Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The last word: strong

The last word.

I always have had to have the last word as a child. Which may or may not have carried over into adulthood. I could go on for hours, arguing with my brother, saying either "yes" or "no" repeatedly after anything he said. And when I would argue with mum, for the most part, she would let me have the last word.

And here I am now. With the last word.
I want that "last word" to be a bevy of synonyms for the word "strong."

Because my Mum was the epitome of strong. She was a warrior. A fighter. A trooper. Powerful. Brave. Sturdy. Tough. Determined. Tenacious. Indomitable. Gutsy. Fierce.

Kathy didn't quit.
In messages from family and friends recounting their memories and thoughts of her, I keep reading the word "strong." And even for friends of mine who never had the opportunity to meet her, and solely saw our interactions on Facebook, they all say the same thing. She was a tough, brave, strong fighter.
Kathryn Bieda Will never backed down. She battled this breast cancer, which metastasized into her bones, for 24 years. 24 YEARS! She surpassed any time limit given to her. She blew predicted life expectancies out of the water.

For the last 12 years straight, she received radiation and every chemotherapy drug on the market. And she would laugh for some, saying she testing them back in the 80s when they first were created.
When I look back on our life together, and review all of the struggles she endured not related to health, I think to myself, "How did she not give up?" "How did she keep going?"
She had this indomitable will to put one foot in front of the other and move forward. Move through the hard, through the bad, through the times when anyone else would give up. And she prevailed. Each time.
On Saturday, Nov. 3, Kathy didn't quit. Her body quit on her.

She called a family meeting the day before and laid out her plans. And no matter how much convincing  from our end, she had already accepted that the one thing that hadn't given up all these years, her body, had finally threw in the towel.

"It's okay," she said. "You'll be okay. It's time."
She wanted her closest family and friends around her when she went. And we were. Her sister and I slept over that night. My dads, my brother, her own brother, her best friend and her cousin made round-the-clock visits. She was never alone.

At 9:30 Saturday night, my Dad and I heard her peacefully inhale for the last time.

All of us again gathered around her and said our final goodbyes. Kathy didn't quit.
My life is forever changed. For having known her, grown up with her, for having her genes within me. And for losing her in just 26 short years of my life.
She and I had a bond that will never be broken. It went beyond mother and daughter. It went deeper than best friends. She knew me to a T and I knew her similarly. We could just look at one another and know. We would just know.
So when I look back on this past weekend, I know this is what she wanted. I know that she was okay with her decision and I know she wouldn't have made it if she didn't believe that we, her family, would be okay without her being our buffer, our glue.
And I feel weird. I have felt different since Saturday night. I feel stronger. If that's the adrenaline I've been operating on or the pneumonia I contracted while spending last week with her in the ICU and not eating or sleeping, I'm not sure. But I feel oddly calm.  Like she is within me, helping me navigate this week ahead when I feel completely lost.
Mornings are the hardest. I wake up and for a brief few milliseconds before my brain connects to my heart, I feel fine. And then immediately I am immobile, weighed down with all of these feelings and reality. And I cry.
And then I hear her say to herself, "You gotta get up." And I do the same. "You have to get up, Kristin," I repeat. So I do. And I make the bed. And I emulate her morning rituals.
I almost feel like she is still in the hospital, going to bounce back from this infection, like she always did. And I don't know if I have let myself accept she is gone, or am in disbelief and denial.  My life doesn't seem real right now.
"This too shall pass," she would say to me when I was struggling. These feelings, I know, will never pass. I will never be the same without her here. But I do know it will get easier. She is with me, with every decision and every step. She will be in the moon, in the ocean waves and the loudest thunderstorms. She was and will forever be, my north star. Illuminating my way, never burning out.
We're holding a Celebration of Life Thursday, Nov. 8 from 3 to 6 p.m. at Cierpial Memorial Funeral Home at 69 East St., Chicopee, for anyone who would like to attend. A short service will be held at 5:30 p.m. We will play the music - Ray Lynch - she made me promise we would play. And we will remember her, happy and well. She didn't want people to be sad and cry - she wanted them to just remember her happy.

So we will do that. And we will send her off in the most Will Family way we know how. Please come and bring photos to share and be prepared to write down your favorite memories and adventures of and with her in the provided books.

Kathy was never really one for flowers, at least not lately as Kali, our cat, loved to eat/knock them over.   Kathy did, however, find solace, peace and relaxation in yoga classes and water yoga classes she found through the Cancer House of Hope in Westfield. She would come home rejuvenated, refreshed. Energized to keep fighting. And she loved her instructor, Niti.
Initially, the classes were free to cancer survivors and their caregivers, but then a fee appeared and increased. Unfortunately, this stopped her from attending.

Our family is asking in lieu of flowers to please make memorial contributions  in Kathy's name to the Cancer House of Hope, 86 Court St., Westfield, Ma, 01085, in support of "The Healing Art of Yoga for Ongoing Cancer Recovery" and/or their water yoga program.

She would want other survivors and their caregivers to experience the peace and energy she found in that program. I have spoken directly with the program coordinator who assured me the memorial contributions will be earmarked specifically for these yoga programs.

I thank you from the bottom of my heart, as does our family. <3

I hurt. I can't believe this happened. And I think of how I thought we had more time. And I keep saying "What if?" to myself. If there is one thing, ONE THING, I am taking away from this, is not a sense of never giving up, because that has been instilled in me since birth, but to stop saying "tomorrow" and say "today." No more, "I'll do that tomorrow, Mum," but  I will do that now.

I've treasured this quote from Alice in Wonderland for a long time now - "'If you knew Time as well as I do,' said the Hatter, 'You wouldn't talk of wasting it.'"

So I will stop wasting time. Stop stressing out about people and things that don't directly affect  me. I will focus on me, and my time, and how I will effectively spend my time.  Because I would give anything, ANYTHING, even my right arm and eyes which would render my a useless photographer, if I could just have more time with her.

I love you, Mum. To the moon and back.


  1. What a beautiful way to remember your mum, Kristin. I'm so sorry for your loss and I hope you and your family find peace in all of this. Hang in there <3

  2. I was waiting for this to come out. What a well written piece. So sorry for your loss Kristin.

  3. Kristin All of the Dubuc family is thinking of you during this time of loss in yur life.

  4. Beautifully written. I will keep your family in my prayers.

  5. I was waiting for this and as I expected, it was beautifully written and it brought tears to my eyes. I've been crying since the day I found out because she should've been saved. I love you and your family is in my thoughts. You are just as strong as mum and you will get through this. Love you baybee xoxoxo

  6. You are obviously a strong woman and I've no doubt your mom passed that on to you. Thinking of you with all of my might. Give that kitty some love during those rough times.

  7. Kristin.
    That was a beautiful tribute to your mom. She certainly was very strong. She amazed me how she continued to fight, never giving up. It is always hard to loose those we love but I know she will always be in your heart and walking by your side.
    Liz Almeida (Pattis sister in law)

  8. Kristin, that was a perfect tributary to the strong relationship you had with you Mother. She will ALWAYS be with you in heart and spirit. You have an enormous supporting cast surrounding yourself and your family, take advantage of it. You are very fortunate to have so many wonderful memories with her. Keep your chin up, she's the perfect flower for the garden upstairs. -Ryan Forgues

  9. Kristin....I am writing this through tears. What a wonderful tribute to your wonderful Mom. I am so sorry to hear about your Mom. She seemed like an amazing woman. But, her most amazing accomplishment she made, was you. I have been following your posts and am astounded at her strength and spirit. I had never met her, and only met you at Becky and Korey Nolan's wedding, but, I know you share the same wonderful qualities as your Mom. Watch for signs I know she will send you. I am sure there will be many for the rest of your life. Your bond will allow you to see them. Many comforting thoughts sent to you and your Family...Cathy O'Leary

  10. Kristin, this is the most beautiful thing I've ever read.

  11. Absolutely beautiful as usual Kristin. Along with many others who know you, I feel like I know Kathy, even though I never had the privilege of meeting her. I do, however, know that she passed on so many good qualities to her wonderful daughter. You and your mom have taught people a lot about what is and isn't important in life and you should be proud of that. Keep on keeping on, and know that we are all thinking of you in this difficult time. Lots of love! Becky

  12. Kristin she was so proud of you. I will so miss her and miss you as well. The entire Will clan has been such a part of my life for so long and Kathy was what held that all together. This world truely was a better place because of what she taught all of us.


  13. Kristin, I am so sorry for your loss. Your mom sounds like a special person and you are too. She will continue to light your way in life. May God ease your pain.

  14. Absolutely beautiful. My thoughts and prayers are with you, your brother, and dads. Miss you!!

    -Melissa Fromm

  15. Kristin, thank you for sharing your feeling and words about your mom. I met your mom, as you know just recently, for that I am so grateful. Your mom's strength will enable you to endure this very difficult time. I feel that is her gift to you, "her strength", a inner strength to ednure all that comes your way.. Hugs Kristin. Your mom too was blessed to have such a beautiful loving daughter.
    Jo-Ann Barrett

  16. I'm sobbing. What a beautiful, beautiful tribute. Many wise words, young lady. Peace to you.

  17. Kristen, my thoughts are with you today. I'm so sorry. The pictures are fantastic.

  18. Kristin - what a beautiful tribute to your mom - you will have memories to cherish - she will always be with you - MaryAnn

  19. Kristin my heart goes out to you and your family. This reflection is so beautiful and moved me to tears...I can't imagine being so strong. I loved following all of you and your Mom's adventures over the past year on Instagram...your love for her shines so bright and will contine to do so for a long time to come. Much love.

  20. <3

    you're amazing. and we can see how amazing your mom is through you.

    ps. i'm unashamedly balling in my local coffee shop.