, and I may not know for awhile - but I trust in that feeling.
My mom was special. And I know that everyone says that about their mom, but I really mean it. She was special. Like, the kind of person you are just drawn to, who is so effortlessly kind and cool and loving and confident that you just can't believe that kind of person exists.
I was so unbelievably blessed to be brought up by two absolutely wonderful parents who have instilled so many important values in me. I don't think I'll ever be able to put my love for them into words, and it seems impossible to do so. But, here we are.
Dad, I love you so much and I admire your tenacity through this tumultuous rollercoaster of a year. Thank you for always holding the family together and taking each day with inextinguishable enthusiasm and optimism for life. I really don't know how you do it, but know that your strength has been motivation for each of us during this time.
You gave me love in so many different ways. And not just the undying love of a mother to her child, but a love for life and so many things in it.
You gave me a love of music. While other kids my age were listening to 103.5 KISS FM in the car and jamming out to one-hit-wonder pop songs, my mom was blasting Aretha Franklin, Smokey Robinson, Carole King. On a nice summer day, she would "embarrass" us by singing the lyrics way too loud and dancing while driving simultaneously. In the wintertime, our "Jazzy Christmas Album" would be on repeat while we danced around the house decorating. Even though I was a snot when you'd force me to play piano when I was younger, this built my love of singing and music. I remember just a few weeks before your diagnosis you were helping me move my childhood piano into our house (next time, I'm hiring movers). Year after year, we would go to musical after musical (no matter the content... how many parents feel comfortable taking their kids to Book of Mormon or Avenue Q without a second thought). My mom and dad would go to so many concerts, festivals, and backyard shows that I'm sure they've lost count. One of my favorite concerts was when you, Grace, and I saw Mavis Staples + Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats at the Chicago Theatre - a blending of our favorite types of music. In Michigan, I would love sitting with the family listening to Justin and Drew play and sing and joining along in sing-a-longs.
You gave me a love of cooking. Especially a love of never ever going by the book and using recipes "only ever as a guideline". My fondest memories have always been centered around a home-cooked meal with family. From you baking multiple varieties of pies at once (French silk, pecan, and apple) and experimenting with different pie crust recipes until you found just the right one (thank you Christopher Kimball), to you hosting massive Christmas parties to >50 people with a full span of Mexican entrees and sides, to you wow-ing neighbors and friends with your creative dishes, to your always perfect chocolate chip cookies sitting under a glass dome on the counter. You inspired my love of international cooking, cooking meals ad nauseam until they're considered "perfected", and reading cookbooks in my free time to spark a meal idea. I'll always be a "dump cook" because of you and I will always cherish that.
You gave me a love of science. You're the one who inspired me to go into healthcare. Growing up, everyone on the block would call you "Dr. Gallagher" because they came to you with every medical question imaginable. You'd read the medical handbook for fun and I think you've watched every episode of "Untold Stories of the ER" ever created. Your fascination with medicine and your love of activity encouraged me to go into physical therapy. Your athletiscim was inspirational - in fact, just a few months before your cancer worsened, you were taking Bear on 8-10 mile walks daily. Our family get-togethers were filled with plank competitions, arm-wrestling, and brainstorming the "Gallagher Feats of Strength". You took care of both me and Colin when we had surgeries and needed wounds packed and cleaned and didn't complain. It's no wonder that all of us went into medicine, huh?
You gave me a love of art. Paintings hung on almost every wall of the house - some pieces done by you, some purchased from galleries on vacations or local art fairs. Your favorite motto you'd tell Colin, Grace, and I would be to "work with your mistakes" - something we'd be told when working on drawings in our art room but would completely apply to life as a whole. Because of you, I see sunsets for the multitude of textures and colors and lights they provide and the beauty in each spectacular moment God has given us.
I'll always laugh about the other things you gave me - my shopping addiction, my ability to be a card carrying grudge holder, my fierce independence (or, if you ask Justin - my inability to ask for help when carrying heavy items), my obsession with animals. All of these will be held dearly in my heart because they were given to me by you.
You're the one that has coached me through my ever-changing mental health ups and downs, has supported me through each endeavor I've encountered, and has been available for daily phone calls just to chat or gossip or vent. I could spend a lifetime listing each positive impact you've made on my life. And those are just on my life - I see your spirit living on through Dad, Colin, and Grace (and even Bear!) daily. How lucky we are that we were blessed by your life.
Thank you, for everything.
My mom's strength is something I've always admired but never quite been able to achieve - how she attacked this diagnosis with perseverance and unrelenting vigor is beyond me. Her faith has been strong every step of the way, never questioning. Justin told me while on one of his pediatric oncology rotations that he learned that in many cultures, it isn't so much about years of life but rather life in years. And yes, I know that seems cliche at times, but I think this describes my mom to a T. She lived every minute out of every day with the same amount of loving and unyielding zeal.
Like I said before, I could write forever about my mom. But, I know I can't. So I think this a good stopping point. I'll leave you all with a poem I wrote about my mom.
there are people in your life
that will change you
in ways that no one ever has & no one ever will.
& when they are gone, you may scream at the world,
sitting there, overwhelmed with ever-changing emotions:
calm, anger, love, peace, pain...
ups & downs, undisciplined & dynamic.
her goodness, her ingenuity,
her drive, her wit,
it lingers on, & you know that she will be with you
her heart, her soul
every triumph, every tribulation, every success, every defeat.
but still, you scream
& maybe that just isn't something for us to understand right now
& maybe there's a reason out there somewhere
but find peace in her finding of peace
find strength in her strength
& find faith in her faith
she knew that love & everlasting joy awaited her at the end of this journey
and so, too,
it will find you.
& until we meet again,
- k.g. dey