25 June 2018, Heidelberg Golf Club, Melbourne, Australia
Ben Cook (Kim's partner)
Kim was born on February 26, 1972 in Toronto, Canada to parents Barry and Jeannie.
I think fo r Kim the most memorable aspect of her childhood was the snow. She always remembered the thrill of waking up to the hush in the air that follows an overnight snowfall, where all the usual sounds are muffled, and looking out the window to see the magic of a world made anew. Then barracking against the snow plows being able to clear the roads, in time for teachers to be able to get to school, and the excitement of hearing her school named on the radio as closed for the day. Then breakfast would be wolfed down, into the snow suits, and outside to get started on a snow man. The big advantage of living in a court was that the snow plows would come in and circle the court, pushing the snow into a central pile that would gradually increase throughout the winter. Then this pile of snow was perfect for a snow fort and even a little toboggan run with a hard icy landing.
Kim also loved heading to her grandparents’ farm in outback Alberta for her summer vacations. As she describes it there wasn’t much to do on the farm, but it was a whole world. She’d play in the wool pile hammering nails and searching for critters, she’d spend hours lying on the dock of the pond staring down at the waterbugs. She’d help her grandma with the clothes wringer and stoking the giant cast iron wood stove. She’d wonder through the enormous vege garden picking and eating carrots and peas. Raspberries and strawberries would also be picked and eaten with fresh cream from her uncle Allen’s cows. There were also the odd trips down to the peace river, where her grandad would tuck bread between their toes for the fish to nibble.
Kim just adored her grandparents. Her grandfather Bern for the way he could wiggle his hears, and for when he’d wink at Kim and turn his hearing aid down when getting nagged by his wife. And her grandmother Pearl who had to work so hard as a farm wife and also the district nurse, but nonetheless devoted energy into her epic flower garden simply for the beauty of it.
From an early age it was clear that Kim was a really bright kid, loving reading, using it as a sanctuary of sorts. She was also very athletic. When Kim came up to bat on her school softball team, the opposition would yell “heavy hitter” and the outfielders would move back, often an exercise in futility. She won the interschool sprints and long jump, and was a very talented gymnast.
Her friend Debbie Green writes:
In my mind you were my first real friend way back from Grade 4 when we were is Mrs. Zeidenberg’s glass together. It was a pretty scary experiences going to the “gifted” class but as soon as I saw your smile and heard your laugh I knew we would be fast friends. We went through 5 years of grade school in the same class and I remember thinking that if I could have picked a sister in this world it would be you. In my memories you are the woman who knew what she wanted, knew what she deserved, knew what mattered and had a laugh so contagious you just couldn’t help but be happy when being with you.
But on the whole Kim wouldn’t have described her childhood as a happy one. She remembers being worried a lot as a child, cripplingly shy and often feeling like she didn’t fit in.
Despite everything she had going for her, Kim remembers being devoid of self-confidence. Mostly attributable to her mother, who criticised her constantly, told her she was worthless and asked why she couldn’t be more like her younger sister. Her mother would regularly drink herself to a stupor, and get more cutting the drunker she got. Her father Barry was considered the fun dad of the neighbourhood and was king of the kids, but somehow was not able to recognise or address the seriousness of what was happening under his roof.
When Kim was 14 she got her first job working in a nearby ice-cream stand, and this was followed by a job at a local video store and at Canada’s Wonderland running the SkyRider rollercoaster. She loved to torment the patrons by announcing that there was something wrong just as ride was beginning, and pretending she couldn’t stop it. She worked hard and relished having her own money and being able to get her own things. I think it was a huge step in the development of her self-worth. By this time she had to put a padlock on her bedroom door to stop her mother tampering with her things.
Now Kim’s friend Jacque will read a tribute from Nicki Balfour Smith, a dear high school friend of Kim’s.
Jacque reading Nicki Balfour Smith (Kim's friend)
‘I first met Kim in Grade 9 at Unionville High School, a brand new, strangely pink school that specialized in the Arts. Although neither Kim or I had anything to do with the Arts program we attended this pretty school with tree’s and pink everywhere, not a colour either of us fancied. I don’t remember when exactly we first met since I was a jock and spent most of my time in the gym, and Kim was never to be seen in those places except for maybe a mandatory gym class. I do remember being in English class with Kim where I would listen in fascination as she explained the authors deep philosophical sub-plots, all the while wondering if I was missing some pages in my copy. I never quite saw the things Kim did in our books, especially with Shakespeare. I found them quite simply painful to read while she loved the hidden stories and deeper meanings to the dialogue.
I do know that Kim and I became fast friends mostly because we had the same sense of humour and outlook on life. Kim had an infectious laugh and loved dry British humour. She loved Monty Python and anything with John Cleese, especially the movie ‘A Fish called Wanda’. I grew to appreciate her off the track shows and whimsical takes on life. I recall many lunch hours, evenings and weekends with Kim just chatting and ending up with a sore stomach from laughing so hard.
In high school Kim was fearless. She didn’t care about conformity, had a take it or leave it attitude and you had to like her for who she was. Kim was a strong woman, believed in herself and was one of the most loyal friends I ever knew. She had your back no matter what. Not everyone liked this, but it was another reason Kim and I became such good friends.
One of Kim’s favourite places to visit was my cottage, just 2 hours north of Toronto in Muskoka. We spent many cottage weekends there with our group of friends swimming, tubing and always having a great laugh. When Ben first came to Canada about 14 years ago, this was a place he too had the chance to visit and fall in love with. I hope one-day Toby and Tali can come to this magical place as well. I know Tali is excited to see a Moose, and there was one there this past Spring.
Kim had a quirky taste in music in high school and I clearly remember her having me listen to Jethro Tull and I was puzzled and amazed by their strange lyrics. She was also the first to make me an all-female tape of mixed songs (someone may need to explain this to Toby and Tali). She didn’t like the fact that my music was mostly male leads and bands, as the strong feminist she was, she needed to steer me on the right path to support more female singers.
When Kim travelled the world, she always stayed in touch with a postcard and usually a quirky story of something that had happened to her. I always worried about her, but at the same time always knew she would be safe. She was well read and well cultured knowing how to fit in wherever she landed.
One thing I always remember Kim saying is that she never wanted to own more than she could pack up in a few boxes and move on with when it was time, and she was okay if these boxes were all books. Kim never wanted to be tied to one place, she wanted to travel the world. This is how I knew she had met her match when she met Ben and planted her new roots in Australia. After meeting Ben on their cross-Canada adventure I saw how happy she was and knew that is where she would call home.
Although through our lives Kim and I went many years without seeing each other, Kim and I always picked up right where we left off. Even when I visited Australia last August after not seeing each other in 8 years, it felt like we had hardly been apart. I believe this is a sign of a true friendship, the ability to pick up where you last left off.
I know Kim has impacted many lives, including mine and my family’s. I am thankful to all her friends who supported her in Australia especially in the past few difficult years. Her friends and family meant the world to her and with my not being able to physically be there for her, I am grateful to all of you who were. And of course, to you Ben for being the best partner and friend I could have ever wanted my Kim to have. She lived a full and loved life because of all of you.
Tali and Toby, your Mom was one of a kind and someone we will never forget. She loved you both more than you could ever imagine and she will be with you every day, even if you can’t see her.
Hugs and kisses to all of Kim’s family and friends and may she always stay in our smiles.’
Late last year we had the enormous honour of a visit from Kim’s favourite high school teacher, Mr Moe Jacobs. The next day Kim wrote the following.
Last night we laughed about students we could remember and classroom antics, and the fact that I met my first love by asking him to edit my essay for Mr J's class. We also went over some of the work I had saved and chuckled over his comments, which certainly wouldn't fly today but which were so vitally important to my self respect back then. He didn't suffer fools, and nor did he compliment anything undeserving. So of course, I worked my ass off on every single poem, story, essay and exam. Below is one of my favorite comments by Mr J: 'In summary, if indeed skill is to be respected and talent admired then you are afflicted with the latter and may even contract the former. From a purely chauvinistic viewpoint, if Jason, or any other man ever lets you go, he should be shot. Of course, if you let them go, then that's OK. You are special Kim. You basically use your torment to create. That sets you apart. Don't relinquish your soul for the comfort of acceptability.'
Kim finished high school and went to Guelf University to study literature. By this time her parents had separated and Kim’s father was making the 3 hour commute to visit her all too regularly which was cramping her style a bit. So she transferred from Guelf to Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, a 4 hour flight away, which seemed to provide a big enough buffer.
Emily will now read a tribute from Erin Edmonson, whom Kim met in Vancouver.
Emily reading Erin Edmonson (friend)
Kim and I met in the early 1990s, working together at a restaurant. Our uniforms were denim shirts and jeans. I can still see Kim, long hair in a high ponytail, high waisted jeans, brown hiking boots. That laugh, that smile were there, way back then. Most of us at the restaurant also went to Simon Fraser University and worked to defray the costs of books and tuition, but most of us also had help from our parents. One of the first things I remember learning about Kim was that she had no help from anyone and that she was covering all of her costs on her own. She seemed remarkably organized and responsible to me, even then. She was grown up when we only thought we were. She had come out to the West Coast of Canada from Ontario when the national trend was to come from everywhere else in Canada and go to school somewhere in Ontario. We went to the same school, but didn’t see each other much on campus because we were both always working, so it was at the restaurant where we became friends. She had already travelled around Europe and had stories to tell when the rest of us dreamed of going somewhere after graduation. She loved that her last name was Walker, sure that it was a prophecy to fulfill. I was majoring in Middle East History and one day between shifts, I told Kim how I would love to see what I was learning about. Immediately, she suggested we go. “I’m serious,” she said.
“I’m serious if you’re serious,” I said.
“Let’s go,” she said.
So we did. It was that simple. It was a done-deal from that moment.
To me, that is Kim. She meant what she said, and she said what she meant. There was no bullshit, no pretence, ever. She didn’t boast or brag, she just did.
Kim had a firm line between right and wrong. Always. Her moral code was clear and unwavering. She gave respect, truth, and loyalty, and she knew that she deserved respect, truth, and loyalty. If you couldn’t give them, she had no time for you. I always admired her clarity and strength in this. She didn’t suffer fools or forgive hypocrisy, and I loved her for this from the very beginning of our friendship.
Our trip was amazing. A lot of sugary sweet tea, cards, ruins, museums, hikes, bike rides in the desert, and boat rides on the Nile, ill-advised camping outside oases in unsafe places that we were too young to realize were unsafe.
We spent days in the drawers of the Egyptian Museum writing found poetry with the object lists. We recited much better poetry at the amphitheatre in Palmyra. We posed like statues in the ruins of Ephesus. We climbed Mount Sinai and Nemrut Dagi in the middle of the night to count the stars and watch the sunrise and sing songs with strangers.
At mosques and mausoleums we had to borrow the scratchy, slippery black polyester public abayas to cover ourselves. We got used to it, but always laughed at each other. At Al-Azhar in Cairo, we wanted to be respectful, but we looked too funny not to photograph ourselves, so we snuck into a dusty roofless storage area and set the timer on my camera to take a 1990s version of the selfie. We couldn’t get the timing right or have the same look on our faces, so in the pictures we are ridiculous and laughing, and so young.
Everywhere we went, if there was water, Kim jumped in. She was fearless, yes, but mostly she just wanted to be in the water; she couldn’t resist a chance to float and splash around. She jumped in a spring en route to the Oracle of Delphi, some weird irrigation canal under the hale-bopp comet, the Dead Sea, the Mediterranean.
We wanted to go everywhere, and agreed to be open to anything, but the one solid plan we had for the whole six month trip was to spend her birthday at the Pyramids of Giza. I can still remember how important this was to her and how excited she was that morning when we set out from the hostel at sunrise to take a rickety public bus to the Pyramids. We spent the whole day there. We brought bread and cheese, water, journals and cameras, and just basked in the presence of the Pyramids. We watched the camel drivers rip off tourists all day and when they offered us rides for money, we said, “No thank you, we have feet.” By the end of the day, our banter with the camel drivers had become friendly and funny, and one of the guys gave us a free ride to some hills on the edge of the Pyramid site to watch the sunset. When it got dark, he took us through the camel corrals to a stone wall where we could watch the cheezy tourist light show projected onto the Pyramids. A booming voice talked about the “mystical fervor” with which the Pyramids had been built. We laughed and laughed, and then the camel driver gave us a ride through the busy streets of Cairo to the bus stop and waited with us until our bus came. It was one of those rare perfect days that you know is perfect even as it is happening.
“Mystical fervor” and “we have feet” became our mantras. They were our private jokes and our rallying cries for the rest of the trip. For years afterward we passed these phrases back and forth. Every February 26th since, I think of this perfect day.
Now our trip exists only in my memories. And that’s not fair. But I will keep them and share them with Tali and Toby - and when they start walking the world, I will show them Canada, as I promised you.
After that trip, Kim moved to the UK and sent me cheerful letters about her cramped apartment and terrible restaurant job. She saved enough money to travel across Africa, north to south, and move to Australia. We met up again in China, on her trips to Canada, and kept in touch through the adventure of motherhood, where she was, again, as always, my mentor. We agreed the motherhood was our greatest adventure, and the most important thing we had ever done. I am eternally grateful that we found a way to share it.
Kim was my good friend. And I will always be grateful for everything we shared. And I will miss her horribly.
Alex will now read a tribute from Amander Kidner, whom Kim met in London.
Alex reading Amander Kidner
In the early hours of the morning, my beautiful friend Kim left for spirit. She has left behind, not only her amazing little family, but also her legacy of kindness and wisdom.
Kim and I met in our early 20’s, both hostesses in a restaurant on the eternally cool Kings Road, Chelsea. She was just a couple of years older than me but had already travelled and explored so much that she carried this worldly aura. I was frippish and naive to her calm and sense. It would have been easy for her to be disdainful of me but instead she embraced the best of me, she’s always done that.
We whiled away the hours with humour and candour; our friendship honest and simple. And then she left to travel some more and our paths diverged.
Some 10 years ago, through the gifts of social media, we reconnected across the world; Melbourne to London. We watched each other’s lives as we dived into love & parenthood and the crazy all-consuming discoveries that flow with that; we engaged in light comments and philosophical discussions here and there.
And then she got sick, she was told she had very little time, and we plunged right back into that friendship we had left behind at our hostess stand 20 years ago.
She has given every ounce of herself to be around for her family for as long as possible, she has walked this illness through three and half years and I have walked alongside behind the written word of our messages as we have shared our loves, our fears, our histories and our hopes. There is nothing like the shadow of death to focus our hearts to truth.
As she did so many moons ago, she saw the best in me through every conversation, she offered wisdom won through pain and joy and I know she offered that to everyone. One of her fears as she neared the end was that her children might think she had not ‘fought’ hard enough to stay alive and it breaks my heart that she could even consider that of herself when she loved them so passionately and absolutely. She raised herself up and away from her own childhood of pain to offer them the very best of herself because that is the strength of woman she was.
And now I have had to say goodbye to one of my closest and dearest friends despite not having as much as hugged her for two decades. That is love, that is friendship and that is heartache.
PHOTO MONTAGE (Traveller by Martha Wainwright)
In December 1999 Kim’s travels brought her to Australia. Initially the plan was to stay for 1 year, complete her Masters in Literature and then continue on her way. By the time she arrived it was too late to enrol, but she did manage to get a place to complete her Diploma of Education. Throughout the year 2000 Kim worked as a waitress in the cooperate boxes at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. While she was waitressing, Kim paid scant attention to what was going on the field. But she did notice that a team by the name of the Essendon seemed to win every time they played, and win by a lot. She found the Essendon supporters arrogant and took a particular dislike to the Essendon captain, James Hird. She’d barrack for every team that played Essendon, and chose the Bulldogs as her team purely because they were the only team to beat Essendon that year. It pains me that Kim has seen an Essendon premiership live and I haven’t. And I’m pretty sure that Kim put a curse on the Bombers that year, because it has been pretty much downhill ever since.
I first noticed Kim a good 6 months before I met her. I was working as an integration aide while Kim was doing teaching rounds as part of her Dip Ed. In my mind’s eye I so clearly remember Kim standing up at the other end of the staff room talking to a group of student teachers, hearing her cool accent and thinking wow. But the days I worked didn’t coincide with her placement days, I only saw her the once and it seemed that was that. Early the next year a one year teaching contract at the school needed to be filled, and Kim was put forward by her supervisor from the previous year as an outstanding student teacher. So it was my dad as an assistant principal at the school who got in touch with Kim, called her in for an interview and pretty much offered her the job on the spot. At that point I don’t think it occurred to dad that Kim would someday have his grandchildren.
Before taking up the position Kim had to fulfil a commitment to teach English to kids in China, so her start to the year was delayed a month or so. I did see her around a couple of times and recognised her from my single sighting the previous year. We finally met at a staff conference in Ballarat, and I finally learned her name when she said “hi, I’m Kim”. And we had our first of so many coffees together.
After that we’d often chat in the staffroom on the couple of days a week I was working, and Marilyn tells me how she could see my eyes light up a mile away when I saw Kim. Now and again I managed give her a lift home to her one bedroom unit in Ivanhoe. Apparently the landlord was sold on Kim when she said she couldn’t believe how close it was to a public library and a train station. All she had was a futon, a couch she found on the nature strip, some crockery and pots and pans from the local op-shop, and a set of photo albums with all these incredible photos from all over the world. No TV or any interest in getting one, just books and music. She just had this unpretentious worldliness and sophistication about her. I think when I saw where she lived I was smitten. But still had a lot of work to do.
It was well into June by the time I started to get somewhere. Playing soccer for Latrobe Uni, I’d just got back into the senior team after coming back from a broken leg, and I kicked an absolute pearler of a goal. I know this isn’t about me, so I won’t go into details, but come up to me later and I’ll describe it if you like. Up until that point, in both soccer and love, goals had been few and far between for me. I was too defensively minded I guess. But after the game I called Kim and asked her to a movie, figuring whatever happened it would still be a good day. After the movie, a dubious arthouse choice with a little too much dog fighting for Kim’s liking, we were deep in conversation about life and love. Kim said she was surprised that I was single, and I was surprised that she was surprised. And then she said if I wasn’t so much younger than her, and if we didn’t work together and my dad wasn’t her boss then maybe we’d be a chance. I countered with an example of a couple of friends with a similar age difference who were making it work. I said that I was only working part time and only until I finished uni. And I said that I’m sure if my dad knew that his tenure was keeping me from being with somebody like Kim, then he’d resign on the spot.
So Kim somewhat tentatively said we could give it a try, and away we went.
Kim only taught for just over 3 years, but she was the sort of teacher they make movies out of, such was the impression she made on students. She loved teaching philosophy in particular, tricking the kids into discussing ancient philosophers through movies such as the Matrix and the Truman Show. The disengaged students were suddenly thinking, and the engaged students went to a whole new level.
When one student was causing trouble, Kim told him if he could prove to her that homework didn’t exist she wouldn’t make him do any. So he went away and came back with a well-reasoned essay, confident he would be excused from homework for the rest of the term. But was devastated when Kim pointed out that by doing the essay as homework he had disproven his own argument.
Her former student Amanda O'Reilly writes
Just over 11 years ago I bumped into Kim and (a very small) Talia when I was working at Ivanhoe Library and it was like we had only seen each other yesterday. I hated school overall, it was not a happy time in my life. But Kim always made me feel welcome and appreciated and cared for. In year 10 when we got to choose electives I knew I wanted to be in her philosophy class. She was just always interested in her students and their wellbeing. Kim was so funny and caring and much more than a teacher. I know she kept me afloat when school was rough and I will always be grateful to her for that.
For me, getting to know Kim in those early days just the greatest. She was so worldly, funny, loving, affectionate and so damn smart. She introduced me to a whole new world of music, an eclectic mix artists like Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Nina Simone, Tori Amos, the Tragically Hip, the list goes on and on. We’d watch movies together, which Kim regularly interrupted by saying “I’ve been there!” As not many movies were made in Thailand or Bali I really couldn’t compete. She loved going on road trips, whether it was for one day or several. We’d pick a town on a map, she’d put the music on, her feet on the dashboard, and off we’d go. We’d wonder through little country towns, as Kim would seek out opp shops and used book stores. And boy could she read.
After we’d been together a few years we headed back to her beloved Canada for an epic road trip. We went to many of her favourite places, and also explored new parts of the country that she had never seen before. We went to Long Beach on Vancouver Island, and Kim says this is the place where she looked out onto the Pacific Ocean and realised just how big the world is, confirming her yearning to explore it. We went to her great friend Nicki’s cottage, which sits on an island in the middle of a lake. That was heaven for me. And most special was the visit to her grandad’s farm, the first time in about 20 years for Kim. We gave them about 10 minutes notice that we were coming, turning up at the local general store and asking them if they new Uncle Allen. We spent time with Kim’s Grandad, then 98, as well a bunch of little third cousins who absolutely adored Kim. I don’t know if it was the time spent with cute little kids, or the emotional goodbye to her grandad, or maybe it was seeing me drive the combine harvester, but Talia was conceived very shortly after that visit.
I know before we had Talia Kim wondered what she’d be like as a mother, never having had a great role model to say the least. But Talia and Toby, from the moment each of you came into this world she was besotted by you. And just a total natural.
Kim’s interactions with Talia and Toby have always been completely in the moment, with absolute engagement in whatever you guys were doing. And accompanied by a simultaneous sense of wonderment. It was like Kim would step out of herself and look down and think, wow you guys are so friggin cool.
Kim made the decision very early on that she would stay at home with Tali until Tali started school, and then when Toby was born 5 years later, she immediately committed to another 5 years at home.
It was as a stay at home mum that Kim began to channel some of her connection with her grandma. She taught herself to sew (so now we each have multiple quilts to choose from), and learnt to knit from Helen who ran the local playgroup. She got into gardening, determined to give our kids the experience of eating fresh produce. And she turned herself into an extraordinary chef, cooking and baking and always on the lookout for new recipes.
And she loved involving you guys in these things, getting your hands dirty in the garden, kneading dough, and Tali she was so pleased when you took over her sewing machine when she could no longer use it.
She’d take you guys to the park, the pool, the zoo, the museum, the Studley Park boathouse to feed the ducks. And each park became known by a certain characteristic. The whizzy dizzy park, the long slide park, the pink park, the pirate park. Or she’d happily curl up with you on the couch and read books and poems or watch a movie.
She was so grateful that she got to spend that time with you guys.
Her friend Megan writes:
I had just moved to Melbourne in April 2007 and was in a playground with my 3 year old feeling a little lonely and sorry for myself when I struck up a conversation with another mum pushing her toddler on a swing. As soon as she found out I was “fresh off the boat”, as it were, she took me under her wing and suggested we meet up at another playground the next day (she would bring coffee and cake) ... and I had found my first friend in Melbourne ❤️ Kim had a smile the size of her native Canada and a heart the size of the planet. She opened her heart and home to a complete stranger for no other reason but to be kind.
The beginning of Kim’s cancer journey coincided with Toby’s first day of 4 year old kinder in February 2015. That evening, feeling fine, and not suspecting anything was wrong, Kim was simply stretching her shoulder back with her hand on her abdomen. She felt a lump and immediately suspected something was very wrong. After an excruciating couple of weeks of scans, and initial reports that it was benign, it was determined that it was a large malignant mass on her liver.
And from then it felt like all hell broke loose, and never relented for the next 3 and a half years. Kim had 3 major operations, the initial liver resection as well as 2 major hip operations 18 months ago. She spent 8 months on chemotherapy over 2 separate periods, as well as another 9 months on immunotherapy. I counted well over 50 days of radiation therapy. Interspersed with all this were numerous CT scans, Pet Scans and MRIs, each anticipated by a gut churning dread and followed by oncology appointments which were invariably bad news.
The bone pain began over 2 years ago, leading to multiple compression fractures up and down Kim’s spine, a broken neck which meant she hasn’t been able to turn her head for 18 months, fractured hips and femurs, and several other sites of the disease. For the last 8 months of her life Kim was unable to walk or even sit comfortably in a wheelchair, so she was confined entirely to our bedroom for that period.
But one area the cancer was unable to reach was Kim’s incredible spirit and determination. While Kim’s survival chances were very low right from the start, she refused accept it as a given. Every time there was a hurdle put in her way, she just took a deep breath and kept moving forward. Just before Christmas 18 months ago, the scan came back indicating that both Kim’s hips were hanging by a thread and could break at any moment. As we sat at home waiting for a phone call with admission instructions, Kim said screw this let’s go to the beach. So we turned out phones off and drove to St Kilda. With one arm over my shoulder and the other hand on her cane, we hobbled down to the water for Kim to brace herself for the next ordeal.
Last year one of the radiation oncologists said to me when Kim comes in she always seems happy and smiling, but then they look inside her and can’t believe she could present so well. I asked Kim why she always walked so briskly into her appointments when I knew she was in pain, and she said “because I don’t want them to give up on me”.
Once Kim knew her diagnosis was clearly terminal, her aim became staying as healthy as possible for a long as possible.
And despite the constant physical and emotional pain, Kim was so deeply grateful that she got stick around as long as she did.
She would read to Toby virtually every night, initially poems, but was so chuffed get to the end of the first Harry Potter book, an unexpected milestone. They then got through the remaining 6 Harry Potter books, and the entire Percy Jackson series for good measure. And Toby she was so proud to watch you discover your reading super-power.
One night earlier this year Kim was reading to Toby, but she was missing words, re-reading sentences, dozing off, and really struggling, but without realising. She said to Toby: “Am I doing ok?”. And Toby straightway said: “Yes mum, you’re doing great!”
When Kim stated very early on that she wanted to be around to watch Talia graduate from primary school, it seemed like a bit of a long shot. And she never would have envisaged how incredible you would be, not only with all your achievements, but more importantly for her was to watch you become such as confident, generous and funny young woman with a backbone of steel. So many times when she’d get yet another round of bad news, you would sit quietly with your mum and hold her hand and give her the strength to keep going. She’d apologise for putting you through this, and you’d say “that’s ok, I know it’s not your fault”.
And to lighten things up you got her this card, which always made her smile, taking pride of place on the mantel piece.
And as much as Kim needed caring for throughout this journey, she poured her heart and soul into doing everything she could to look after us into the future. She knitted us each “mummy love” blankets to wrap ourselves in when we need to feel her warmth. She planted a little orchard at the front of our house so we can have fresh fruit in the years to come. She wrote and wrote and wrote, leaving us with a 50,000 word gift. She says that “even if my arms aren’t around you, my words and advice and love will stay with you.” She prepared us each goodbye letters, already a well of strength for me.
And when she was told her cancer was clearly terminal 2 and a half years ago, when most would decide to hit their bucket list hard, Kim decided we needed a dog in the house. A happy puppy presence, something to get us out into fresh air, something to snuggle with (no offense to the cats) and a companion. Jet has more than fulfilled his part of the bargain, and I think Kim even grew to love him despite being a dedicated cat person.
Kim was completely lucid and alert and even vibrant right up until her final few days. And when she gently slipped away from it was in our bedroom, with myself and Toby asleep on the next bed interspersed with our furry creatures, and Tali asleep in the next room. Not much about this journey went the way Kim would have hoped, but she would have thought the ending was perfect.
Goodbye my love, you’ll always be in my heart.
PHOTO COLLAGE (Waterbound)
Talia Walker, 13 (daughter):
So here we are. The day that should not be happening yet. The day that shouldn’t even have occurred to us yet.
Mum should’ve had a long life; decades of time were cut short by this disease, but even so, I think mum lived more than others. Even through a hard childhood, she broke free and travelled to places most would never go, and met people most would never think of meeting. She made lifelong friends and lived through the type of stories that you might find in books. Even her stories from home were fascinating to us, as Canadian childhood is, of course, very different to ours. While we fantasized about the snow days that, though we crossed our fingers every time the temperature hit freezing, depressingly never came, she would shows us pictures and tell us more amusing stories of her time back home.
Out of the many things mum left for us, her love of reading was perhaps one of the best. Mum read to my brother and I all our lives, from when she was a sleep deprived mother from looking after a newborn who apparently stubbornly refused to sleep all through to the next child, an 8 year old who also refused to go to sleep without a chapter or two. Even when the English language was even more confusing than it is now, it was being read to us, grammar rules that still make no sense and all.
Her love of cartoons was also passed down; we have books of everything from Calvin and Hobbes, a cartoon about a stubborn 6 year old and his tiger, to collections of Leunig at home. Since I could find no appropriate Calvin and Hobbes cartoons, I will end my speech with one of mum’s favourite Leunig poems.
'No sooner do you arrive than it’s time to leave.
How beautiful it is, how glorious, yet it’s nearly time to go.
So you take it in, you take it in.
And you take a few small souvenirs, some leaves: lavender, rosemary, eucalyptus.
A few small pebbles, a few small secrets, a look you received, nine little notes of music, and then it’s time to go.
You move towards the open door and the silent night beyond.
The few bright stars, a deep breath, and it really is time to go.
No sooner does it all begin to make sense, does it start to come true,
does it all open up, do you begin to see, does it enter into your heart…no sooner do you arrive than it’s time to leave.
Yes, it’s the truth.
And then you will have passed through it, and with mysterious consequence it will have passed through you.’
Toby Walker, 8 (son)
As far back as I can remember I’ve loved reading poems with Mum. I will read two poems by by Shel Silverstein who is one of our favourites.
The first is called “the Voice”.
There is a voice inside of you
That whispers all day long.
“I feel that this is right for me,
I know that this is wrong
No teacher, preacher, parent, friend,
Or wise man can decide
What’s right for you - just listen to the voice that speaks inside
This one is called “Years from now”
Although I cannot see your face
As you flip these poems awhile.
Somewhere from some far-off place
I hear you laughing and I smile.