Friday, August 26, 2011

Time Keeps Running, Even When You Want It To Stop

You never know when it will be the last time you see someone.  I unfortunately learned a few days ago that a good friend and colleague of mine passed away.  She'd been battling cancer for several years.  In fact, she came to the Master's program for Creative Writing in order to write her memoir about her struggle with it.  She and I started school together, we were in the same advising group together for our first two semesters, and the school I attend is very small.  We're a tight knit group.  We all complete our work from wherever we happen to live in the US and abroad, but for one full week, twice a year, we attend residency together where we live together, eat together, attend workshops together.  It's very intense and life altering.  I highly recommend low-residency programs, particularly the one at Goddard College.

She and I also ended up taking the same semester off.  Yet, we both returned and for the same reason: that, doing this program is a gift to ourselves.  Regardless of money or anything else superfluous to completing the degree, the act of pursuing it is essentially the gift.  She didn't attend this past semester because the cancer came back.  I know she fought very hard.  I also know that, the last semester we attended together, she said something along the lines of, "I'm tired about writing about this - I want to write about life!"  She did start writing about her family and all the things that were most important to her rather than this thing.

I've been in shock since I got the news on Monday.  It's hard to accept that she's gone.  I keep saying to myself, "But I knew her!"  Not just like I knew her name, I mean, I knew her!  She was a very sharp, positive, supportive person.  And funny!  She had a great sense of humor.  In our second semester, I read the beginning to my novella about a cat, and it's a disgusting hairless cat that is described by its new owner as 'a beast.'  Later she was talking about having to wear wigs or hats during chemo, and she said, "Because if I didn't I would look like, well, The Cat!"  Then she busted up laughing.

She always wore shirts with Peace signs on them.  She bonded much more with some of the other girls at school who I know knew her better than I did, but she was still a friend of mine.  It's been sobering.  And sad.  I'm re-evaluating things in my life, as you do when things like this happen, and more than realizing, but I think remembering, what's important and wherein the true gifts of this life reside.  That's with family and friends, trusting yourself enough to follow your heart, indulge your passions: Let yourself live. 

In memory of Katy Zirbel ~ because she did indeed live.


  1. oh, I am so sorry. For obvious reason I heard much about her and feel like she was someone I knew. I know that she and I shared a love for life & wanted to take it by the horns and shake every drop out of it especially BECAUSE of our intimate connection with how precious it is. Last night I went to see Santana and I was in the middle of a group of people that was sitting. I just couldn't sit....and I knew that if I got sick again, the thing I would have wanted it is that I danced more. So dance I did!!!! ALL NIGHT!! And....the people around me got up and danced too! LIVE this life....honor her memory in your joy. It is what she would do....I know..... Robyn

  2. Hi. While I don't easily recall Katy, you brought her to life for me. May her memory bring you peace.

  3. So sorry to hear about that. This is a very nice post about her.

  4. Thank you for all your comments, it's nice to be part of this community of writers and it's sad when we lose one of our own.