This is not something I thought I'd ever have to write. The wound is fresh, so deep in me so that I can look in and see bone before the blood of heavy thinking comes. I am so new to this mourning that my head is sill building ramps and bridges, joining what was to what is. What never will be is floating below me in angry water that hurts my ears. How we cry for those lost is also how we live. In crying there is truth. My face is wet with it. It is one a.m. Sleep does not becon me nor do I expect it to. Writing is all I have to give you. Writing is the only means through which I knew her. Decended from a Cherokee line,Kathy called me her native brother. She became my sister. I smiled the first time that she wrote to me with her native mind moving over words put down just for my eyes. Soon Kathleen was writing to me more than any one ever had on this life of walking. Kathleen was a constant. Always there was at least a little note from Kathy waiting for me as I walked in from my world of roads and strangers. I sat down beside her to calm.
We have all heard about computer predators that steal away loved ones from families for romance or worse. Kathleen brought me home through her prayers and concern. We shared our stories as our ancestors did even though many miles always separated our campfires. When I was cold in the snow, or vomiting a fever into the frozen grass for two days as my body rattled, and the mercury fell, Kathy Dennis wrote letters to my e-mail address filled with worry, love,and concern that I thankfully recieved in the next town. Often I tried harder to make contact via the computer while on the road so that I could read my sister's words and send her a note back from this solitary life of constant uncertainity. Kathy became a fire that I held my hands to when no other fire would light. Kathy asked me how the water felt deep in the cave, where the hawk fell that the young man killed with the paintball gun, and told me how the dog Ginger loved me too--even if we just had those few hours together before death came. Because of the letters sent from a woman that I never met I knew that a great soul walked with me, was one with me, and heard my heart beat out loud. It did not matter what percentage of spit my blood was. Kathy called me family. I would send her feathers the road gave me. The last feathers I sent to her were in red paper. She'd know that red is powerful and is protection. Kathy heard my words written as if it was just the two of us walking, trading clips about her family so I could know her world too.
An e-mail came today from The Wolf Lady. I knew Kathy's e-mail address at first glance. My mailbox has been on the blink these past few days, maybe a week, so no mail has gotten through to me. My heart wails to think of the words I missed from her that she may have tried to send. When I saw Kathy's name on the e-mail, I quickly opened the letter onto the screen thinking that it was from the friend I missed after a week with no note. I knew she'd be crazy with worry. We never went too long without writing. As funny as it sounds, Kathy made me feel safe with her net of loving concern stretched out below me. I'd always drop a note when I managed walking through particularly rough neighborhoods, or past dogs that coraled me into running traffic. I depended on Kathy to ask me for extra details behind the typed story eveyone read. She wanted to mentally help carry my burdens, and see all the beauty. Although I never heard her voice, I read her words until I heard her heart talking out loud to mine the way a close friends does. Kathy told me my dream was a good dream, that it mattered. Kathy mattered. Kathy took the time to share her life with me.
At 1130am yesterday Kathleen Dennis went peacefully out of our lives at 49 years old. I know nothing more. The letter I recieved today was from her daughter. The note was a couple of paragraphs sent out to people on Kathy's e-mail address listing to let us know that a glorious light had blown out. I read. I re-read before finishing. I checked her name. I ran for mistakes. My thoughts folded and re-folded thoughts until everything tore in squares that meant nothing. There is no fence to lean against that will make this easier. There is noone that I can hand these words to and have them understand...help me understand.
She put the feathers I sent to her in a special box I remind myself, afraid forgeting is already setting in. Her address waits in the back of my journal for me to send trinkets from the walk that she would hold with her eyes closed the way I do with special things, feeling the tide of story and energy soak into her hand. There is nothing left to send that matters. In Saint Francisville, Louisiana I found a flag that one of the storms sent to the ground to rot (Katrinia?). In Saint Francisville I sewed up one of the stars and sent it to Kathy. Our people of the earth have been making art, and dress out of flags sense the first wind tugged red, white and blue across this country. I happily saw Kathy feathered up for a powwow with my star shining from the porch of her hat, or pinned to an old shirt. The remaining row of stars now hang from my cedar flute attached to my pack. I hear it begging me play.
My head throbs with the pain of loss, yet I know that her family feels and mourns a woman I saw the beautiful shadow of. I am sorry for their loss.
There is a hole that I will not be able to fill. My dear friend said many prayers for me over this walking. I have seen killing winds turn at my tent for no reason. I have been safe in bad places when there was no logic to my shield. Walking across America is in itself a humble prayer filled with little Amen's that tie all my words together. With all the string in my heart I sew to down quills Kathleen Dennis's name in my inner room where dreams and prayers are made. It in a new prayer for remembering, until the Great Creator sets us all down to run in rich fields where we will mourn no more.
Good-bye Kathleen Dennis. Thank you for touching my life, as I am sure you have blessed so many others. As you asked me to, I will live this dream, and remember.