This is the hardest blessing I’ve wanted to write. It is a bit longer than usual, but it needs to be.
The death of someone so special your heart aches every time you think of her absence makes crafting words hard. I’m drawn over and over to one of my favorite children’s books, ‘Charlotte’s Web’. Tex was nothing like a spider, but Charlotte’s character was one like my neighbor’s. Cathy Burleson (Tex) gave so much to me. She enjoyed life, encouraged, shared stories, wrote stories, shared plants, wisdom, laughter, crocheting, and I was never bored spending time with her. She may have been in her 90’s, but her soul was whatever age she needed to be.
I recall one day, I mentioned I’d like to be 24 again and she responded with, ‘I’d like to be 74 again!’ Another day, she came over to ask me to take her photo in a fancy Western outfit (to this day, I wish I had used both her camera and mine!). Then, there was the morning she showed up at my door to ask me if I could hook up her bra for her. She’d gotten all tangled up in a heart monitor and needed help. She would put zucchini from her daughter’s garden in plastic grocery bags and hang them over the fence for us. She’d make cookies and chocolate candy for my guys while I was gone and when I was home. She kept encouraging me to learn to crochet. For my birthday one year, she gave me a skein of yarn and a booklet and said when I could do those stitches, come and see her. I never did. I still have the booklet and most of the yarn. My first attempts are not pretty, she would have laughed and helped me. But, I didn’t want to show her! We shared plants and chatted thru the fence. We always mentioned Steve needed to put a gate in it, so we didn’t have to walk all the way around the block to visit each other. Cathy liked to dress up for holidays, she wore a witch’s hat to an eye dr appointment one Halloween! She often dressed up her yard for holidays, too. We’d pass book ideas to each other and talk about authors and content. She liked to call me one of her daughters, which was pretty grand. Her kids were always doing amazing, wonderful things and I was blessed to be even an honorary member of her family! I had been given the nickname Krisco Kid in HS, she ran with it and almost always referred to me as Krisco to her Tex. Cathy was always thinking about our world and enjoyed traveling to see different places. She’s now in new place. Probably pottering around in a garden with a book on a nearby bench and wearing a floppy sort of hat. I am glad for her, but sad for me and those of us who loved her so much.
In a handwritten letter she added to the Christmas letter she sent last December, she touched on many different things. Fear for our nation, the weather in both Athena and Alaska, the care she was getting from people around her, the frustrations she was having by not seeming to gain strength, Jodie ‘who has been an absolute angel taking care of me’, and the joy she got from the lights Steve put up and the small tree we had gotten her. She began her letter with the words, “Hi Krisco! I am sitting in my rocker by my bedroom window looking out at the snow-and thinking of you. As the weeks add up to months this increases the strain on disrupted lives-I see it with Jodie and yours is much more intense. I understand.” Her last line warms my heart further, “Now, Kris, whatever is happening for you there, please feel the hug I am sending you. With much love, Cathy”
In closing, I return to EB White. “She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.” Cathy was both.