I passed a sad milestone recently – my first attendance at the funeral of a friend. I’ve been to family funerals, though mostly my in-laws since my own family is so far away. And a friend or two has died, but no one who was close to me both emotionally and geographically.
The first I remember was Paul Luken, the kind and quiet bassoonist from high school band and all-county youth orchestra, who died in a car crash in Fort Lauderdale right after graduation. People always thought he was my brother because we had a slight resemblance (and there weren’t many other blonde families in PG County Maryland). [I also have a vague memory that one of the toddlers I hung out with at the bowling alley daycare may have died after putting his finger in a socket, but that was almost certainly either a story someone made up to scare me, a confusion of real life with Li’l Rascals, or a combination of the two.]
So this time it was Kate Waring, a talented composer, flautist, and dancer from Louisiana: http://keyworksmusic.com/about/
I first met Kate when she came to vote in the 2012 primary election for President I organized in Cambridge. Obama was running unopposed, but like many of us, she still wanted the pleasure of ticking the box. I met her again later at another Democrats function, and she introduced herself as if we hadn’t met, but I think nobody ever forgot meeting Kate.
Although she had lived in Europe longer than I had, she never lost her Southern drawl, and when combined with her words of obvious intelligence and sophistication, it made an impression. As did her radiant youthful face, which showed little trace of either her age or the cancer which had inhabited her for nearly two decades. I don’t remember how I found out about her illness, but I think Kate herself told me with her usual matter-of-factness. It was part of her life, but didn’t rule her life.
But in the end, it did take her life. I saw her a few times in hospital, and couldn’t believe she wouldn’t bounce back — she still had so much life in her. But then I came in one day and the bed was empty.
The funeral at the Arbory Trust in Barton was a perfect tribute. The official merely introduced the stories told by Kate’s friends about her extraordinary life. I had known about her PhD from the Sorbonne, but not for example about her career as a tap-dancer. She was an amazing woman. We laid her to rest in a glade surrounded by trees with russet leaves and crimson berries, a scene almost vibrant enough to do her justice. Vale, my friend.