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Monday, 10 December 2012

For Katherine

Love is stronger than death even though it can’t stop death from happening, but no matter how hard death tries it can’t separate people from love. It can’t take away our memories either. In the end, life is stronger than death. ~ Unknown
Yesterday I received the news that someone I deeply admired had passed away. Katherine Louise Neumann, age 40, died on Saturday after a  heroic 4 year journey with cancer. The work I do sometimes guides me into working with people who are at various stages of illness & recovery. I've worked with Katherine regularly over the last few years, at multiple stages of her illness; both with private yoga sessions, hypnotherapy and some pretty honest candid conversations about life, love and our ability to heal. I remember the last time I saw Katherine... I was elated. She seemed so healthy, so vibrant.  I will always remember her that way. There was a strength in her that only those who have truly had to face, and overcome, major physical challenges exude. There is something about working that closely with your body, enduring treatment, navigating through those times when no one else is there and you are face to face with your own mortality, putting on a brave face for your family and friends.....There's an understanding that comes with that kind journey that you are not your body... and that produces a certain kind of power. An energy that can actually be felt in the room. 
(Photo of Katherine & her mum Karen compliments of Pamela Koudijs)

I don't know why some people get sick and others don't. But I do know that we are all here for a reason. And I do know that Love is always hidden inside every obstacle and every "lesson". Katherine's journey was not an easy one. But, then again, the really great teachers never have it "easy". That's what I see Katherine as - a healer, and a teacher. Katherine taught us about the importance of fusing medicine with other alternative healing modalities including: nutrition, yoga, meditation, vitamin supplementation. That was one of her dreams in fact...we often spoke about how important it is for medicine to become more well rounded to take the individual as a whole into account, and not just focus on the disease. She talked many times about how she would like to delve deeper into working more closely with the medical community or somehow assist in helping others understand all that's available to them.. above and beyond the chemo. As a nurse, this experience for her helped her to understand, on many different levels, what 'healing' is. And I pledge to honor her by continuing to raise awareness and further the work that she started. 
Katherine's journey here on Earth not only inspired many, but also invited those who knew her into a deeper experience of themselves, just by knowing her. I told her that many times. Imagine feeling, and knowing, that you had a limited amount of time here. On some level we all know that. But we still waste so much time and energy with our own pettiness, our silly judgments  and the resentments we allow to  control our lives. One of the gifts of cancer is that it forces you to live in the moment and to appreciate each and every day. It produces an honesty and a powerful vulnerability that cuts through the mundane bullshit of daily existence. It reminds us how fragile we are and how short this lifetime really is.
There's been a lot of sadness surrounding Katherine's passing. A lot of talk about how she "lost her battle" with cancer. But I see it differently. Katherine's life was deeply courageous. She is one of the strongest people that I have ever met. In the Yogic philosophy we believe that you choose the time of your death. That on some level, you decide when it is time to go. Katherine did a lot of work while she was here. She truly was a role model in many ways for her family, her little son Lawson, her husband. Katherine's illness sparked a lot of varied reactions in those who knew her. Some positive, others not so much. And that is the role of a good teacher: to assist you in elevating your consciousness. This is not always easy. In fact it can be very uncomfortable! Especially when certain aspects of society want us to remain blissfully ignorant with our 2.5 cars, our white picket fences and the belief that we should never be "uncomfortable" but that we are all supposed to be happy, healthy, rich and "normal". Katherine was, what I consider, a torch bearer...a carrier of the light. This is a job that is reserved only for the very very brave.
Physics tells us that energy cannot be created or destroyed - that it simply changes form. Our attachment to our bodies makes it hard to understand this when someone leaves their body. But according to physics ~ the essence of Katherine Neumann has simply changed form. She may no longer inhabit her body but she is still very much alive. Her spirit will remain with her family and with those of us who knew her. She will continue to look after Lawson in her own way and to inspire those people who were a part of this journey with her. I heard it said recently to Katherine's brother, Brent, that he "had a strong Angel behind him now." And that's exactly how I view it. Katherine will still be there in those still quiet moments. She will be there when her family and friends need her and with each new phase in Lawson's life. She will be there when that soft inner voice directs you to the answers you seek. And, I believe, when those beautiful butterflies come to softly sit next to you - that it is them, those strong angels behind us, gently making their presence known.

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