A few days ago, my young friend Kate Hopkins went home to California for Spring Break. A student at the University of Tennessee, she was excited to get to spend some time seeing family and friends. A native of Martinez in San Francisco’s East Bay, Kate was especially looking forward to an adventure in Yosemite. On Sunday she drove the four hours to get there and like most everyone who spends any time in the park, got busy taking photos. How can you not try to recapture the beauty?
Unfortunately, what should have been a fun excursion for a 20 year old home from school, turned tragic. Kate was in a skateboarding accident and had to be helicoptered to a hospital in Modesto because of a severe head injury. I received the first text from her mom about this on Sunday night and learned that things were very bleak. I was shocked, and deeply saddened.
I met Kate several years ago when I was living in the Bay Area and had begun my healing practice after leaving corporate HR. Her mother Jackie brought Kate and her brother Clint to me to support their growth and gifts. Both kids had been having encounters with angels and her mother, fully accepting of what they were telling her, helped them to understand what was going on and wanted my support with that as well. Having had my own surprising exchanges with angels in recent times, I was thrilled to meet such young kids who were seeing them with their own eyes, which was not the way I encountered them.
I continued to develop my relationship with Kate over the years and recently, we were talking on the phone about her experiences in college and what looked like a very bright future in front of her. Kate wasn’t sure what direction she was headed but it seemed pretty clear that she would be doing work with groups of people, helping them in some way. Kate was a magnet for friendship and had a natural way with others. That smile you see seemed to never leave her face, and people were drawn to her kindness and joy.
Her death is hitting many of us really hard. There’s something so wrong about the unexpected death of a young person…the shock of it, the heartbreak for family and friends, the loss of so much potential. What brings me solace, and certainly is doing so for her family, is the way Kate will live on through organ donation. So far, her heart is going to someone in San Francisco who is in imminent danger of dying; her liver and one kidney are going to another critically ill person there; the other kidney has been promised as well, along with lungs and pancreas. They are even hoping to help someone with Kate’s beautiful skin and peepers (corneas). What a legacy! Jackie tells me that whoever receives these organ donations should be prepared to love chocolate!
I am sure I will find peace at some point with the fact that this terrible thing has happened and for now, I take comfort in knowing that Kate continues to do so much good. It is amazing how many people are posting their love for her on her Facebook page, and how many young women felt like Kate was their best friend. All those photos of her with her friends are wonderful to see and reveal an astounding talent for connecting with others.
So Kate, who was at home with angelic encounters, is now an angel herself. Her cell phone has been a virtual treasure trove of photos that is bringing her family some real joy in the midst of all the sorrow. And this one just stuns me in its timing…
Clearly Kate had a strong sense of self and her place in the world that she easily shared with others. I take inspiration from her life and will honor her memory by honoring myself, and hope that I can in some measure, touch people the way she did, with joy.
©Maria K. Benning, M.Ed.
Wellness Facilitator & Teacher