This week, it is with deep sadness that we grieve the death of Kate Gilligan, a beloved wife, mom, gramma, friend, colleague and long time North Parish member. Kate passed away at home, peacefully, on Monday. She would have been 76 years old tomorrow, and so tomorrow her friends and family will gather to honor and celebrate her life at the Gilligan/Greer home. Our hearts, loving kindness and prayers go out to her family.
Kate (or Kathy, or Kathleen) was a member of North Parish for a long chapter of her adventurous and varied life– for 32 years. She and Jim raised Evan here and she participated in many ways. Among other things, she chaired the Staff Relations team (back when one existed), she led a small covenant group, and she often gave freely of her professional expertise in the personnel realm. Kate administered work style and personality assessments for the staff and Board teams, in order to help create understanding, patience(!) and capacity within those groups. For a time she also supported families in this way, fostering self-understanding and parent/child understanding among our Coming of Age youth and their parents.
Kate helped the Board with hiring decisions and with navigating some challenging situations when staff members had to be let go, and the “Why?!?” details could not be shared with the congregation, for legal reasons. It is a challenge to the system when members- who are used to being in on most important decisions- need to be asked to trust the leadership about staffing changes. I believe Kate’s presence, facilitation skills and ground rules at congregational information sessions helped to alleviate others’ concerns and suspicions; folks’ respect for her personal integrity, kindness and wisdom helped them accept that decisions had been made justly. I believe she was the first to teach us about the demanding spiritual/congregational practice of “Assume good intentions.”
I last saw Kate, her husband Jim, her adult child Evan, her grandchild Saoirse, her dog Riley and her caregiver Maggie on Friday. Three other long time friends were also gathered that afternoon, telling stories and offering Kate their gratitude for being part of their lives. I know that others from North Parish regularly visited Kate- including her friend Connie Scanlon who stopped by at least once a day for weeks and weeks. Kate was certainly surrounded by love as her body prepared to let go of life.
Years ago, out of the blue, Kate gave me a framed print of a “Story People” drawing- a whimsical, colorful set of human figures coupled with a saying. Unknown to her, I started collecting Story People prints way back when I lived in Michigan in the late 1990s, and had four of them on the wall going up my stairs. The one from Kate, however, I put in a place of honor on my home office wall, right next to the computer where I write sermons. The print is entitled “Legacy”, and the saying on it is the one above this column: “I promise you not a moment will be lost as long as I have heart & voice to speak & we will walk again together with a thousand others & a thousand more & on & on until there is no one among us who does not know the truth: there is no future without love.”
Kate’s legacy is a life walked with love- with us and a thousand others. And now we are an extension of her heart and voice, declaring there is no future without love. Her memory is- and will be- a blessing.
Yours, mired deep in gratitude and love,