We held Kim's services this morning. These were my prepared remarks.
We held Kim’s services this morning. These were my prepared remarks. Having composed this in my head over the course of many sleepless nights, I delivered it stream of consciousness, using the notes as a backup. I’m not sure how close the two versions are.
Good morning. I’m James, Kim’s husband.
Thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedules to remember her. Her mother, Sue, her brother Steven, her sisters Karen and Debbie, and I appreciate your support.
We wish the circumstances were happier.
Many of you were at our wedding. Having both attended plenty of them, we wanted to keep our ceremony short—I don’t think it lasted twenty minutes—and get right to the reception. They were quite literally handing out the champagne for the toast while we were taking our vows.
Kim would have wanted to do that here and we’ve tried to capture that spirit. But, while we want this to be a celebration of her life, there’s no pretending that it’s a happy occasion.
The worst 15 minutes of my life started at 1:05 Sunday morning. I went from being startled awake by a crying baby, to confusion as to why Kim wasn’t comforting her, to panic when I couldn’t wake her, to sheer desperation of trying to revive her while waiting for the ambulance, to shock when my fears were confirmed.
But I still had a crying baby and a toddler waking up . So, within 10 minutes, I was calling the one person in the world who was going to be more hurt than I was: Kim’s mother, Sue.
In addition to being the girls’ grandmother, she was also their nanny, having moved down from Connecticut almost three years ago to help take care of Katie.
Within the hour I was doing what it later occurred to me is exactly what Kim would have been doing if the roles were reversed: going on Google to figure out how you tell a toddler that their mother is gone. It turned out to be one of those rare occasions when my instinct for direct talk was right.
Within an hour and a half, I started doing what I do: writing a blog post about what had happened. It took me three hours, off and on, and I finally published at 5:30 realizing that, despite making a pretty good living as a writer, I didn’t have words to express my loss.
As of this morning, it had received 438 comments, 201 Facebook shares, and 236 re-tweets.
The outpouring of support has been overwhelming. There have been more phone calls, emails, Facebook and blog comments, and home visits than I can count.
Because of Kim’s personality and strong ties to even distant relatives, I knew she had a strong support network. And, I’ve learned, mine’s pretty strong, too.
The tangible support from Kim’s POS family and my Atlantic Council family has been amazing.
So has the help we’ve had from the Three Marys.
Mary Godbout, Sue’s next door neighbor, Kim’s friend, and the mother of Katie’s two best friends, Chloe and T.J., drove my mother-in-law over in the middle of the night and helped keep Katie distracted and entertained while the EMTs and police were occupying the upstairs and the rest of us were absorbing the loss.
The woman known as Crazy Mary Diamond when I met Kim seven years ago and who re-emerged in our lives three years ago as Mary Stirewalt, Responsible Mother, has been a constant presence—making calls, running errands, and attending to needs we didn’t know we had.
Mary Newhouse, the den mother of the POS family and longtime Friend of Kim, worked tirelessly planning this morning’s remembrance. She realized that the turnout for Kim would be massive and thought of a thousand things that would never have occurred to me, with my contribution mostly consisting of answering “I dunno” or “Sounds fine” to a hundred questions.
While I like people, I like them in small groups and small doses. So, the deluge of well wishers has been exhausting. But it’s also been incredibly helpful. Not just the bringing of food and running of errands but also being forced to talk about the loss and about the good times with Kim. There’s a reason this ritual has developed and lasted so long.
To say that Kim was much more patient than I am is an understatement. And she was a softie who managed to make everyone feel special. But, like me, she was fundamentally a bottom line person.
In classic Kim fashion, after trying on several wedding dresses to find one she liked, she went on the Internet and found a place that would make them to order based on her measurements for something like $400. It rained heavily on our wedding day but we didn’t let that interfere with our plans to run around DC getting our pictures taken in our wedding outfits. That dress and my tux got soaked but were dry enough by the time we said I Do.
Six weeks or so later, she looked into having her dress cleaned and put away as a keepsake. It was going to cost more than the dress cost to make. She decided and I agreed that it was our commitment to each other, not the dress, which was important. So she donated the dress to a local charity and never looked back.
Kim and I loved each other and enjoyed each other’s company and spent almost all of our free time together. Fundamentally, though, we chose each other because she was the one I wanted to raise a family with and vice versa.
I will miss her daily, not only as my wife but as the mother of my children. Her death at such a young age is a tragedy and I don’t have the words to express my sadness that my little girls won’t get to grow up with their mommy and that she won’t get to see them grow up.
But, aside from a few minutes of feeling sorry for myself here and there, I’ve never had any doubt that I’d be able to take care of the girls on my own, just as she would have had I been the one to go.
This week has shown me, though, that I don’t have to do it all myself.
Kim would have wanted the maudlin part of this morning’s remembrance kept short and to move on to the celebration.
So, I decided that four speakers, each representing different parts of her life, was enough. Kim had so many friends that choosing only four to speak this morning was no easy task.
She’s been at Public Opinion Strategies for almost sixteen years and made so many friends there that are a part of our life. Of the eleven people on the list I was keeping in the wee hours that morning of who to call once it was late enough to do so—I’m a firm believer that bad news can keep—eight of them had POS connections. And three of them are among our four speakers today.
POS is a multi-million dollar a year business that’s also a family—complete with the yelling and profanity.
Aside from that emergency call to Sue, Neil Newhouse was the first person I called. He’s a founding partner of the firm and was Kim’s first boss there. By the time I met Kim, she was an all but legally adopted member of the Newhouse family. In addition to being the godmother to their recently departed Cavalier, Betsy, a regular guest in our house during Neil and Mary’s frequent travel, she was included in all the major life events. We were there celebrating Tommy’s and Cassidy’s graduations and they were there celebrating Katie’s and Ellie’s birth. And, as noted earlier, his wife Mary was constantly by our side during this trying week.
My next call was to Libby Mehaffey, who became Kim’s friend at POS and remained close since moving back to Minnesota with her husband Matt right after Kim and I got married. Those of you who know me will understand how close the friendship was when I tell you that, not only did the four of us spend ten days together in the same house and rental car along with their then-8-month-old Veda, but we did it again in Arizona a few years later after Katie was born.
Wayne Travers, known in those days as Skip, was one of two of Kim’s college buddies on my list, along with Ron Setkowski. Skip got the nod here because he was the first to volunteer and much more likely than Ron to get through this without breaking down.
The third name on my phone list, Jennifer Reeke, got pushed to my “call back later” list when I realized that, while it was 9:30 Sunday here it was 1:30 Monday morning in Australia. Unfortunately, she discovered the news for herself on Facebook before I could get back to making calls. Jen and Kim go back to grade school in Connecticut and reconnected up here. In fact, Jen worked at POS for a while. I was there for the birth of their second daughter, Cassidy, while Kim and I were still dating. And, of course, she and her husband John were there for the birth of our girls.
So, let me turn it over to Jen, her oldest friend, to say a few words.