This is mixed emotion type of blog post. I want to thank you for your donations to help pay for the final expenses of local social worker and advocate Cathy Cairns. Friday evening, one of the organizers posted this:
Including the many checks we have received in Cathy’s name, you have raised $8725. This is absolutely amazing! Thank you all!
We are going to keep this site running so that we can continue to post updates for you, but rest assured that Cathy’s last wishes will indeed be met.
In about ten days, nearly 200 people from all walks of life donated so that Cathy will be able to pass in peace knowing that her final wishes will be met. But what struck me was an earlier update, confirming that Cathy was aware of the effort.
Cathy is getting tons of visitors and well wishes at the hospital. She touched so many lives, so many great causes. Going to see her today, read some posts and cards to her. She is weak, and can still talk a little, but can still recognize mostly everyone and it’s fun to see her face light up when people walk in the room she has not seen for some time.
You are doing both of the things – helping assure her final wishes are met and offering her comfort & friendship during her final days. As I understand her health, she is not receiving any nutrition or fluids via IV, only what she can manage by mouth, but she is on pain medication and mostly sleeping. That’s not gospel – one thing I’ve learned is that her two friends, David and Shakura, are burning the midnight oil to support Cathy, sort out her affairs and take care of their own families. So I try not to ask intrusive questions or allow others to do so through me.
I’m struck by the many names that I recognize among the donors as well as by the numerous anonymous, modest donations with references to Cathy having helped the donor at some point. That’s a true tribute to a life well lived.
Still, it feels awkward, perhaps, to celebrate being able to pay for a funeral for someone who is still alive. Actually, it feels tragic. Certainly, peace of mind is a gift and I am particularly grateful that she gets this. Still, David has said several times that Cathy is scared and that’s very sobering.
I can’t shake sadness that this was even necessary – that Cathy was so ill, that she had no health insurance in time to get treatment and that none of her jobs provided her with any sort of retirement or pension or even life insurance. Many people who have responded have mentioned how these barriers played a role in the death of a loved one. If that is true for you, I urge you to take a deep breath and start to explore planning ahead, no matter how difficult that seems. But at the same time, I recognize that many of us cannot do this and that’s sad.
Fighting the impact of poverty is the job Cathy did so well for so long. We must fulfill her legacy by continuing to have these conversations about poverty in the LGBTQ community and pushing back against structures that want to keep us impoverished. And silent.
No, we must continue to speak out and help each other stay strong when we are scared and find comfort when we are overwhelmed.