She looked over her trashy magazine at me and said “I don’t want to say I’m pissed you haven’t written anything; but I’m pissed you haven’t written anything.” A few moments later she slapped my thigh, asked if I knew how to swim and challenged me to a cannonball contest. It was a hot July day in what I had declared “The Summer of Yes” and after two summers at the pool together, she has to ask if I know how to swim. Clearly the previous summers had been a little less yes and a lot more that water is cold and I don’t like to get my hair wet.
She whooped me in that cannonball contest. But it was so fun. And the kids, especially my kids were absolutely delighted I was in the water. I got in the water every single pool day after that. Every single day.
SUMMER OF YES, DULLI! She would scream at me, long after the summer had ended, whenever I hesitated, second guessed myself or was scared. Summer of YES.
Kristen Gorman was True North. If she said something was messed up, it was messed up. If she deemed something good, it was good. Her moral compass was impeccable, yet she was loving, forgiving, her negative judgments were not handed out easily, but she had no time for toxic people. She did, however, have infinite time for those growing and learning, whether they were 6 or 60. But man, she called it like she saw it, and she was always right.
I don’t remember meeting her. I remember her telling us how she saw Max at age 3 at the ELF school picnic and thought “that looks just like a guy I went to high school with! And there he is…” One of the luckiest events in my life was that Max and Riley were placed in the same class.
You cannot think of Kristen without thinking of family. Above everything, Kristen loved her family. Not only are they fiercely loyal to one another but they have the incredible ability to extend their family at will. We all want in on that Riley action, because there is almost no where else in this world you can feel as a part of something great, something GOOD. They opened their home, their table, their hearts to me and mine, Kristen had claimed me and so without a moments hesitation, Bill, Bridget, Shannon, Jackie and Pat let me in.
When we had a house fire Kristen was there the next morning with cupcakes for the kids and a fountain Diet Coke for me. There is nothing like a fountain Diet coke.
When my daughter was born she was there that evening, with steak tacos and champagne. Popping the cork work my tiny newborn baby and scared her. Kristen joked she would always be traumatized by her auntie KG.
Kristen had an innate ability and an endless energy to BE THERE whenever she was needed. Weakness of any kind was not her thing. Accepting help and letting us comfort her, to have us be the ones to show up with cupcakes or tacos was hard for her.
Wisely, Kristen told me she had cancer in a public setting. Whispered over the fire pit in her parent’s driveway. Shannon nearby, came over to help explain. As always, Kristen was positive. I laughed as they cracked jokes, because she said she didn’t want me to fall apart, though even if she hadn’t said that, I wouldn’t have in front of her. Her job at this time was not to take care of me. I shook it off, there were kids who needed hamburgers and can they PLEASE have a sprite? Miss Jackie said they could! I also solemnly swore I would not google Thymic Cancer.
None of us believed I would keep that promise and I did not. I did however promise myself that I would be the friend who brought the funny. That’s kind of my specialty. “are you going to make me shave my head?” I asked, as she said she was out-shedding her dog, Dyson. “I mean, I will. In a heartbeat, but I have to tell you, you will rock the bald head. You’ve got the noggin for it. I’m going to look like that woman from Total Recall.” She laughed and told me I could keep my hair. But I would have shaved it in a heartbeat. I would now if I could have her back. I have no regrets. I talked with her about how hard it was to have others in pain over her health. I was able to give her perspective on how powerless we all feel. How could the inimitable Kristen Gorman be sick? Neither our brains or hearts could understand. She vowed to let people help. But as many times as I tried to bring her milkshakes post chemo or come visit she would always say the same thing “I’m coming to you, Dulli, while I can!” She meant before chemo really knocked her down and surgery sidelined her for a while. A week or two, she said. She was walking down that aisle, for Shannon’s wedding.
It was incredibly important to her that her cancer not overshadow Shannon’s day. No cancer talk at the shower, she insisted. No cancer talk at the wedding.
That’s a promise I can keep.
My last text to her before her surgery was that I loved her. I did. I do. I always will. It never occurred to me we wouldn’t be texting one another ridiculous gifs (or just beaming them from our brains, whatever it ends up being) when we were 90.
I was going to being her a Fountain Diet Coke as soon as she could have visitors. We held our breath all day during her surgery, only breathing when we got the text that she was out, most was gone, but radiation would do it. I think all of us, channeling KG thought, let’s do this. But cancer had other plans.
“where is your book? I’m waiting for your book?” she nudged past my fears, yet again.
They always say those who go early have too much life in them. Kristen was full of life. And life was joyful. Kristen is my third friend to be gone too early due to cancer. And like both Carrie and Susan, she was full of life. Full of joy. The world is a darker place for the wont of Kristen Gorman.
Her last text to me was that we have a life of yes to get too. I can’t believe I have to do it without her, but I cannot think of anything I could do more to honor her life is live a life of yes. To pick up the mantel. To be there when others need me, without being asked. To spread joy. To nudge others past their fears. To stand up for what is right, but to make room for those who want to learn and grow. Maybe even learn excel, she loved a good spreadsheet.
To live a life of yes.