02 Nov Remembering Kate Lounsbury
In early December friends and coworkers of Kate Lounsbury gathered on the Bainbridge Island Ferry to remember and celebrate her life. The Bainbridge ferry paused briefly as friends released Kate’s ashes. Kate battled large B Cell Lymphoma for several months before exercising her right to Death With Dignity under Washington’s 2008 law. With assistance from Compassion and Choices, she died peacefully at home among friends on October 26, 2013.
You may have met Kate through With A Little Help. She worked briefly with our agency as a Client Assessment Specialist. In that capacity, she met with clients and their families to evaluate needs and to measure our success in fulfilling them. With A Little Help owner, Marcia Ives said, “Kate had joined the office team just a short while before her cancer returned, so our time with her was brief. We were glad to be able to support her and her friends by providing some care during her last few days.” Kate came to With A Little Help with a background in business management and leadership but also understood caregiving because of recent experience providing care professionally and for family members.
The bulk of Kate’s career life was in modern dance. Her skills were enjoyed by audiences in San Diego and Seattle. Recalling Kate’s accomplished 12 year San Diego career her friend and fellow dancer, Cate Bell, said, “She was my favorite dancer to choreograph on. She danced in several of my creations, and asked me to create a solo for her for a concert of solo works that she performed in 1989. She was one of the best, if not the best, modern dancer performing in San Diego at the time.” When Kate moved to Seattle in 1990, she continued her immersion in dance enriching the Seattle community as a dancer, teacher and collaborator for more than 10 years. On January 23, 24, and 25 of 2014 DanceJENKINSDance director, Shirley Jenkins, will dedicate her performances of Women…Gotta Luv ‘Em to Kate’s memory. Jenkins said, “Producing a concert of dance works is an arduous task and Kate has given me strength to stay strong in my pursuit. As I dance my solo in Diario Rosado, I think of Kate as the powerfully serene Trade Winds of the South Pacific, impulsing movements to allow my aged dancing body to feel infinitely young and in love. I am forever grateful to Kate for her immortal beauty.”
Excelling at dance was impressive in the context of Kate’s life because she did it while managing Type 1 diabetes which required diligent monitoring of blood sugar. When Kate entered cancer treatment, managing her insulin became a much more complex task. Having struggled for more than 45 years to live with diabetes, making a life and death choice every time she injected insulin, her decision to die with dignity took personal reconciliation. She told me she was asked, by friends, why she didn’t just stop taking insulin. That, she said, would be a horrible death. Death With Dignity allowed her to choose the kind of death she wanted; gave her an ability to define how to live, as she’d lived within the adversity of diabetes, only this time while determining and defining her final days.
Kate inspired others and lifted awareness by sharing experiences that shaped her life. “Informing people and educating people was a big part of who Kate was,” explained Cate Bell. Kate welcomed dear friends and acquaintances into her experience with Compassion and Choices and Death With Dignity. My meeting with her, in precious final hours, was arranged so that I could learn about her experience and continue to educate in her memory; to promote understanding about Death With Dignity. I was struck by the profound honesty and generosity of soul she brought to the conversation. Her words continue to linger in my mind.
“She was a pioneer and adventurer to the very end,” wrote Kate’s friend Alan Lambert, referencing Kate’s spirit that moved and dazzled audiences during her early career in dance and amazed and comforted friends in her final days. Hers was a vibrant, creative life which blossomed into a final gift of graceful leadership as she thoughtfully, steadily, openly prepared to die.”