November 17, 2019

by John Russel

Recently my wife handed me an article from the Seattle Times, “Anna Fields well-told audiobooks.” Since I don’t listen to audiobooks, I was puzzled until I read, “Fields, whose real name was Kate Fleming...”

Kate was a St Therese parishioner. Ann and I were once in an Advent group (coming to a parish near you soon! Sign-up!) at the convent with Kate and her wife Charlene Strong, Jules Connolly, Sr. Louise and others we can’t remember. It was a group made memorable by Kate’s vibrant presence. She drowned in her Madison Valley basement in a mammoth storm in 2006, sending Charlene out to advocate for the rights of domestic partners.

Wild Rivers
flood Seattle streets on a December night.
An audio actor rushes to her valley basement
to save her equipment, words, and work.
A flash of cold water closes her door.
There trapped she cries for help
but the help can no more
get in than she get out.
Cold terror,
relentlessly rising water,

“It was terrible”, Father said, “God wasn’t there.”
“God is everywhere,” I thought.

Jesus in Gethsemane
felt the cold fear rise
and prayed in blood that His song
be changed. In faith of the
Goodness of God He surrendered.
In peace He died a torturous death.

Kate felt the vibration of The Word.
To the rhythm of The Word she read
and teased and laughed and cried 
and shined God’s light upon us.

December 2006

Grief Will Always Find You
Peter in an upper room
with others of his cult.
Jesus nailed to tree in
necessary dance of
religious authority with authoritarian state.
Shuttered room
Desert dust
Fishermen
Redolent of guilt and fear.
Dead man comes walking.
Real Presence giving courage.
Preach the Heresy.

Find the way to your own tree.

I keep a photo of Kate on my office wall.
The music of her voice still reverberates.
I only talked with her a dozen times.

One of us talks of how hard it is
to be Catholic at work.
Kate laughs and says, “You’ve got a
friendly audience. You should
hear what my friends say.”

Grief has found Charlene.
Suffering the outcast’s indignity,
refused her dying wife,
she has taken the message to our
secular synagogues, to those who won’t hear.
“They tell me, ‘perhaps you were
chosen for this task.’”
Perhaps, indeed.

February 2008 after Madison Park Times, Seattle, Dec 2007

There is a memorial to Kate on the north side of Madison Avenue just west of Lake Washington Boulevard near the site of a long-delayed water detention system that was suddenly fast-tracked after her death. November would be a good time to visit it.

 

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