Katherine Slaikeu Nolan

Katie and Chris at Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica

Katie and Chris at Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica

Today we inter Katherine’s (“Katie’s”) ashes – three years to the day after she left her cancer behind at the age of 33.

It takes awhile sometimes. The stages of grief don’t come in standard sequence like the innings of a baseball game.

In “The Final Time” in Max Coots’ collection of poetic prose, Seasons of the Self (Abington Press, 1971), he wrote:

It takes a little while to know how much of life is death and not to dread it so.
To sense the equilibrium of the earth,
To be at home in time, and take the limits of both life and love.

A person’s death is a private thing, like grief, like prayer, like birth.
I know nothing of that final time, except what I know of life,
But I know I live and in my life I have so many opportunities to die,
For death is many things and times,
Before the days are gone,
But I have, yet, a while, and things to be, and much to do.

Max Coots is a poet and Minister Emeritus of the Canton Unitarian-Universalist Church in Canton, NY. His words still echo today as the family gathers to lay Katie’s ashes to rest. Special prayers today for Katherine’s husband Chris, her mother Kay, her father Steve, and her siblings Kristin and Andrew.

It’s the little deaths before the final time I fear.
The blasé shrug that quietly replaces excited curiosity,
The cynic-sneer that takes the place of innocence,
The soft sweet odor of success that overcomes the sense of sympathy,
The self-betrayals that rob us of our will to trust,
The ridicule of vision, the barren blindness to what was once our sense of beauty –
These are deaths that come on so quietly we do not know when it was we died.

Precious Lord, deliver us from these, and grant us peace within the limits of life and love.

Ora Labora

Katie delighting in Sebastian

Katie delighting in Sebastian

Today is the second anniversary of Katie’s death after a valiant battle with leiomysosarcoma, a rare terminal cancer.In today’s earlier reposting of Kay’s reflection on her blog, www.rawgrief.com, I quoted the last line of a great hymn.

The composer, T. Tertius Noble, spent his summers in the big house at the top of the wall of Old Garden Beach in Rockport, MA, one block from my grandparents’ home.  Only later in life did I learn that this favorite hymn was composed by the man in the house above the wall at the beach.

Here are the lyrics and an organ rendition of the hymn that flooded my mind this morning, as I gave thanks for Katie and thought of Kay’s reflection.

Come, labor on.  Away with gloomy doubts and faithless fears!

No arm so weak but may do service here; By feeblest agents

may our God fulfill His righteous will.

Come, labor on. No time for rest, till grows the western sky,

Till the long shadows o’er our pathway lie,

And a glad sound comes with the setting sun,

“Well done, well done!”

4:30 am Reflection (during my first few months of grieving)

4:30 am Reflection (during my first few months of grieving).

Kay and her brood -Katie, Andrew, and Kristin

Kay and her brood -Katie, Andrew, and Kristin

Two years ago today we said goodbye to 33-year-old Katherine (“Katie”), RIP. Today her mother Kay posted this amazing reflection. Click the link above the photograph for Kay’s recollection and reflection.

Below is a photograph of Katherine (she preferred her formal name in her adult years) and Christopher (“Chris”), her husband and best friend, during a family trip to Costa Rica in 2009. Chris, you were the best of the best. Payers for Chris Katie’s father, Steve, sister Kristin, brother Andrew, and Kay.  “And a glad sound comes with the setting sun: ‘Well done! Well done!'” – final stanza, hymn “Come, Labor On.”

Katie and Chris on Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica

Katie and Chris on Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica