A friend of mine died last Sunday. I’ve been processing this loss all week. Disbelief and horror have given way to resignation, reflection. Tears threaten, sometimes. And at other times, I find myself smiling. Memories murmur around me, sliding into focus and then out of focus. And each day, something new emerges.
I met Kate in 2008, within a few months of my arrival in Newfoundland. I don’t remember exactly how we met, but I can guarantee that she had Newman, her Newfoundland dog, with her. Newman was her sidekick. Her best bud. Her guardian. Newman went everywhere with her. Newman also resigned himself to silly photos: Newman with a Santa outfit. Newman with Anne pigtails. Newman the brave, the gentle, the big hearted, the trusting, the generous. Newman, the dog who embodies, in canine form, everything that I love about Kate.
Kate and I worked, conceptually at least, in similar research areas: both of us fascinated by life stories, by the paths available for the articulation of the self, and by the meanings that emerge in the process of such ruminations. We were both interested in memory and how memory shapes identity. We have talked about bodies, and bodily memories, and politics.
I have learned much from Kate.
We have spent many hours talking about teaching, about learning, about pedagogy, about reaching first year students. She was absolutely passionate about teaching. And in my conversations with some of her students over this past week, I have come to learn just how very passionate they were about her. She has, literally, transformed their lives.
But our conversations have not only been about teaching. We have talked, too, about women’s studies and about feminisms. About disciplines. About belongings. About exclusions. Serious, thoughtful, sometimes frustrating conversations. Conversations that have no end, really, but that still need to happen. That still need to be shared.
We have also shared social lives. We have laughed at baby showers, parties and playgrounds. We communed over dinners and brunches. She shared Newman’s clownfish stuffy with my son, and later, in another visit, he taught her how to play chess. Kate even spent time teaching me how to drive (and for her patience in that endeavour, I am mightily grateful).
And now, as I say goodbye, it is Kate, too, who will teach me about loss: “Remembrance always has a pedagogical element,” she wrote in a 2010 book chapter (239).
She expands on this idea in her thesis, where she writes:
The work of the teacher, then, is to grapple with our attachments, and in so doing, this mode of attentiveness can be offered back to our students. Because, as Judith Butler so eloquently states, in grief, “Let’s face it. We’re undone by each other. And if we’re not, we’re missing something …. One does not always stay intact. It may be that one wants to, or does, but it may also be that despite one’s best efforts, one is undone, in the face of the other” (Precarious Life” 19) …. while the experience of loss is painful and difficult – in fact, it can be excruciating – it is also productive because it can disrupt, unsettle and be the catalyst for new knowledges about the self and others. (171-172)
Kate was a beautiful woman. Honest, forthright, sensitive, generous, thoughtful. She wore her heart on her sleeve. She lived her life with truth and integrity. She laughed easily.
In the shuffling of office space that accompanied my arrival at Memorial University, her office became mine. I spent the first week trying to figure the voice mail system. After numerous attempts, I managed to change the outgoing message. I never did work out how to change the access code. Nor was I able to change the internal voice message.
But my technical incompetence has had some unforeseen benefits. When I pick up my messages, it is Kate’s code that I type in, and it is Kate’s voice that welcomes me to my voice mailbox. She’s still here. Her spirit will not soon leave this place.
I miss you, Kate.
Kate Bride 21.05.1968 ~ 07.04.2013
Bride, Kate. “‘Learning to Love Again’: Loss, Self-Study, Pedagogy and Women’s Studies,” PhD Thesis, Memorial University, 2009.
Bride, Kate. “Death on the Ice: Representation, Politics, Remembrance,” in Despite this Loss: Essays on Culture, Memory and Identity in Newfoundland and Labrador, eds. Elizabeth Yeoman and Ursula Kelly (St. John’s: ISER, 2010), 226-245.