It was not the gathering I had expected. In the centre of the room, Kath was propped up in bed, laughing, a beaker of sparkling wine in her hands. At the foot of the bed, three pairs of impossibly high pink, black and gold designer shoes had a chair all to themselves.
Kath, high on morphine, but surprisingly lucid, urged the friends she had gathered at short notice to drink and to drink hard.
I'd not known what to do with myself on the journey up from London after receiving the urgent summons from Kath's daughter, Steph, to come and see her mother. In the end, I consoled myself by looking at the few pictures Kath had posted on her Facebook page.
She’d always said she was un-photogenic, but in these photos, her hair white blonde from a long summer of unexpected sunshine, she was radiant and beautiful.
In front of me now in the hospice was a very different Kath, ravaged by cancer and in pain, but still her mischievous self.
“Why aren’t you dating, chica?” she berated me as soon as I sat down. “Don’t worry, I’ve lined up someone you’re really going to like!”
She was smiling, but there were tears in her eyes. I began to cry.
“Don’t be sad,” she urged. “I’ve not missed out. I’ve lived more in my short life than most people will ever do.”
Kath’s youngest daughter, Suzanne came in. Kissing her mother’s face, she climbed gently onto Kath’s bed and cradled her mother’s tiny body in hers.
The door opened and a small collection of Kath’s friends and family entered. Soon she was regaling us with anecdotes about her life. This was not the agonizing farewell I had imagined. It was Kath’s final party on earth. She had brought us all together to celebrate, to ensure that this was our lasting memory of her.
The roads were deserted when I left the hospice and the temperature had plummeted. I drove home slowly, savoring the light of the full moon. I had left London despairing. But something extraordinary had happened at Kath’s bedside as we, her family, her friends, had gathered to give thanks for a life lived with intensity and joy. Her spirit had lit up the whole room. It has remained with me ever since.
Katherine Sylvia Pearson
A beloved friend, mother, sister, daughter and free spirit.
5th March 1966 – 26th November 2013