I’ve been putting off writing this piece. There’s been so much to do, so many people to talk to about this, so much comfort reading I’ve needed to do right now.
Until it occurred to me that at least 50% of my go-to comfort reading books are books Catherine introduced me to. T. Kingfisher’s Paladin series, Courtney Milan’s Brothers Sinister series, basically the entire back catalogue of Lois McMaster Bujold. Catherine had an eye for a good book, and there was considerable overlap between our tastes, and she never hesitated a second to recommend them to me (or anyone else, for that matter).
It strikes me now – alas, too late to share with her, because she would love this description – that she is a sort of Marie Kondo in reverse, always asking “what can you add to your life that will spark joy?”
The answers were often delicious food (Catherine loves to cook and is very good at it), wonderful music (Catherine also loves to sing, and is likewise very good at that), and brightly coloured fun of all sorts, whether it be crafts, or watching Eurovision, or whatever else gave you a warm feeling inside. It was rarely a physical object, and when it was, the object was almost inevitably art or food (often both, in Catherine’s talented hands): an object less about itself and more about the experience of itself. Catherine has the greatest heart I had ever known. If we are each a world unto ourselves, then Catherine is a gas giant surrounded by deep, deep clouds of love, kindness and compassion. And, as the Kens suggest, by an impish sense of humour and a keen wit. She is bright and sunny and optimistic by nature, and she makes not just friends but communities of friends everywhere she goes.
That last is important. Catherine loves to care for people, in almost every way. And this often expresses itself in passionate political activism, always aimed at making people better cared for. She is a staunch proponent of pretty much all the classic lefty causes, but in her words, they came alive. There is nothing performative about Catherine’s politics, just a simple, heartfelt urgency that things should be fairer for everyone. She is smart and articulate and so very determined to be fair-minded, and she is equally as motivated to stand up and be counted as she was to try to understand the other person’s point of view.
I have been writing for nearly an hour now, and I’ve still left out so much. Words cannot hope to encompass an entire life, and especially one as full of life as Catherine’s.
I have known Catherine for more than two decades, and her husband for longer than that. It was my great privilege to be the best man at their wedding. Separately, they were both important parts of my life. Together, they have become absolutely indispensable to me, good friends who never lack faith in me and are never shy in telling me what I need to hear. I am a better person today for having them both in my life – and certainly while a part of that is the simple process of maturing over the years, a lot of it is the simple virtues of patience, compassion, generosity and kindness that they have always been living examples of, and whose example I have tried to follow.
I do not know what the future holds, or where we are traveling to. But I know that I can think of no better light on the hill to move towards than the one that is Catherine.
Rest well my very dear friend. I do not believe in a Heaven as you do, but if there is such a place, it is surely one that was made for you, and I hope one day to see you again there.