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Monday, February 9, 2015

Living Well

 On Saturday, I walked into the church and looked around. The place was packed with people, and there was standing room only. So Katie, I thought. I instantly noticed the lime green and navy blue colors her friends and family members were wearing...and the Seattle Seahawks jerseys that seemed to be everywhere. I wouldn't have even been surprised if the quarterback Russell Wilson had showed up to the service also. So Katie. I looked at the many different ages of those who were present. Once again, so Katie. Katie had the ability to touch the lives of everybody she met...and she did it well. As I got to my seat and listened to the sounds of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" filling the room, I read the back of my program:
 "Katie was born with the capacity to make your heart smile and brighten your world. Often, all it took was a flash of her megawatt smile. She was a happy child who delighted in everyone and everything around her (except spiders and clowns!) She loved her family, friends, and church. Spending joyful time with them was her top priority. 
They say a person's true character is revealed when they face adversity. Katie faced more adversity in 18 years than most of us will face in our entire lifetimes. She never let it beat her. Katie did not lose a battle to cancer, she won by keeping a beautiful attitude through it all. The Lord blessed Katie with a spirit of joy and peace, and God's love shined through her."


 As the service got underway, it became clear to me that Katie not only showed others how to die but, more importantly, how to live...and to live fully! I saw the fresh bouquet of lilies on the memory table and it struck me as the stories and memories unfolded: like her favorite flower, Katie's life was brief but it was truly one of the most beautiful lives I have ever observed. The more I heard about her, coupled with what I already knew from experience, I became increasingly thankful that I had the privilege of knowing this amazing young lady! 


  Perhaps the most inspiring thing about Katie is that she lived her one life well...and to the fullest. She didn't live in past regrets but instead was always focused on the here and now - on the good she could do today. Even up to the last couple of weeks before her death, she continued to volunteer for the Alaska chapter of Make-A-Wish Foundation, which had already given her some incredible moments. It seemed only fitting for her to want to give back. Again, so Katie. Always reaching out to others, always thinking of how they were feeling or what would make their lives better. Hardly have I met a more unselfish individual who was so determined to make the most of the time she had on this earth. I watched the slideshow during the service and thought: Katie had more life in her while battling cancer than some people have in 80 years of living a healthy and normal life! That unbridled zest for life was in her to the very end; in fact, she was sitting in bed laughing with her family just hours before she slipped away. She went out smiling. Some time before her death, Katie said the following, 
  "I'm not dying of cancer, I'm just living a shortened life with some limits on it. I do not want to be known as the dying girl. I want to be that girl that made life worth every second for as long as she could...I'm going to spend the rest of my life living; not dying." 
That's how this remarkable girl viewed the role she had to play in life. Though limited, she wanted to play her part with style and grace, which she did to the very end. Katie made it clear that, once she was gone, people shouldn't focus on her death but rather celebrate her life. As the memorial service ended, I felt as if that had been achieved. I sensed a joy amid the sadness, a rejoicing in spite of the pain. Katie knew where she was headed. She made that clear to all she met. From the moment cancer reared its ugly head, she accepted the journey as part of God's plan for her and embraced it fully. 


Seattle Seahawks' quarterback Russell Wilson
with Katie following one of her many surgeries. 

  When I left the church, music was playing, and a bunch of her friends and family had formed a flash mob and were dancing. It's what Katie would've wanted. Like many others, my life was changed for the better because of her. And I say good-bye to her, more resolved than ever to live fully. Katie, you will always be remembered in the hearts of those who knew and loved you. Thank you for showing us all what it means to live our one life well.