Running for Kate

As many of you know, just over a month ago, my roommate Kate passed away. She was biking home from work on her usual route home when she was hit by an SUV. The SUV was running a red light, while she was in the crosswalk on her green light. She was wearing her helmet, and she was killed instantly.

It was Wednesday, June 22nd at 9:40 pm when two police officers knocked on our door. When I opened the door, they asked me if I was Kate. “No…” I said, extremely suspicious. Why would there be two cops looking for Kate? Then they asked me if she was home. “No,” I said again, this time worrying. I will never forget how the look on their faces shifted and how their bodies stiffened. That was the first moment my heart stopped that night. Looking back, they had hope on their faces. They wanted me to say, “Yeah, she’s in her room.” They did not want me to confirm she wasn’t home- that she was the girl who was killed at 7th and Howard. My one word answers had never had so much meaning.

I was home alone when the police came. Luckily, I was on the phone with someone who cares about both me and Kate immensely, and he stayed on the phone with me until our other roommate, Gabe, arrived. The police had given me a number to call, but I only got to the answering machine, and their instructions weren’t clear. I’m also not sure I was hearing them correctly in my panicked state. All I knew for sure was that she was in the hospital, somewhere in the city.

While waiting for Gabe, my friend and I called hospitals together and confirmed she was at SF General. My friend then asked if Kate’s bike was at home. Instant panic came over me. I didn’t want to look. I knew it wasn’t there, because I saw her leave that morning- on her bike. We then went to Twitter. We were just looking to see if there was anything about any minor bike accidents. That’s when we saw the news about Heather Miller, another woman who was killed that night by a hit and run on her bicycle in Golden Gate Park. It was the first moment that I knew we’d lost her. I shoved the thought down to the deepest part within me, holding out hope she didn’t have the same fate; that the worst that had happened was she had a broken leg.

When Gabe got home, he went straight to her room and packed a bag with some of her clothes. I didn’t have the courage to say that we may be too late- that we should just go. We sped to the hospital, and as we pulled up I ran out of the car while the car was still moving. I have never run faster in my entire life. When I ran into the ER, I saw Kate’s younger brother, Tommy, through a big glass window in the family waiting room. He was hunched over in a chair with his face in his hands. He was sobbing, and then I knew. My worst nightmare was coming true. The entire car ride I was praying that what I thought had happened wasn’t happening. And seeing Tommy through the window, my entire heart shattered.

A few moments later, Tommy called their parents. That moment was one of the saddest moment of my entire life. Can you imagine telling your parents that their first born child has died? That their only and beloved daughter, and Tommy and Stephen’s sister, is gone? I certainly can’t. While the room was overflowing with sorrow, Tommy acted so beautifully in that moment. He exuded the most bravery and strength I’ve ever witnessed. It was, I’m sure, the lowest point of Tommy’s life. It was absolutely one of the lowest of mine. I still think about that moment everyday. Because in that moment of complete anguish, Tommy emitted a strength he didn’t have. I like to think it was the first moment any of us was living through Kate. That he was living in that moment on her strength.

In the days since Kate’s death, I’ve reflected so much on our relationship. I’ve realized that our roommate bond was completely unique- it was more like a sisterhood. You’re stuck together and you take each other for granted like family. The knowing that you will see them again.

I’ve realized that Kate was a source of comfort I didn’t know I had. And I was the same for her. We talked about things we didn’t talk about with anyone else. We vented to each other about anything and everything: work, boys, the price of berries at Whole Foods, etc. It was all fair game. We cooked dinner together; she always said with so much pride that we had the same diet. We geeked out over running and fitness. We asked if we saw the latest Instagram post from our our yoga idol, Erin, who teaches at YogaFlow. We loved each other, like sisters. And now, there is a void that I’m not sure will ever be filled again.

Admittedly, I didn’t always understand Kate. She carried herself with such confidence that she was, at times, intimidating. Yes, all 5’0 of her. Because she knew who she was, and she knew what made her happy. And it made me jealous. I am someone whose goal in life is to figure out who the heck I am. I’m also someone who probably cares a little too much about what other people think. Kate was the opposite; she was always doing what served her in that moment, at no one’s expense. It was her mantra. I had never met anyone before who served themselves, their needs and happiness, yet simultaneously and so eloquently cared for others more than themselves. That’s what was so amazing about her; she was a woman full of contradictions. She was responsible, driven, and extremely smart. She could be so serious in the morning eating her toast while reading The New Yorker. She was also the girl who was known for her love of onesies, adventure, and saying “yes” if it felt right. She could be spending time writing her children’s book, Fly With Maya, and 2 minutes later be practicing the “Baby One More Time” dance to perfect our Britney Spears costumes for Bay to Breakers. I’ve said it before, but I have truly never met anyone like Kate. And in these days without her, that feeling has turned into knowing that she is unlike any person I’ve ever known.

Her death has left me broken. I have felt physical and emotional pain that I have never experienced before. There have been moments where I have collapsed in weakness. In the days since her death, I’ve tried to honor Kate by embodying some of who she was in everything I do. While I would like to say I’ve accomplished this feat by saying yes to more adventures, not taking myself too seriously, and doing more of what serves me, I don’t know how anyone will ever measure to her greatness.

My first great dedication and honor to her life will be running The San Francisco Marathon. We were both training for the marathon- the first for both of us. And while I haven’t been able to train as much as I’d hoped, I will run every mile for Kate. I will give whatever I have to her and this accomplishment.

Kate’s amazing friends Jeff, Erik, and Kristin, in addition to our dear Gabe have organized over 20 of Kate’s friends and coworkers running Kate’s marathon. #TeamKateSlattery will be out in full force in blue shirts. We’ve broken up the marathon into 1 mile increments along the route. I can’t tell you how lucky I feel to have all of these wonderful people running with me!

I also want to say that I can’t express enough gratitude for all of the support, love, and kindness I’ve received in the weeks since Kate’s death. Kate’s friends have become my new family as I’ve been welcomed with loving hearts into the Badger family. They have brought me in like one of their own, and I can’t tell you how wonderful it has been to have this new community of amazing and caring people. I’ve also heard from so many people I haven’t heard from in a long time, and I want to thank you. It takes courage to reach out to people you haven’t spoken to in a while, and I appreciate it more than you know. I’m sorry if I haven’t gotten back to you- I just hope you know that your words and kindness are appreciated.

So tomorrow, I won’t be focusing on my pace or the next hill coming up. I will try to remember to smile, and feel Kate with me the entire way. Thank you for your encouragement as I run for both of us. Not matter how significant the roles we play in each other’s lives, if you’re reading this, thank you for your support. I feel truly blessed to be part of your life, and I hope Kate’s life inspires you to do a little better everyday.

To Kate, and #TeamKateSlattery

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One thought on “Running for Kate

  1. Samantha Wojnowiak says:

    Brittny,

    I came across your blog tonight while searching the internet for articles written about Kate. This post both shatters and warms my heart. I was one of Kate’s friends and Alpha Phi sisters at UW Madison. I think of her often and miss her dearly. I can’t imagine the pain and sorrow you must feel with her loss…but reading about the way she impacted your life (and how you undoubtedly impacted hers) makes me smile. Thank you for sharing!

    Like

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