My Beautiful Friend… My Anam Cara.
9th of December 1972 – 12th of April 2009
I will never forget the time in my life that I met Kim, my Anam Cara as I came to view her later in life. She had a smile that could light up a room, cheeky and rebellious as it was on many occasions throughout our teenage years together, and well beyond that I must admit.
Kimberley known simply as Kim… “That is Kim with and i and not with a y, because I am not a boy!” she would jokingly scold at me if ever I spelt her name wrong.
Kim and I met the day we both started high school, at the age of thirteen, and what neither of us knew, was that our fist day of high school would be the beginning of a friendship rare and treasured, spanning 22 years.
Starting high school I was one of those socially awkward teenagers that really did not fit in anywhere, however I quickly found myself within a group that seemed so mismatched in so many ways and yet we connected so effortlessly. We were by far not the most popular group, but it was our little group and we were all content with that.
In her own understated way Kim very much became the leader within that little group, she had a style and way that was all her own. She was a teenager wanting nothing but fun, no malice or ill intent, yet mischievous all the same.
With such a lovable ratbag streak no one could stay angry with or take any offence to anything Kim did or said for long, especially not the teachers she seemed to confound as she combined wit and humour to disrupt their lessons, confusing every subject she possibly could.
And of course, Kim had her favourite targets to aim her wit and humour at during lessons she found boring. Mr Matthson and Mr Vladkoff were Kim’s favourite targets, both teachers taking us for math classes … Which of course looking back suggests that math was one of Kim’s least favourite subjects to sit through.
With Mr Matthson you could see his frustration as he pondered the carefully constructed and very confusing questions Kim would put to him regarding each step through his mathematical equations.
He would look at the blackboard, look toward Kim, back to the blackboard … Then he would raise his hand to his head, chalk held ever so tightly between his fingers while scratching his head in utter bewilderment.
He’d then turn back to Kim once again and stammer in his speech as he tried to work out exactly how this polite young lady, smiling ever so sweetly waiting for the answer, had completely confused him to the point he had no idea of what he was talking about anymore.
Mr Vladkoff on the other hand, he was well aware of Kim’s tactics in disrupting the class through her deliberate over-complication of even the most simple equations. Yet still, Kim was able to bring this poor man to a state of complete speechlessness.
Speechlessness tinged with frustration and anger, so much so you could almost see his blood pressure rise through his body. First came the clenched fists as he would stand up straight and tall. Then turning all shades of red up through his face while trying to hold his composure he would suddenly be overtaken with a look of utter rage on his face.
I swear there were days that poor man’s head was going to explode!
All the while Kim would just look at him with those beautiful eyes and cheeky smile as she waited patiently for him to proclaim in that rage, “Now young lady, I’ll have none of this nonsense!”, whilst cutting the air with his hand in a very stern manner.
Poor Mr Vladkoff would then finally turn to the blackboard to regain his composure, all the students in the class laughing that Kim had done it once again.
Still as much as Kim could be the cool kid disrupting classes she also had a way of drawing attention to herself from time to time in a very, awkward, maybe even klutzy way.
It is those awkward and klutzy memories of Kim that take me by surprise every once in a while. The kind of memories that bring slight embarrassment as you find yourself having a little giggle only to realize that no one else has a clue what you are smiling or giggling about.
One of those memories is of a galah I made in art class one year, a galah made of clay that had a hole in the base to keep it from exploding in the kiln.
I had laboured over that piece of art through many lessons, was so proud of the work I had done and couldn’t wait to take it home to put it on my shelf. Carefully I carried my treasured art to the bus stop for the hour long bus ride home that consisted of two different bus routes.
Kim and I had gotten on the first bus together and I asked Kim to hold my galah so I could take my jumper off.
Suddenly I realized Kim had this awkward look on her face as she seemed to be wrestling with the galah?
She then leaned over to me a said in her squeaky I can’t contain my laughter anymore voice, “It’s stuck !!!”
And with that, she erupted into laughter, held her hand out to me and demanded through those fits of laughter, “Help me get it OFF !!!”
With that everyone around us on our very packed school bus burst into laughter, offering suggestions that she should be more careful where she sticks her fingers in furure.
We tried to pull that galah off! … We tried to twist that galah off! … We even tried wedging the galah in the window of the bus and pulling Kim backward to get it off! … Nothing was going to budge that stubborn bird off of Kim’s finger, her finger swelling inside the galah during this whole event.
Arriving in the city it was time for Kim and I to part ways, catch individual buses, going in opposite directions….. Kim promising she’d return my galah the next day at school.
The next day Kim and I met up at school, no galah was to be seen. However, Kim did have a tale of hailing buses in a fashion, in true Kim style, that had all the waiting passengers cracking up laughing due to the galah stuck on her finger.
Apparently, arriving home the previous evening my poor galah had finally met his fate as Kim’s father carefully took aim with his hammer, smashing the artwork to pieces.
I really have to say Kim’s awkward little moment was quite a work of art in itself and one that brings a smile to my face quite often in a way that the galah I made never could have done if he were sitting on a shelf today.
As our lives moved forward from high school to marriage and children our friendship ebbed and flowed with the seasons of our lives.
Kim and I were never the kind of friends who tagged around in each others back pockets. We never did the routine of a weekly catch up over a cuppa … In fact at times our paths through this life took us in completely different directions, causing periods of separation.
Kim and I had both married young, to men who could not tolerate one another and in turn chose to isolated us one from the another, both in their own way. And yet, as our friendship ebbed and flowed through the years we found our way together through those marriages failing, the divorces that came, the pressures of life and at times great emotional trials.
Fate always seemed to have a plan for Kim and I to find our way back to a crossroad where our paths would meet … Always in each other’s greatest times of need … Always coming back together as if by the hand of God, meeting by chance in the most unlikely of places. Our meetings were endless and the circumstances unique to each situation.
Chance meetings such as having rented accommodation in the same block of units unaware that the other was already living there, me in the midst of divorce from my first husband. Another occasion finding ourselves standing next to one another at a children’s concert by surprise, after two years of not seeing one another through the busyness of life.
Our final time of coming together in such a way was April of 2005 when we bumped into one another at a hospital after a long time of separation. Kim’s mother in hospital, me about to undergo surgery. As Kim was about to walk out of the main entrance to the hospital, I walked in, to an unexpected loving embrace from a very dear friend, both of us with our own unique need, our time of separation vanishing in an instant as we squeezed each other tight.
It really was quite uncanny, we always knew when the other was in trouble, knew when the other needed support. That was our way, that was our kindred bond, right up until her passing on the 12th of April 2009.
As is the way, it was not until her passing that I realised the significance of the kindred spirits that Kim and I were, as beautifully spoken in Gaelic, she was my Anam Cara, The Friend of My Soul.
The last four years of Kim’s life brought about a connection between us that went far beyond what could ever be put into words.
We both carried tremendous burdens each of our own, the kind of burdens hidden behind closed doors often kept to one’s self, yet we could share everything with each other that we could never share with anyone else.
For me it was the circumstances of my second marriage, to which I was ready to end despite my love for my husband. A marriage I felt trapped in by that love and a bond to a man I adored and who adored me just the same … But also a man whose family and former wife had completely ripped my entire world to shreds through a nightmare of control, enmeshed dysfunction and chaos.
Amongst it all my Christian beliefs and the moral code I had always lived by were continually being analysed and judged. Of course always found wanting and in need of correction by church leaders and family members who’s own lives and families were far from exemplary … Especially in the destruction of my Christian faith through their love of gossip and unreasonable control.
My illness and injury compounding it all, as I began to remove myself form life.
Kim was there when I needed her most, she was the only one I could confide in at a time I felt I could not trust anyone else to understand without judgement, being blinded by relationship or not believing me simply because of the social standing of some involved.
As for the weight of Kim’s burdens during those four years, they were immense to say the lest, though they are not mine tell. Kim took them to her grave with her and that is where I will allow them to rest, other than to say our medical and legal services have a lot to answer for in this country.
Simply, we both had our confidant, finding comfort and acceptance in each others words during a time when neither of us felt acceptable to a world that had broken us both.
Throughout the last few years of Kim’s life though, my heart completely broke as I walked side by side with my beautiful friend … Facing the greatest adversity of her life would reveal just how important she was to me.
During the last three years in particular I was privileged to have Kim allow me to walk with her. I use the word privileged because Kim trusted few in this life and to be counted among those she did trust was very much a privilege simply because of the person she was.
While I walked with Kim behind the scenes, as was the case with much of our friendship, I started to see her lose her footing from time to time and we would talk of suicide quite openly and honestly. On more than one occasion we discussed her inability to cope and her longing to find the peace she craved through ending her own life here.
We would sit together talking it through on all sides, from her children to her faith, to the possibilities of what this life could hold in the future if she could just hold on.
Then the length of time in between each tumble Kim took becoming shorter.
While I knew there were many professionals in her corner along with the few trusted confidants such as her children, sisters, a pastor and myself, she just could not seem to grasp hold tight enough or long enough with the same determination to carry on.
Early on the 27th of March 2009 I received a phone call from Kim, which in itself was very out of character because Kim and I always sent text messages or e-mail, the only time either of us actually called each other to speak verbally was a matter of great importance.
Answering the phone that morning I could tell in Kim’s voice that something was amiss as she almost demanded to visit me at home, her tone so uncharacteristically sharp. Of course this was Kim and I was never going to tell her not to come for a visit.
It was a beautiful day so we sat outside and we drank coffee as she told me all that was going on in her life.
Then as we went inside to fill our cups one last time she all but told me she had come to simply say goodbye.
Kim and I had this unspoken language between us, a language only explained through the true depth of Anam Cara, words never needed to be in abundance to express exactly the depth of thought or emotion, we just knew where the other stood.
This time I knew Kim had not come to talk.
She certainly had not come for me to talk her out of her decision.
This time she really had simply come to say goodbye to her friend, whom she loved, and knew loved her.
I talked, I questioned, I tried to reason … But I knew to the depth of my soul there was no helping her to her feet this time.
I also knew she had seen her pastor that same morning and knew he would have seen what I was seeing. But if I tried to contact him or alert anyone else to my concerns I would risk being cut off from Kim in this life for good due to her inability to ever trust me again, at a time she needed the strength of our friendship the most.
As she left my home we held each other tight, she rocked me from side to side in that I love you so much and I never want to let go sort of way and said, “You are my best, best, bestest friend ever.”
All I could do was tell her something I had never spoken out loud to her in 22 years. I squeezed her tight and gently said, “You know I love you my beautiful friend.”
Seeing Kim off in the car that day I agonised over what I could have done different. Even though I knew she had promised me she would call later that evening, deep in my spirit I knew she was lying to me.
I loved her, and all I could do was let her go, hoping and praying my love, the love of her children, her mother and sisters would be enough to help her hold on yet again.
Late morning came on the 28th of March and my phone rang, as soon as the woman on the other end began to speak I realised it was a voice I had not heard in 15 years, it was one of Kim’s older sisters.
Hearing Kim’s sister speak that morning I went cold, feeling the blood drain from my face as I knew the news was going to be anything but good.
She began to tell me that Kim was in a coma. She kept me informed throughout the next 24 hours and thankful Kim pulled through the massive overdose of psychiatric medications that had been prescribed to help her through the adversity she was facing.
On the 30th of March I walked into the Intensive Care Unit to see Kim sleeping ever so peacefully. As Kim woke to the sound of my footsteps she sat up, stretch out her arms and ushered me to her for a hug with a gesture of her hands.
She then proceeded to tell me how sorry she was for all she done, but also telling me she could never leave this life without saying goodbye to me.
We talked during that visit very openly as always.
Kim told me about the steps she had taken, never batting an eyelid she listed out the cocktail of medications she had dished out for herself and then told me there was nothing to fear, the short time of death she had experienced was peaceful.
After which she stated that the resuscitation was the worst experience of her life and because of that alone she would never try again.
I only saw Kim once more after that, for one brief visit at a secured mental health facility at a local hospital, about 5 days later, although we were always in constant contact through text messages in between our times together.
During that final visit with Kim she was frustrated and angry, scornfully expressing to me that she could be in Heaven with God by now instead of in this place enduring even more pain.
We held each other tight again to say goodbye that day, as I let her go and walked away I couldn’t help but look back through the heavy glass doors that separated us. Looking back in an effort to capture as much detail of Kim’s appearance as I could.
I can still see her waving to me through the glass doors as I turned to leave. Each time I left her I wondered if it would be the last.
This time was different though, something deep in my spirit just knew … This time would be the last!
During the following week Kim went further and further down hill despite medical attention and the love of family and friends.
Feeling the disapproving judgement of many who would damn her to hell and a separation from the God she worshipped with all her heart, Kim was more heartbroken than ever, with less reason to stay and fight for her life.
Little by little I could see her slipping away.
On Easter Sunday, 12th of April 2009 Kim attempted to take her life for a second and final time. This time succeeding!
In truth Kim’s light started fading the day of her first attempt, she believed she had made her peace with God and she was ready to depart. It was as if her spirit seemed to be fading while the last of her moments played out on this earth.
Kim was the smile that lit up a room. She was the hand extended to anyone she saw in need, especially those misfitted who didn’t know their place.
She was mischievous, funny and quirky, while unconventional in her faith, but ask her about God and she would tell you all about her Daddy in Heaven.
And yet sadly, she bled internally from an open gaping wound that simply could never be healed in this world.
In the end, I believe more so than Kim taking her own life she had it taken from her in many ways through numerous circumstances.
When Kim passed and I let friends know of her passing all I could do was explain that she had been ill for sometime, rather than the fact she had taken her own life, which in part was very much the truth.
While I could accept Kim’s decision in understanding her pain, through my own personal experience of those feelings, both Kim and I were immersed in a religious culture that gave no dispensation what so ever toward her final act in this life.
Even without a religious belief some people still view taking one’s own life as cowardice or weakness without knowing all the facts. Kim was neither of these, she had far more than a difficult life to which she fought with all she had, far more difficult than even I can fully understand knowing all that I do.
Ten years later, to this day I can still hear Kim knock on my front door cheerfully calling out, “Hi Ya” as I opened the door.
At which point she would bend straight down to Lex, my big black Labrador, and talk to him in an excited high pitched voice like she was speaking to a toddler, Lex licking her face all over….. Sadly Lex too has passed, but I think of them together where ever they may be.
I still hear Kim’s embarrassed, “Two and a half please!” as I asked her how many sugars she wants in her coffee.
Yet sadly, I also hear her say to me, “You’ll be right, You’ll get over it!”, so matter of fact after she told me she had come to say goodbye.
And, for a long time after her passing, I would turn to face where she stood as she said those words, longing to reply to her, “See, I’m not over you going, and I never will be!”
I may be living in a different house now, but I still use the same kettle everyday, Daniel knowing it is here to stay for a long time to come….. And still, as I rest my hand atop the kettle waiting for it to boil as I did that day I hear her say those words in my mind, “You’ll be right, You’ll get over it!”
Kim was no saint, she was far from perfect with her own demons to slay, as we all are in this life, but she gave it all to be the best she could be.
When I think Kim, I think of the good dying young.
The bond that formed between Kim and I is one that will never be undone, I believe in time I will meet with my beautiful friend once again. But until that time I will allow myself to see Kim’s radiant smile every time the sun comes streaming through my window and think of her being comforted by her Daddy in Heaven.
Much has changed in my life since Kim’s passing, her funeral being one of the last times I sat in a church … The form of modern Christianity that Kim knew very well I had begun to despise in the years leading up to her passing, it was all the more magnified as Kim took her own life and her scales were weighed by so many who had no right to judge.
My life became even more solitary after Kim’s passing, yet there were so many lessons I had learnt through Kim’s life, our friendship and her passing.
Lessons in friendship, faith, love, compassion and the kindness toward all those we meet because no one knows what is hidden behind a beautiful radiant smile.
Oh….. And as for that bear as the Featured Image on this post?
That is Frankie Bear … I purchased Frankie during the last 4 years of Kim’s life as a reminder to her that she was not alone, surprising her one day by having him delivered. Kim then returned the favour one day when I was having a bad day, opening the front door Kim shoved Frankie into my hands with a pack on Tim-Tams and said she had things to do and she’d be back to pick him up later … Frankie became more than a stuffed teddy bear between us.