This blog is dedicated in memory of Katie Kirkpatrick Godwin.
“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” –Abraham Lincoln
Saint Valentine’s Day was first established by Pope Gelasius in 496 AD honoring a Christian martyr named Valentinus. The day did not become associated with romance until the Middle Ages when courtly love prospered. Hence, the day became known as simply Valentine’s Day and eventually grew to include the modern-day tokens of affection such as cupids, hearts, roses and greeting cards. A day when people vie for the love of others and ask, “Will you be my Valentine?”
Last month, my sister Virginia sent me an email about a girl named Katie Kirkpatrick. I must admit the story of this beautiful young woman touched me so deeply that I haven’t stopped thinking about her since. Today, especially, her beautiful story weighs heavy on both my mind and my heart.
On Valentine’s Day 2002, Katie, then a college freshman, was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Determined and forever trying to keep a positive outlook, she kept up with her studies but suffered a setback the following year when an inoperable lung tumor was found wrapped around her pulmonary artery.
Then in 2004, hoping to help others with cancer, she participated in Lance Armstrong’s Ride for the Roses cancer fundraiser. She continued to fight her own relentless battle with cancer but always did so with a contagious smile, choosing to always focus on the positive.
On January 15, 2005, after a three-year battle with cancer, Katie married Lapeer County (Michigan) Sheriff’s Deputy Nick Godwin. The two were high-school sweethearts and Nick was always the love of her life. Just five days later, Katie passed away.
Her husband Nick said, “It was wonderful. It was a dream come true. She was the most beautiful angel ever—just caring and selfless, and such an inspiration to everyone. She was always smiling no matter what happened, no matter what news she got. She was as close to perfect as they come.”*
Even though her organs were shutting down and she was in pain, Katie went on to plan her wedding focusing only on the love in her heart. Her wedding dress had to be adjusted several times to keep up with her constant weight loss.
After I read about Katie, I immediately went to http://www.snopes.com to make sure this story was true. I can’t say I was happy when I found out that it was. As I thought of her getting married knowing full well that she would soon be leaving her husband, family and friends, I was so overcome with emotion. The tears welled up in my eyes and a knot formed in my stomach.
But while this story is sad, it is also uplifting. Katie did not let cancer overcome her unyielding spirit. Through it all, she wore a constant smile on her face and never ceased taking the opportunity to love.
To me, this beautiful girl is a reminder to us all of just how strong love is. I often tell people that life never ends and love never dies. Nothing, absolutely nothing can break the bonds of love.
Her marriage may have lasted just five short days but Katie’s love knew no boundaries and continues to live on. As you celebrate Valentine’s Day today, please remember Katie Kirkpatrick Godwin.
The following is taken from a portion of Katie’s Valedictorian speech after graduating from high school:
“Life is a fragile chain of experiences held together by love. If there could be only one thing in life to learn – it would be to learn to love.
There is no difficulty that enough love will not conquer, no door that enough love will not open.
It makes no difference how deeply seated the trouble, how hopeless the outlook or how great the mistake, a sufficient realization of love will redeem.
Be a person of honor and integrity, always being careful never to hurt the heart of another.
Judge, forgive, and love by the same measuring stick you want others to judge, forgive and love you.”
Please help to keep her memory alive by sharing her story and her love. No matter what is going on in your life right now, choose to focus on the positive. Live. Laugh. Love.