On May 24, we said goodbye to Kathi Kamen Goldmark, my beloved soul mate, wife, partner and one of the most marvelous people I have ever known (and I’ve known more than a few). Calls and messages came from all over the world: from Maya Angelou and Oscar Hijuelos and Matt Groening and Mitch Albom and Judy Collins and Scott Turow and Ridley Pearson—I have to stop, because there is not room here to list everyone who loved Kathi, and who Kathi and I love. On her second to last day Roger McGuinn called us in the hospital room to sing the song “May the Road Rise Up to Meet You.” So many messages came to me, my brother Dave, to Amy Tan, Elaine Petrocelli, Susanne Pari—messages from young and old, famous and not, from all walks of life—that we were simply overwhelmed.
All of them said the same thing, though in different ways: Goodbye, beautiful spirit. You are amazing and I am forever changed because of you. Thank you. I love you.
One of the many ways that Kathi helped people was through this column and our book about writing, Write That Book Already! But long before the Author Enablers, Kathi was an enabler in the most positive sense of the term, always encouraging everyone she met to be fearless, to leap in and give writing, or music, or whatever it was that tugged at our hearts, a go. She was like a Johnny Appleseed of creativity and joy.
It isn’t fair that she left us so soon, when she had so much life in her and so much to do. Cancer isn’t fair, and vampire-like it robbed us of a great person. But it never defeated her spirit—not for a second.
We gathered in a beautiful room in UCSF Hospital, high on a hill overlooking Kathi’s beloved adopted home of San Francisco, a town that she had wired long before the world went online. So many people came to that hospital suite that it became a party, a celebration of this remarkable life. The nurses and doctors joined in, drawn, like so many others, to Kathi’s bright light. Kathi awoke and smiled at us and even made jokes. We cried and laughed. My daughter Laura and I sang “Amazing Grace” and her son Tony sang “Rainbow Connection.” We all sang some more and shared story after story. Still more calls and messages came.
And then the time came to say goodbye. Now we go on, though in my case I am not sure of the way.
Actually, that’s not true. Right now, as I am writing this, I don’t feel like I can go on. But I know the way, or at least the direction. It isn’t fair that Kathi left us too early, but she was not cheated by life—not one bit. She lived each day so fully, with so much enjoyment, that she managed to pack several lives into her one life.
If you are reading this column you are likely an aspiring writer, and certainly you are a lover of books. If you are struggling with your writing or wondering how to navigate the world of publishing, I know that Kathi would encourage you to keep going, keep trying. I also know she would urge you to get involved, to go out and meet other writers, to be a part of your local literary community, and to help build it up. What is community but us? Kathi believed in joining in like nobody I ever knew, and as a result she was given the riches of amazing experiences, loving friends beyond count, an extraordinary, multifaceted career, and a fabulous life, well lived. And she kept going right to the end. Three days before Kathi left us we were hard at work on a book about our experience as a couple in which both partners have been patients and caregivers.
I know what I need to do now. I need to keep on living, and writing, and singing, and playing, and trying to make the world a little better and more fun. Kathi wouldn’t want it any other way.