From April 13, 2004, me (center) with my friend, Cathie, and her husband, Phil, among the Redwoods.
Not too long before our wedding, my husband Mike introduced me to his friend from work, Phil. A product of the early days of online dating, Phil met Cathie. After a whirlwind romance, and a few days in Lake Tahoe, they married, returning home to surprise all with their news. With their lives being from two locations, his family in Chicago and hers in San Francisco, they agreed to move to California.
Despite my students’ concerns that I would “turn gay” by visiting this part of the world, Mike and me spent Spring break 2004 visiting this couple.
We started Easter Sunday touring the city seeing Pier 39 with its shops and seals, floated to Alcatraz (with another friend of ours), and then returned to Brother’s Restaurant for a Koren barbecue.
After a night on an air mattress of their living room, the four of us drove north in our rental car, a PT Cruiser, to Napa. Towards early evening, and as the wineries were closing for the day, we continued north to the Redwoods. Since it was getting late, we decided to find a place for the night, which ended up being in Garberville, which Cathie referred to as Garbageville.
Our third day together provided the required time to actually explore these giants. From seeing The Weather Rock to studying the tree’s timeline to driving through the Chandelier Tree, we laughed and had fun as two couples. As we made our way back to Phil and Cathie’s, we stopped to see Golden Gate Bridge, the bay, and even investigated an old army lookout bunker. The final day we spent really touring San Francisco utilizing various transportation with the Cable Car and Muni, along with the PT Cruiser, to see Fisherman’s Warf, Pier 39, the bay, Lombard Street and other nooks and crannies that came our way.
Within a year or so, we became parents, as did they. With these new bundles, we never had a chance to return.
Facebook had been our saving grace. We would often comment on each other’s photos. Most recently, their 11-year-old son was testing for his black belt, so Cathie gathered cards of support to show Alex. I knew my two could relate since they had just completed their black belt testing as well; naturally, they made a contribution. With our children being close in ages, it would be a special visit for their son to meet our daughter and son. By now, Phil and Cathie had moved to Arizona and we were considering visiting them as soon as next summer.
Now I wished we went sooner…
This past Saturday, to which she liked my son’s 9th birthday post, Cathie succumbed to her battle with her bipolar disorder. Phil and Alex were out at a birthday party, while Cathie decided to end the mental anguish that she suffered with for so long. Alex found her, and thought of her to be napping, but that wasn’t true.
The following day marked Phil’s birthday where he posted the news for all of us to read:
“I was always afraid this day would come and it did yesterday afternoon. I lost the love of my life on 7/22/17 when she lost to her bipolar illness and made the wrong decision. I lost my lovely wife Catherine. My 11 year old son lost the best mother in the world. We walked into the house after attending a friend’s party and my son was the poor soul to discover Catherine. At 11 with autism he did not understand what he walked into. I did not fully understand at first either. She look so at peace lying in bed.
I wish I knew what she was thinking when she decided to take her life. I wish she had me or anyone to be there to talk her out of it or at least hold her while she passed. She was warm when I called 911 but so very cold when I was finally able to kiss her goodbye 6 hours later.
I have my son. I have my self. Have a few close friends and very few relatives near us. I keep being told I have to be strong but I am at my weakest ever. 17 years of my 44 on earth have been with my Catherine. She ordered a cake for my birthday that I picked up with Alex.
I have to summon all the strength possible when I look at my son so I do not break down. He has not come to terms yet and when he does I know the earth will shatter around us.
If you are religious please say a prayer for Alex. He needs every prayer he can get. If you are not religious please send any good thoughts his way.”
I miss you, Cathie. I hope you have found the tranquility you had been longing for when alive. I know that you will watch over your son and husband…maybe even guide all of us to find inner peace.