Saturday, July 3, 2010

Grief, Part Two

Oh, I can't even write this. I can hardly say it - the words are so wrong. Katy Maguire died. Her heart broke and now the hearts of those who loved her are cracked open. I'm moving through a fog of magical thinking that still insists I will see her again, hear her big laugh and feel her light and warmth, like a beautiful sun here on earth.

A magic more benevolent than my stricken denials followed our friend Katy everywhere. A few summers back, my brother Ron and I ran into her and her beloved daughter Erin on Sheridan Road. We were all riding bikes, Katy and Erin having survived the rock and water balloon missiles from west side kids as they crossed the neighborhoods on their way to the lakefront from Oak Park. Katy laughed as she us told the story of their journey, laughed big as she always did and you had to laugh with her. Meeting her and Erin on the street may have been just another coincidence in a city full of chance meetings, but like everything Katy touched, it had the air of a magical gift.

At one of her memorials, someone described Katy as a modern day pirate who discovered treasure everywhere and shared it with everyone. Perfect, but you also have to picture her as her brother Mike described her, "always coming in the door dressed like a Himalayan Sherpa with a Chihuahua falling out of her purse." I met Katy through work - you can see an example of her film editing here. A short film she made about her son Patrick won awards when Katy was getting her degree at Columbia College; filmmaker D.P. Carlson featured her in his documentary Chicago Filmmakers on the Chicago River.

The memories fly thick as a flock of birds - dancing on the table at one of Katy's raucous parties after the bride-to-be modeled her new lingerie; serene moments in Katy's garden, an Eden of fern grove, goldfish pool, shady arbor for chess games, great swaths of iris, phlox, rose. Katy imitating her daughter Erin's review of the movie Dragonheart: "Dwagons ah ah fwiends!"

And there was a glorious July day with Katy and Erin and my eight-month old Mia on the beach at Lakeside, Michigan. After sunning and swimming in the sparkle water, Katy grilled veggie dogs while Mia and I rinsed off the sand in their clawfoot tub. Was that the day Erin told me her mom was her best friend? I held my sad little baby girl, who couldn't get comfortable and who would cry the entire hellish Skyway ride home in July third fireworks traffic, and I thought I want that kind of relationship with my daughter.

I had made Katy a pie that day, probably blueberry or raspberry peach, brought it up to the little lakehouse under the trees, but my karmic debt to her remains insurmountably high. She gave and gave and gave. Brought our new little family dinner when Mia was four days old. "I love the way babies cry 'la-la-la,'" she told us, holding Mia in her arms. Two years before that, the summer Randy and I got married, when I was too busy constructing hundreds of flipbook invitations to think about my garden, Katie had showed up at my door with armfuls of orphaned marigolds. With the touch of a loving mother, she planted the seedlings, fed and watered them and promised they would grow. They did, exploded actually, into a gorgeous backdrop for our wedding portraits. And she always modeled for me a kind of mothering I wanted to imitate - one that combined fierce protection with tender and gentle love.

Katy raised Erin and Erin's big brother Patrick with the quiet heroics required of a single mom. Patrick was born with health complications when Katy was twenty-one; Erin is the age now that her mother had her. Patrick now studies environmental sciences and social policy; Erin is studying film, like her mother.

Katy's large and loving family held a memorial for her in Gilson Park on one of the beautiful Saturdays this summer has given us. I rode my bike down to the park, wept at the photos, hugged Patrick and Erin wet from the waves of Lake Michigan, sang the songs, wept more at the heartfelt tributes. At the invitation of Katy's sister, we all raised our hands and called out a thank you to Katy for everything she gave us. It was a beautiful day. When the grief in my chest swelled too heavy to bear, I could look overhead to leaves blowing wild in the wind, look away to the iris blue sky you could see over the harbor and think how much Katy would have reveled in this beauty.

Here is a tribute from one of Katy's yoga friends:

No comments: