There’s an African proverb that says “It takes a village to raise a child.” It’s a concept I have pondered quite a bit in recent days as I reflect on the death of one of the chieftesses in my own “village.”
Katherine Hedeen, who died quite suddenly last week, was one of my late mother’s very best friends. Her husband, Bill Hedeen, had been one of my father’s very best friends. The photos shown here are from a trip they all took to Europe in 1980.
I have known Katherine my entire life and can point to very particular influences she had on my life.
Younger than my siblings by 10 and eight years, I was also the youngest child among my parents’ close circle of friends. Consequently, I was brought along to parties and other gatherings more than my sister and brother, and I spent quite a bit of time with those adults.
Katherine, in particular, took an interest in me. She encouraged my love of reading by giving me books, even enrolling me in a children’s book club. I still have a few of those books in my collection and would never think of parting with them.
I knew Katherine to be a bit prim and proper (Mom always prompted me to send a prompt and proper thank-you note for those books), but she was also warm and caring and always interested in whatever I was doing, never failing to include me in the conversation. I also often attended the theater with my parents and the Hedeens, cultivating that interest, too.
When my brother Marty was battling cancer and Mom spent most of the summer of 1975 in Rochester with him, Katherine was one of several of her friends who stepped up to fill a motherly role for this then-12-year-old.
And Katherine also stepped up for me later in life, after my dear mom passed away in 2005 (my father Don having preceded her nine years prior).
Katherine made a point of calling me. She sent me emails. She invited me over for ice tea with lemon and brownies. On the occasion of my 50th birthday — a time when I was sharply feeling the absence of my birthday-loving momma — Katherine honored the occasion with a special gift, filling that void and touching my heart.
In recent years, the population of my village of elders has steadily declined, one by one. Katherine’s death is the most recent of many who influenced my life in one way or another.
There are only a handful of such people left, and I am feeling her loss quite keenly. When I attend Katherine’s memorial service tomorrow, there will likely be a few tears shed as I envision the reunion happening on a heavenly plain. But I imagine there is one heck of a bridge game going on up there, and the thought of that puts a smile on my face.