As many of you know, I lent Kri some of my dearest friends in the Broken Series. Some are mentioned by name, others by aliases. I’ve heard from a lot of readers how they love these characters, how they feel like friends, and how they miss them when they step away from the series. That is what makes this so hard. It is with a heavy heart that I share we’ve lost one of these remarkable friends. My beautiful, passionate, feisty, big-hearted, not-afraid-to-be-girlie, pink and prankster loving, fiery red-headed friend Kimme died unexpectedly in July. I am still grappling with the fact that I can’t text her. I will never again hear her voice. I won’t get to see those cute little pig tails she rocked well into her 50’s. I’ll never get to cook clam linguine with her again. I can’t share another glass of wine with her while we strategize about the many ways we could right the wrongs in this world. Kimme was such a powerful, steadfast advocate for veterans, for people with disabilities, and for seniors.
I don’t think she fully realized the countless lives she touched and the many, many people she helped both in and outside of the office. She wore many hats… long term care ombudsman, elder rights advocate, veterans advocate, health insurance counselor, talk show host for Aging Horizons, dog-lover, friend, and wife, just to name a few. I deeply admired her energy and dedication to helping others, especially knowing the challenges she faced as the spouse of a Vietnam veteran who struggles mightily with a traumatic brain injury and PTSD. She. Never. Stopped. Giving. And she loved with her whole heart.
Some of my fondest memories with Kimme involve hiking Mount Helena, sitting at the top, and contemplating life together; collecting and delivering Christmas gifts to veterans residing in Montana’s veterans’ homes; cooking together; donning fancy hats and throwing a full-on tea party at 5:30 a.m. while we watched Prince William marry Kate Middleton; and, of course, pranking Charlie and waging water-gun wars to liven things up at the office. Kimme was a remarkable friend, one I hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know, even if just a little, in the Broken Series.
So, this is my Christmas wish… that each and every person who reads this post finds a veteran who is isolated and alone, stops by to introduce themselves, and offers to help. Please, as awkward and vulnerable as you might feel reaching out to a total stranger to offer help, to simply check in on them, to let them know they have NOT been forgotten and are NOT alone, I want you to remember how vulnerable our veterans allowed themselves to become when they chose to serve our country… to safeguard us. Remember that sacred commitment? We “leave no man behind.” Far too many of our veterans have been left behind, left alone to fight the remnants of a battle that began decades ago.
This Christmas, I would like to recruit you all to help me ensure a tiny part of Kimme’s spirit lives on. You see, her husband and my dear friend Dan has been completely lost without her. She was his primary caregiver. She handled all the tasks he couldn’t. Even when the ghosts from his past were pushing her away, she remained steadfast in her love. She made sure he felt cherished, appreciated, cared for, loved. He’s alone now. Kimme is gone. I visited him briefly, long enough to honor his wish that I spread her ashes at sunrise on one of our favorite mountain tops. I live more than two thousand miles away. I’m doing what I can from afar to help Dan through this, but I know it isn’t nearly enough. He is incredibly frail… on oxygen… housebound due to injuries and disabilities he acquired while serving this country. It has been difficult to cobble together services to cover all the things Kimme did for him, none of which he wants because he has huge trust issues and really, all he wants is his wife back. There’s a huge workforce shortage and an even larger volunteer shortage, not just in Montana, but in most if not all communities. Finding someone to shovel his walk, winterize his home, clean out his fridge, deliver his groceries, get him to medical appointments, sort through and donate his wife’s belongings has been a monumental, near-impossible task.
Our veterans desperately need your help. This is not a group of people who are comfortable asking for help. They have spent so much of their lives serving and protecting others, which makes it even more difficult for them to accept help. They are used to being on the giving rather than the receiving end of service. So, this mission, should you choose to accept, may require a bit of sweet talking and persistence on your part (something I learned from Kimme). Tell the veteran you have chosen to adopt that you are on a mission to keep our friend Kimme’s legacy alive. If you don’t personally know a veteran who could use some help, reach out to your local VFW post, VVA chapter, or DAV chapter. They can help you find a veteran in need. This holiday season, let’s ensure we leave no veteran behind.
This one’s for you, Kimme. I love you.