Farewell to Kate Cudlipp
September 24, 2011
Kate was a remarkable woman in so many ways. She loved the Scots-Irish music of the Appalachian Mountains that we just heard. It rang in her soul from her early years, and she loved the simplicity, purity, and strength of the Sacred Harp Singers. Can’t you just hear clogging, clapping, and feet stomping going on in heaven in Kate’s honor!
Kate didn’t “care to stay here long” after she knew that the quality of her life was compromised as a result of her bike accident that fateful Saturday. She chose to fly from the “grief and woe” and go home to her God. She chose to release her loved ones, especially Carole, from a life of caring for her after living in such a robust way.
How could she make such a choice, many of us ask, and how could Carole join her in making it?
I was privileged and honored to be Kate’s spiritual director for the past seven years. During our meetings that happened every three weeks at WATER, she shared much that I hold in confidence. I treasure our relationship and the friendship on which it was based. I consider it a privilege to have known Kate well.
What I can say is that Kate was ready to make this ultimate choice in her life. She led a reflective life and paid attention to her spiritual, inner self. She took time to look at her relationships with loved ones, family, and friends. She reviewed past experiences, events, and dreams. She did so with integrity and it showed in her ministry and in her social life.
Where she knew brokenness, she sought and offered healing.
Where she experienced pain, she sought and offered joy.
Where she carried hurt, she sought and offered forgiveness.
Where she felt hate, she sought and offered love.
Where she saw injustice, she sought and offered change.
Kate had the skills, talent, generosity, and wisdom to make a difference in this world. She did just that. In addition to the many ways that she was active in ministry, on boards and in various projects, she changed our lives in her living and in her dying.
She left us an important and rare legacy.
Yes, Kate was ready to make the most significant choice of her life. When she knew she could not breathe, move, or speak again, she said no more.
At first, when Carole, Bill, Lisa and I met with the doctors, we were hopeful that the strong, physically fit Kate could beat the odds and be herself again, or at least some semblance of herself. However, we moved quickly from medical mode to miracle time. We, and many here, stormed the heavens saying every prayer to every divinity we ever knew. As the days and nights turned, we knew we had moved to farewell time.
The night before she died, I went to the hospital to see Kate. I thanked her for our friendship and for the privilege of sharing with her. I told her I would miss her and would remember her. I assured her that I knew Carole loved her deeply and would honor her wishes.
My partner Mary and I concluded that their love invites all of us to rewrite the well-known passage of John 15:13 as follows: “Greater love has no one than this, to allow her friend to lay down her own life.” I only hope I would be so generous, both to end my own life, and to allow Mary to end hers.
Kate was a religious woman who had a deep, questioning faith. She searched for meaning in life. She stretched her mind and opened her heart and soul to let her comforts be challenged.
She did her own inner work and when her time came, she was ready for her final summa cum laude moment: to move on from this world. She was ready to die to what she knew in order to create a space for new life. She believed that her body would die yet her spirit would live.
Kate is remembered fondly by so many people and groups whose lives she touched. She was an active participant and presenter in feminist programs at WATER since our founding in 1983. Her religious commitments motivated her work. We will miss her.
A monarch butterfly flew by as I was writing these words and I felt Kate’s presence with me. She is with us in a new way now. How have you noticed Kate’s spirit in your life these days? A photo of the two of you? A song that reminds you of her? A poem that captures your feeling about her? A letter that she sent you? Clean air? The smell of lavender oil? A cyclist? Pay special attention to Kate’s new spirit in your life.
I believe this is Kate’s legacy to us:
– Love well.
– Lead a reflective life.
– Seek and offer healing.
– Act with justice.
– Walk your pilgrimage.
– Notice God in your midst.
– Don’t be afraid to make the ultimate choice.
May we carry on this legacy in our own lives!