August 16, 2020

Lets Talk About Kim

Because that's exactly what she'd want us to do

"So what does your wife do?"

"Well... Umm..."

This question often left me pondering. I never really figured out the best answer. It's not that I didn't know what Kim did, more that I didn't know what she was doing that particular week. As she grew more and more into her role in London, extraordinary things gradually became all the more "normal".

"She does a lot of stuff, really."

Kim did do a lot of "stuff". She operated at a level at which I could never quite get my head around. I am a methodical man (Kim often remarked that I was a bit "robotic", which I always thought was a little unkind) - I'd order my shopping list to ensure I'd hit all groceries in a predictable way aisle by aisle. A bit like an ant. Any reorganisations in Tesco would leave me reeling.

With Kim however, I never saw any "order" in her approach. I would go so far as to say that it was a little chaotic - she'd tackle most tasks (large or small) like the Tasmanian Devil, there would be to-do lists written on the back of tissue boxes, on the walls, on that important document I needed for work - but here's the thing: she never missed a detail. When the dust settled, and she'd be sat down on the sofa with a cup of tea and ever-so-slightly frizzy hair, she would have achieved in 10 minutes what I would be unable to achieve in a month.

This, Ladies and Gentlemen, was Kim in a nutshell.

When pressed for a little more detail than just "she does stuff", the conversation would often be so predictable:

"Well, she works in palliative care"

"Oh, that must be so hard"

I'd ponder again at this statement. I could understand why people would say it - seeing people die so frequently certainly isn't for everyone, myself included. And yet, for Kim, it wasn't hard at all.

"Actually, she finds it quite beautiful".

You see, Kim didn't see her work as "hard". Of course, there were sad days. But she considered herself to be in a truly privileged position; to be able to offer comfort and calm to those who were entering the final chapter of their lives - to be able to offer them a good death.

And this was her mission. Her passion, that she chased with a fierce determination that sent waves across her field, challenging norms and making people realise that it was, in fact, OK to talk about death.

I often found myself a sort of "morbid middle-man". I'm a software engineer by trade. I interact with computers, which requires no emotional intelligence or deep empathy or understanding around the larger issues in life (although it does sometimes make me cry). I am obviously in no position to be talking to people about the technical or medical aspects of dying. Nor was I really in the position to offer any emotional advice on the subject.

And yet, spending the years with Kim, it became so normal to talk about death, trivialising it to the point where I'd often forget when talking to other people, and find myself ruining the mood at pubs and dinner parties. 

But this was her unique gift. She could take something so inconceivable and terrifying, and talk about it in such a beautiful way, you too would begin to believe that it was normal.

If I could go back to the day that Kim died to take her place, I would do it without question. That's not a flippant comment - it is a fact. But that's not what happened. We now find ourselves in the utterly profound situation where Kim, our exquisite champion of love, empathy and courage in the face of mortality, has herself succumbed to our inevitable fate.

I miss her unreservedly, but strangely, I'm comforted by the lessons that she's taught me over the years.

Kim lived her life in a way where she left no stones unturned. She was the ultimate "Yes-woman". She travelled. She laughed. She made so many friends. She had countless rich experiences. We married with the loud, raucous wedding that we'd always wanted. We bought our lovely little house in one of our favourite places. We loved, deeply.

I've had a lot more time to reflect on that day in the hospital with Kim. Those hours spent holding her hand. What's dawned on me was that she was so content. There was an amount of resignation, sure. I mean, we weren't going to be able to start a family, as we both so desperately wanted. But we'd both given each other everything.

Raw, unfiltered love.

And there is genuinely no greater gift than that.


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