When Death unexpectedly asks for the last dance…

Sunrise, sunset...

Sunrise, sunset…

How unexpectedly Death can knock on one’s door and steal away a loved one, a friend, a co-worker.

One minute you can be talking and laughing and joking and making fun of what’s right and not right in the world…and suddenly you’re not right in the world.  You’re gone.  You’ve fallen over at your desk, fifteen minutes passed out before someone finds you and hurries to breathe into your mouth, breathe once, breathe again, please breathe, please don’t die, please move, please laugh again…

As some of you know from my Facebook status–or calls, or email on that sad yesterday afternoon–Barry’s 47-year-old co-worker and friend at the Sentinel, Cathy, died somewhere between 2 and 3 p.m. from massive cardiac arrest at her desk.

Barry and she had laughed together yesterday morning, and planned and plotted, and shared as co-workers often do all during the beautiful bright February morning here in the Upper Peninsula.

Sail away, sail away...

Sail away, sail away…

She and Barry were friends, even though they never saw one another outside the work environment.  Many nights and mornings before work he would share “Cathy stories”, stories about his comrade at the paper, stories about their friendship over newspaper software, over the ups & downs of sharing a job together for many years.

She seemed healthy yesterday morning.  She seemed like she would live forever, at least until old age knocked on her door and took her away, long after retirement from the newspaper, at a more appropriate time perhaps, if death ever rings at an appropriate time.

Barry asked her, “Will you be coming in tomorrow?” and Cathy thought for a few minutes before replying, “No, I don’t think I’ll be coming in tomorrow.  No, I won’t.”



Barry left the office around noon and he would never see Cathy’s smiling face again.  Mid-afternoon I got the sad call from another co-worker who had just performed CPR and I drove numbly into town to sit at Barry’s desk and to be present for the mourning staff.

My husband didn’t return home until after 7 p.m. and I walked with heavy legs and heart toward the bright headlights of his car with the sad, sad news.  Oh, the devastating tragic news of unexpected death.

His face fell so sorrowfully as he listened.  Then, sadly, slowly, he walked inside to telephone a half-dozen co-workers and lament, lament, that this had happened to his friend on a February afternoon between de-fragmenting her computer and typing press releases.  Earlier in the morning her computer screen lit up with the “blue screen of death”.  Little did they know that death had additional plans…

The cycle of life...and death...

The cycle of life…and death…

Barry is writing a column about Cathy for next week’s paper this morning.  He’ll find words to help the community honor and grieve for this special woman.  Perhaps he’ll find some measure of comfort as he remembers and shares.

As a friend, Sandi White, just posted beneath my Facebook status:  Sudden departures shock a person’s sensibilities and seem to upend our notions of “what ought to be”. We pause and consider those around us, the fragility of life, how easily the cord can be broken. I lost a friend recently and so can understand. This is the time to let those you love know just how much they mean to you, never wait to say “I love you”. They or you may not get another chance. I love you, Kathy Drue.

May we not take one another for granted.  We don’t know how soon before Death asks for the last dance.

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
This entry was posted in February 2013 and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

48 Responses to When Death unexpectedly asks for the last dance…

  1. Elisa says:

    Just sits down, thinking.

  2. bree1972 says:

    A beautiful, heart-string tugging post, Kathy. So, so sorry about the passing of your husband’s friend and co-worker. Hugs all around.

  3. Stacy says:

    Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote my favorite poem on death – “Dirge without Music.” In it she claims “I am not resigned.” I am never ok with the idea of death, sudden or expected. It’s just not fair.

    But since the Universe doesn’t care if I think it’s fair or not, I’ll just offer you my condolences and hope that your friend’s loved ones can, in time, heal. ❤

  4. Carol says:

    You put it so beautifully, how suddenly our physical being just stops functioning, how all that is left is bits of our spirits and the memories we’ve made for others. How it is so important to follow our hearts and live our lives as fully and with as much joy as we can, while we can.

  5. it definitely gives you a pause in your step and your day, I hope that peace is found for your husband and her other co-workers, but also realize as upheaval as this is for those left behind it is a peace for her, and possibly she is still around to help those that need assistance regarding her passing, but I believe that as harsh as this feels to those left behind if she never called out it was a peaceful passing on her part.

  6. P.j. grath says:

    Please tell Barry that sympathy is beaming his way from Leelanau County. It’s for you, too. “Ask not for whom the bell tolls.” These sudden departures touch us all in some way, and I am sending you warm hugs, dear friend.

  7. My condolences, Kathy. I have no doubt the love and respect she earned here on earth will go with her always.

  8. dorannrule says:

    In the end the only happy endings are in our memories of those we held dear, and the only way to cope with horrendous loss is to mourn and then remember. Thank you for this beautiful tribute to a life well lived and filled with beautiful friendship.

  9. Dana says:

    How tragic, Kathy. Pausing to appreciate everyone in my life right now… xo

  10. Susan D. says:

    Achingly poignant, and beautifully expressed …

  11. We share a friend in common — Sandi. I love you both Kathy Drue and Sandi White.

  12. You made a wonderful point in this post — never wait to tell those you love that you love them — thank you for this — and I just want to tell you I appreciate our blog friendship Kathy —

  13. bonnie says:

    Deep sympathy to Barry and co-workers. Such a shock for them, I’m sure. Thoughts and a special prayer for strength and peace for all.

  14. Brenda Hardie says:

    Kathy, I’m sending prayers up for Barry and Cathy’s other co workers. May his words of tribute and comfort sink deeply into their souls…and into his. I’m also sending prayers up for Cathy’s family and circle of friends…may they all allow the mourning to heal their grief and then find comfort in their memories of her. And dear, sweet Kathy…please know my prayers are with you….the one who stands strong like a rock. May you know peace in your heart and may you find comfort within the compassion you extend to Barry and others. And Kathy….know this as well..I love you , my sweet friend of the northwoods.

  15. Please extend my sympathy to Barry. As difficult as it is to maintain a bedside vigil and watch someone you love slip away bit by bit, I think the shock of not being able to say good-bye must be worse. I’m sorry for your loss.

  16. Thank you for sharing this piece Kathy. Healing hugs and prayers to Barry and all who were a part of Cathy’s life. I always find your blog entries to be a healing and comforting place to sit and stay awhile. Even though we are not ‘hanging out together’ buddies, I do consider you my friend. Love you.

  17. Colleen says:

    Kathy, I’m so sorry. We just want you and Barry to know we are thinking about you, sharing your thoughts and sadness as we remember . There are no easy words that come.

    Love Colleen

  18. sandiwhite says:

    Kathy, I’m honored that you felt my words were worth repeating, I am also serious in letting those you may see like the wallpaper, always there, always present, how much their steady presence steadies your world. That their life gives balance to your own. I’ve had people blush in surprise but knowing the circumstances, quickly understand where I am coming from with this statement. I hope they’ve gone on to tell others that they are loved too. Laurie Buchanan, you know I love You!

  19. lucindalines says:

    Oh I know the loss that Barry is feeling and the writing. The last week that I worked at the local paper, I had to write of the passing of the County Sheriff. It is a daunting task. I wish him well and my thoughts are with her family and friends.

  20. john says:

    The entire extended Sentinel family is in our thoughts and prayers. I know it is no easy task for Barry to write that column, but I know it will be a loving, insightful look at his friend and colleague.

  21. rehill56 says:

    So sorry to hear this sad news Kathy. Hugs to you and Barry. My thoughts and prayers are with you both and all who are mouring this loss of Cathy, a vibrant member of the community gone too soon.

  22. How tragic and sudden…. my condolences to you and Barry, and to Cathy’s family. ♥

  23. Kerry Dwyer says:

    Loss of a loved one
    Loss of a friend
    Loss of a stranger
    It’s all loss in the end

    Loss when we’re Young
    Loss when we’re old
    Loss in the middle age
    It’s still loss untold

    Grief for our life
    Grief for our death
    Grief for whatever cause
    Is grief none the less

    Love for our family
    Love for our friends
    Love for humanity
    It’s love that will mend.


  24. Oh, so sorry! There is no easy way to lose someone that has become part of our lives, but the sudden, unforeseen death has got to be one of the most difficult. My heart goes out to Barry, for the loss of his co-worker and friend, to you, and all others that feel the loss at this sad time.

  25. Lori D says:

    Heartfelt hugs to you and Barry.

  26. sybil says:

    I seldom encounter stories of death on my jolly blogging trips, and this is the third blog about loss I’ve read in the last week !

    My heart goes out to your husband, Cathy’s other co-workers and her family.

  27. Heather says:

    Death is never easy, but seems so much less fair when it comes unexpectedly or for the young. A few years ago I lost a friend/colleague who I co-taught with. He was 23. Life does not take fairness into consideration I suppose.
    Thinking of you and Barry with love. Spend some extra time on the phone with your kiddos; it’ll help your heart.

  28. dearrosie says:

    My condolences to everyone especially Cathy’s family. Its not fair and doesn’t make sense when someone so young is taken so quickly.

    Your last line is the one I’m taking away from this…
    May we not take one another for granted. We don’t know how soon before Death asks for the last dance.

  29. Dawn says:

    Heartbreaking. Barry will find comfort in writing the column. But the pain for all of you in your community will linger for a very long time. I’m thinking about her family and friends, coworkers and readers. Sudden death like this may be easier for those who depart…but is so difficult for those left behind. Hugs to you and to Barry. Lots of hugs.

  30. Barb says:

    So, so sad. Hugs to Barry and to you and to all her family and friends. Life doesn’t wait and neither does death.

  31. Celeste says:

    Sorry for you and your husband’s loss. Thank you for sharing with us, and know that light and love are heading north from San Antonio tonight.

  32. Georgia Mom says:

    Recently when Barry and I were talking on the phone, I remarked that we sadly removed nine names from our Holiday mailing list. We agreed that in our 80 plus years we have to accept our dear friends’ departure of long friendships and in our cases also co-workers and mentors.
    Barry, you are in our prayers and thoughts and to the Sentinal staff and Cathy’s family our prayers. Love you, Barry & Kathy

  33. Sending virtual hugs to you and your husband.

  34. penpusherpen says:

    Ah Kathy, we none of us know when our life’s journey will end. and for those left behind it’s a doubly painful experience… shock and sadness, and regret of words not said, or things left undone, My thoughts and prayers are with you both at this most saddest of times. xPenx

  35. debyemm says:

    Oh yes, it is so true. Just recently, I was thinking of how complete I feel in my life at the moment and how I could die anytime and not feel I was robbed of any life due me – but then, I’ve had more years than your husband’s colleague. My daughter lost her step-mother just a year or more ago, and she was younger than I am. Fact is, we are not guaranteed any particular length of incarnation. EVERY day is a blessing of being here on this planet. My sympathies to you and Barry.

  36. Kathy my deepest sympathy to you, Barry, Cathy’s family and friends and to your community. I am typing this at 6:45 am on a southern west coast of Canada dawn and thinking about how fragile and small our world can be. May comfort come in time.

  37. Karen says:

    So sorry for the loss of your husband’s friend. This is the third post today that has mentioned the loss of someone…we must all live each day as if it was the last.

  38. Kathy says:

    Thank you for all your kind words. It has been a really rough time for Barry. He will miss his friend and co-worker, Cathy, very much. He spoke to her husband this morning. Last night I had Book Club here at the house (happens once a year) and Barry ended up sitting with all of us women for the entire three hours! Guess he didn’t want to be alone… The visitation is on Tuesday and the funeral on Wednesday. It has been very hard for so many in our small community… I do appreciate your well-wishes and condolences.

  39. Gillian says:

    That’s so sad, Kathy. I lost a co-worker earlier this month. He had been off work for about a month and was recovering from a heart attack. He was only in his mid-thirties. They think he had a second one. Because he’d been off work since December I can’t remember the last time I saw him. That makes it sort of unreal. Two years ago, we lost another co-worker. He had been hit by a dump truck while crossing the street at lunch. I walked by the accident on my way back to work and could tell by all the emergency vehicles that something really bad had happened. About an hour later, we got an email from our HR department saying one of our own had been killed. His death hit me really hard, even though we weren’t close, because I had walked by the scene of the accident. You just never know when you’ll see someone for the last time. 😦

  40. OM says:

    Oh my. Thank you, Kathy, for sharing your words and beyond the words, about this, with us. So many of my thoughts have already been expressed. Death is rarely easy for the living to deal with.
    Holding you and your family, and Cathy’s family, in the Love that we Are.
    And sending hugs!

  41. me2013 says:

    I am going to ring my dad now.

  42. Reggie says:

    What an awfully sad tale, dearest Kathy and Barry. Words are failing me… Sending a big warm hug to both of you across the miles.

  43. The world grew smaller for Barry, you and your community with the loss of Cathy.
    Your post here was very sad yet left all of those who have read a great message…take time NOW…for that is all we are guaranteed.

    I somehow had missed this. I will be sending HUGS on Tuesday and Wednesday as you make your way through the endless moments of saying your goodbyes as a couple, a newspaper and a community.

  44. I’m so sorry to hear about this sudden loss. I know how difficult it can be coming to terms with a co-worker’s sudden permanent departure, especially one with whom you have often laughed and commiserated. It happened to me a few years ago, too. I hope you and your hubby will always remember her with fondness and may the memory of her friendship never fade.

  45. Kat B. says:

    Oh how this post touches me, as I look in the mirror and see someone just shy of 47. Truly, we never know what tomorrow holds. Such an important reminder to enjoy today and enjoy those we love and cherish. ~ Kat

  46. Kathy says:

    Thank you again, my friends. Cathy’s visitation is Tuesday night and her funeral is on Wednesday. They just discovered that her cause of death was a defective heart valve.

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