One year ago today, I was late for class.
We had pencilled in a phone call for my drive in – we were always playing phone tag: me fluttering between with school, church, work, and adventures in my carefree life in Byron Bay; you busy with your super cute little man Ryan, mother’s groups (you joined three of them? Seriously?!), church, and a crazy social life – everyone wanted more of you in their lives.
The week before, we had had such a beautiful and overdue conversation. My Tuesday classes were held just west of Byron where there was no reception, so of course I had to pull over a few kilometres shy of my destination so that the line wouldn’t cut out and we could keep talking.
I can still remember with crystal clarity our whole talk centred around how proud you were of me. I kept trying to steer the conversation to you, Bren, Ryan, and your life back in Stanwell Tops, but you never could talk long without diverting back into encouragement of whoever was graced with your presence.
We laughed – as we had done many times over the past few years – of how far I’d come, and how much I’d grown.
We reminisced once again of times when you were my home group leader. Oh man, I was a stubborn, rebellious, sassy handful of a teenager! More than once, you would make me wait outside for Mum to pick me up because I was so much of a nuisance and too smart for my own good: always giving you grief, pushing the boundaries and distracting all the other young girls there.
And now here I was, double that age, studying Ministry and Theology myself! How times changed.
You were always my biggest cheerleader.
That conversation filled my heart to bursting. I felt like the luckiest girl to have made you so proud. You, Cathleen Cowie: the woman I modelled my life after, was proud of me!
I like to think that our talk that morning was divinely inspired. It was just a quick chat about school and church and exercise and the weather (heck yeah, UV ratings were ramping up again!). It was quick, but those simple topics were the ones that shaped our friendship. You were so proud of me. You were so proud of me. That morning, you spoke into my heart words that I will hold close forever.
If I had known it would be the last time I ever got to speak to you, I would have sat by the roadside so much longer, and expressed again my gratitude for your love in my life and how much I adored you.
Alongside my parents, you taught me the most about unconditional love.
You started off a leader and mentor in my early teen years. When I decided I could have more fun in life without God, I stopped going to home group and church, but you never stopped loving me – you simply made a graceful transition from leader to friend. I learnt the beautiful truth that our relationship wasn’t based on my attendance or ‘holiness’, but from your authentic love for me.
How different we were, and yet how fully you embraced me.
Like that time we walked down the goat track to the beach, and on the way home I couldn’t talk up the hill – cardio was never my thing! Even then, you were asking questions and wanting to know details of my life and how I truly was doing. My lack of oxygen as I gasped between words didn’t do anything to deter you, as you bounced and laughed along ahead of me.
I love that hanging out with you got me into exercise. We’d do Body Pump classes for me (strength work is my strength!) and I’d puff and pant through Spin Classes for you (cardio was yours!).
That legacy will live on – I did my first mini triathlon in May, and just got back from walking across Spain. A whole country. Yep.
What I would do to hear how proud you are of me now!
You never pushed me to better myself. It was just a natural progression that happened through spending so much time with you.
As I grew older and (slightly) wiser, I found my own way back to God.
Suddenly I was the one behind a microphone at the front of church, facilitating our home group. How lucky am I that I was the longest running on your prayer list, hey? Over time, you transitioned again from a spiritual mother to another sister and best friend.
I was so honoured to watch you marry that big loveable boofhead Breno nearly a decade ago, and then stand beside you as we watched Gracey walk down her own aisle to Matt years later.
You were supposed to lead me down when it was my turn.
My only solace in not having you stand beside me on that day is that you’ll get to cheer me on with Jesus Himself and all the angels.
You taught me so, so many good things Catty.
Like a little dustpan brush gets the sand off your feet better than a towel, so make sure to keep one in the car.
And put a spoonful of vanilla yogurt in the cake mix – it’ll always come out extra moist and delicious.
Pray about everything, even/especially groceries! God is the best at budgeting and bargains. And always shop Aldi, of course.
I could always count on a text from you when the UV was high, and we shared a passion for lack of tan lines. Did you see my tan from the Camino? I thought of you every time my singlet shifted on my shoulders and the white glare blinded me. I’m working on fixing it, don’t worry.
You were thoughtful in every single detail.
After I spent eight months abroad being a missionary and backpacking, you met me at home with a bunch of flowers, we shared pancakes with REAL Canadian maple syrup, and then you left as soon as my jetlag started so that I could rest, regardless of wanting to talk for hours more.
Actually, that was the trip inspired me to start this blog.
You read every post, and commenting on almost each
Last year, on my 25th birthday, I got a whole three hours with just the two of us and Ryan at a local café. You told me again how much you had loved reading about my life overseas: so much so you’d read it out at family dinners and to your friends back in Australia.
Like I said, always my biggest cheerleader.
You get the credit for me continuing beingjoyous.com for Camino – it was in your honour that I wanted to continue to share my story, hoping it would bless others like I know it did you.
One year ago today, I was late for class, and you had a busy morning at church, so we didn’t make our call.
After school, I drove down the road on my way back into Byron. The Telstra towers finally reached my phone to give it those little bars of reception again, and my mobile sprang to life with a flurry of texts and missed calls.
In an instant, a lifetime of moments I thought I would share with you were stolen as I read the first messages from my Mumma:
Girls please pray for Cat Cowie.
She collapsed at church and hasn’t been responding to medical help for last half hour.
They are airlifting her out right now.
She didn’t make it. Cat has died.
* * *
You knew me the deepest and loved me the best.
That saying, ‘greater than the sum of its parts’? That was you. You were a light so bright it didn’t make sense; so full of love and compassion and joy that you inspired all around you.
You were my leader, my mentor, a mother figure, a sister, my support, my prayer warrior and the very best of friends.
You were the David to my Jonathon.
An excerpt from my journal written earlier this year reads:
Cat, the amazing woman who gave advice without actually giving an opinion.
… In that moment you didn’t tell me what you were thinking or what God was saying to you or anything like that. You simply asked if it would glorify God. You told me that above all else, that should be my number one priority and driving force: “Will it bring glory to God?”
… Cat was the best friend I’ve ever had – loving me in truth, with no excuses for my shortcomings, but overflowing with grace to speak me out of them and back into my destiny.
That woman has left the hugest hole in my heart, and the greatest example to look to and work towards.
Thank you for pursuing me relentlessly.
Thank you for your love, and for never ceasing to pray for me – I’d confidently say those prayers are what got me this far.
Thank you for believing in me.
I will always adore you.
I will forever be overcome with gratitude at how much you poured out and invested into me.
You will continue to shape my life through your legacy, the lessons you taught, and the life you lived out as a testimony.
I miss you so deeply.
I still long to feel your hug again and watch you as you laugh, to share a cup of strong tea and a ridiculously big slice of cake.
You were utterly incredible.
And you’d better be putting in a good word with Heaven for me 😉
I am left with thankfulness for the life I was honoured to share with you, and a prayer that I continue to make you proud – that I live with your simple, profound question as my guide: “Will it bring glory to God?” and that my life would always answer with an absolute, “YES.”