Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Katie's Eulogy

Who was Katie Gerstenberger? Katie's eulogy includes many stories that tell you about her character, throughout her life. It was given at Katie's Celebration of Life (at Kiana Lodge), by our cousin, Kim Kristensen, who is like a brother to us.

Katie Gerstenberger’s Celebration of Life August 22, 2007

“Hi, I am Kim Kristensen, Gregg’s cousin, and on behalf of Gregg, Karen and David, it is my honor and pleasure to talk about Katie.

"I would like to first talk about the Gerstenbergers as a family this past year and second, about Katie - who she was and what made her special; for even though her life was short, Katie left an indelible impression. I hope all of us here will reflect upon her life and fondly remember the ever-smiling, vibrant little girl, who illuminated and enriched our lives for a short but brilliant moment.

"The Gerty’s – THE PIT CREW
When Katie was diagnosed with cancer last October 13th, Gregg and Karen asked her what she wanted. Katie told them that she wanted the family to be together as much as possible. So David transferred from Poulsbo Junior High to the Hutch School (associated thru the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center for cancer patients and their family members), to which he could commute from the hospital each day. Then the family moved to the Ronald McDonald House located next to the hospital to complete Katie’s request. From there, at least one family member could be with her at all times, sleeping in her hospital room (with the exception of a short period in the ICU following her surgery – which made it practically impossible for them to get any rest). They ate all their meals together, until chemo made the smell of food intolerable to her. Karen and Gregg helped the nurses. From that experience, they learned to give shots, medications, and to maintain her feeding tube and IV. They discussed the events of the day, and tried to live as much as possible as a normal family at home.

"This was very difficult for Gregg, Karen and David, but it was obviously the hardest on Katie. They became her “PIT CREW” – available 24/7, surrounding her with love and support every moment, because treating cancer and recovering from surgery is a relentless task.
Many entries on CARINGBRIDGE’S website included accolades that described their bravery, strength and spirit. Many of those people openly questioned whether they possessed the wherewithal to endure Katie’s illness, and the Gerstenberger family is to be admired and respected. However, Karen and Gregg didn’t see it that way, for the logic of the accolades was confusing; to them their course was a clear and simple: ask Katie what she wanted and do it. They did everything possible to become “THE PIT CREW” and make it happen. Katie was their daughter and you do everything humanly possible to help her survive.
This is important because it shows the strength of their family: the love, compassion, and care that are the Gregg and Karen Gerstenberger family. For without Gregg and Karen, we cannot celebrate Katie’s life, if we do not in the very least, celebrate the parents who created the warm and caring environment that nurtured Katie and she thrived in. It was where Katie became Katie.

"Katie’s Biography
Katie was born March 8th, 1995 in Seattle. She is the 9th and youngest grandchild of Ed and Elaine Gerstenberger, and the 3rd and youngest grandchild of Phil and Ellie Boren – their only granddaughter.

"Katie was a very happy, easy-going and healthy baby. She looked exactly like Gregg, so much so, that when Karen took his picture to her pediatrician, Diane Fuquay, she thought it was a picture of Katie.

"While Karen worked two days a week, Katie spent those days with Wendy Davenport until she was a year old; when she turned 1, she joined David at Maria (Ria) Norton’s home daycare. Ria became like a 3rd grandmother to Gregg and Karen’s children.

"One of Katie’s special traits was how easily and effortlessly she made friends. After visits to Lion’s Club Park in Poulsbo, she usually got in the car stating, “I made a new friend!” and proceeded to tell Gregg and Karen about the person. Katie never missed an opportunity to meet and play with someone and have fun. Katie loved life and reveled in it.

"She attended the Children’s Garden Montessori School at Sawdust Hill Road, where she had her first crushes on boys (and vice-versa – "I have to get to school so I can marry D_____ on Thursday!"). Even in pre-school, she knew what she did and did not like. One of the teachers was determined to start her on reading some “first” wordbooks, and Katie refused to cooperate. 'I HATE the 'BoB' books!,' she told us.

"Katie attended Poulsbo Elementary from Kindergarten to 5th grade. Her favorite subjects were reading & recess. She started 6th grade at West Sound Academy. At the onset of her illness, she had to withdraw. She finished the 6th grade at the Hutch School.

"While growing up, Katie had swimming, golf, tennis, piano, gymnastics and drama lessons. While she possessed natural athletic abilities, she sometimes disliked being enrolled in lessons. She did everything in her power, for example, to distract her piano teacher from their lessons, and tried to make her laugh as much as possible. Katie liked to learn but she also liked to enjoy things unfettered.

"-Things Katie Loved-
(Template: Walt Whitman, I Hear America Singing)
"This poem describes the dynamics of a youthful and growing America – I believe it also reflects the same characteristic and attributes of Katie. So I used, I Hear America Singing, as a template to profile the youthful exuberance of Katie and the things she loved:

"I Hear Katie Singing
I hear Katie singing, the varied carols I hear,
I see her playing and petting Latte & Liger, purring their happy sounds,
I see Katie having fun at family events & other parties, I hear her talking, laughing and loving everyone,
I see and hear Katie and David signing up with a talent agent, excitedly looking to the future,
I see and hear Katie rehearsing and performing for the Bainbridge Performing Arts Children’s Theatre School,
I see Katie cautiously riding her scooter and bike,
I see Katie climbing and jumping from trees, her laughter echoing through the forest,
I hear Katie swinging & laughing on the rope swing Gregg & David built in their woods,
I see Katie combing the beach, rejoicing at each and every treasure she found,
I see Katie at a big crackling beach fire making s’mores and eating them with delight,
I see Katie playing with David at their grandparents’ houses,
I see Katie boarding the jet to Palm Desert, anticipating the drive down Ramon Rd., playing at the pool and sitting in the hot tub, relishing the coming Pasta Night, shopping on El Paseo, going to the Marriott & La Quinta Grill,
I see the style-conscious Katie happily shopping for clothes, shoes, and jewelry,
I see and hear Katie’s delight, picking fresh vegetables from Kappa’s garden,
I see Katie quietly reading Nancy Drew and Louis Sachar stories or fashion magazines,
I see and hear Katie and David playing and making over the loft into Playmobil village,
I hear Katie scolding Liger for deconstructing their buildings and bring Playmobil items to Gregg and Karen,
I see Katie cheerfully being with her “Sitter-Sister,” Angie Woodman,
I see Katie blissfully thumbing through family photo albums,
I see Katie people-watching, enjoying all those visual wonders,
I see Katie watching her favorite movies and TV shows: Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean, PBS Mystery series and the Disney Channel,
I see and hear Katie laughing and playing with David – her brother & best friend,
I see Katie shooting baskets and dancing with her Dad, singing their joyous songs,
I see the last picture of the two beauties, Katie and Karen, and I sigh with nostalgia,
I hear Katie singing all her strong melodious songs, singing what belongs to her, no-one else, and I smile."

Katie’s Funny Stories, recorded in Karen’s Journal

8/99 A man in a French bikini (thong) walks by Katie and Karen on the Agate Pass beach. After he passes, Katie says, “I said “Hi” to him.” Karen said, “Good honey. What did he say to you?” “He said, Hi.” Katie looks back at him. “Of course, I can see his bottom!”

Stories by Katie:

10/15/99 "Once there was a little girl, her name was Katie G. And she played barbies a lot. She loved her barbies. But the little girl, named Katie found a Barbie wedding shoe. And she tried to put it on her Barbie that morning. She played with her brother with cars. She loved him a lot. So much she couldn’t stop.
Once she said, “I love you.” Once our friends came over and our friend is named… of course they were guests. Their name was Colleen and Daniel. Once my brother went to their house but I didn’t. but me and mommy stayed home. While mommy was folding laundry I watched Little Mermaid. I love our friends. We played at our house. To make David feel Better.
The end. By Katie G."

"THE TOOTH By Kathryn Gerstenberger
Once I was walking on the beach with my friends, Kristin & Sarah, and my brother David. We were going to find some treasures. I was happy. And there we had a snack. I lost my tooth; it was very loose one, of course.
When we got back in the car, I said to Mommy, “Hey! I think I lost my tooth!” Mom said, “Really? Wow!” Then she took a look. Sure enough, I did lost my tooth. Then we had a little play date, and I showed my friend, Kristin, the place where I lost my tooth. She said, “Oooh.”
My brother wanted to play airplane. Then he wrote the Tooth Fairy a note. I can’t remember what the note said.
O, I just remembered!
Dear Tooth Fairy,
My sister lost a tooth. Since we couldn’t find it on the beach, I wrote this note to explain it (since my sister couldn’t write so well).
David Gerstenberger
Then my brother drew cartoons showing me losing the tooth on the beach and me in bed with the Tooth Fairy looking over me. I put my note under my pillow and the next morning, I saw a dollar under my pillow.
The End"

2/27/98 Watching the “Today Show” - the funny and egocentric nature of children:
The camera pans the crowd outside the studio. People wave, holding up placards with messages (“It’s my birthday!,” “From Iowa,” “Florida Girls Love Matt” [Lauer, co-host]). They also shout greetings to people at home. One person says “Hi, Grandma!,” and Katie yells back, “I am not your GRANDMA!”

8/99 A conversation between Karen and Katie:
Karen: God is invisible
Katie: He is real!
Karen: Yes, but you cannot see Him. He is like the wind…. You can see what it does to things, you can feel it, but you can’t see it. You can’t smell God, either.
Katie: I smelled him
Karen: Really? What did he smell like?
Katie: Like raspberry. He had a raspberry bubble bath.

Katie’s Dreams
Katie’s List of things she wanted to be after she realized she was dying. This list comes from numerous conversations with her Mom.
· She wanted to travel to places like Paris, Rome, Japan – or “The World” in general
· Be a children's book author, a fashion designer, go to Jr. High, High School, college, and get a job
· Get married, be a mother, aunt and finally a grandmother
· Be a good sister – she accomplished that, despite the illness
· Make enough money to live a nice, modest life with good things

In the last 11 months of her life, Katie grew up a great deal. She matured in grace, humor, strength and awareness during her treatment and recovery. Everyone who met her fell in love with her. She made wonderful connections with people everywhere.

In conclusion: Gregg, Karen and David hope, in coming here to share in this celebration, that you will take away with you some knowing, some spark of Katie’s qualities and of her life, and that you will keep her memory in a way that feels natural to you.
Thank you!


Gannet Girl said...

How wonderful to get to know YOUR Lovely Daughter and your family through these beautiful descriptions.

I feel just as I do when I look at our stuff: How could this kind of loss possibly have happened? Katie is an absolutely spectacular young lady.

Me said...

These stories and her writings are so cute. I love that God took a raspberry bubble bath. I mean, Why wouldn't he???

Clippy Mat said...

how lovely.
She was a really special child. I hope that eulogy does help you celebrate her life and give you comfort.

Busy Bee Suz said...

Katie has such a great personality. I cracked up at all the things she said and did. I am so glad you recorded these little bits of her life.
I am pretty sure she is center stage up in heaven, making everyone giggle!!!!

Lakeland Jo said...

lovely post- really enjoyed it. A really special girl

Karen said...

What a privilege to get to know Katie a little better. Somehow I wasn't surprised to hear about her expressive and bright personality. You can see it in her eyes.

I know it hasn't been easy to go on without her. Your family is a tower of strength and faith. All of you are so beautiful---made even more beautiful by your love and devotion to Katie. Such a special girl in a special family, someday all reunited again.
Our blessed hope.
Love and hugs to you all.

Anonymous said...

I had read the obituary before - the raspberry bubble bath always made me laugh! It's wonderful to imagine her in the light of her favourite things. It reminded me of a poem by one of my favourite authors, Richard Brautigan -

you wake up
from death,
you will find yourself
in my arms,
I will be
kissing you,
will be crying.

I have no doubt that Katie will be waiting for you, Gregg and David.


Pam said...

What a touching eulogy. Thank you for sharing it with us. What a funny girl... so witty. My heart breaks in a million little pieces every time I think of all you've endured.

christine said...

Just sending you a big hug today---from my heart to yours...such a great writer you are, such a deep soul...dear friend.

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a special treasure. Know I'm thinking of you guys!

Anonymous said...

When I read these posts, I can't help but miss Katie...and I never knew her. She sounds like such a wonderful, intelligent, happy, loving, and beautiful person.

Renee said...

Katie is so beautiful Karen and this eulogy is wonderful.

love Renee xoox

Dawn said...

For days, I have been trying to figure out what to say. And still, there seems to be no words adequate enough to tell you how much I enjoyed getting to know more of your daughter Katie. She has such a prescence and a legacy that will last lifetimes. I know you will always be over the moon that you Karen got to be her momma. What a wonderful honor that we get to be the momma's of the atmosphere changers!

Dean said...

Thank you for sharing this, for you, for us. I'm thinking, right now, of how courage comes from the same word for heart. I don't know about the strength you have. I see Katie complete.

Truth Ferret said...

I am just now discovering your blog and the entries. Please know that my heart has become warm with the reading of your sweet girl's life. You and all who loved her are so brave to be able to share their thoughts and feeling in such a raw form. You will never fully understand the impact that your sweetness has made on me. Thank you for sharing your heart, your daughter and your story with me.

Mirabai said...

You & Katie are so beautiful, Karen. Thank you so much for sharing her with me. I feel deeply connected to you both. Do you know about the MISS Foundation? I think it would be a beautiful fit for your family. They have a gathering every other year. Please stay in touch, sister of my heart. Mirabai

Mirabai said...

I'm not sure if the comments I wrote a few minutes ago posted, Karen. But I am deeply moved by Katie's story - and yours - and feel very connected to you both. Let's stay in touch. Love, Mirabai

Unknown said...

Dear One,

I cherish reading about Katie, though I was fortunate to know and love her...Received your linked in invite; I am no longer on there, but would love to keep in touch...I will be home this summer for only three days and hope I can see you...love to you and Gregg and David...what a great picture of the three of you!
Mary Anne in Denver...

Ohmydearests said...

What a special human being Katie was- so full of life, joy & love. x