Katie B.

This is strange, I know. But I have been thinking about Katie lately, and can’t NOT mention it… Also, I think things are cyclical, and most of the time we realize things internally before we process them mentally. Almost one year ago exactly, after bawling my eyes out over not getting accepted to UNLV, after plans for moving to California fell through, Lisa and I had our first conversation about me and Belize.

What a year.

There are moments here, in Santa Familia, when I am the happiest I have ever been in my whole life, almost like I was born half Belizean and raised with an invisible compass pointing me here.In those moments, I look around and think: how did I get here? How did I cross the bridge from—well, maybe I should go to Belize—to actually quitting my job and moving here?

It had always only been a threat. Like, when I got so fed up with life or work in Fort Wayne, I’d say, I should just move to another country. My mom has friends in Belize, you know. I could work in the schools, paint, teach—whatever they need.

But then I would get wrapped up in things like Taco Bell and Grey’s Anatomy and the GAP and would totally discard the stirring until the next time I felt bored or useless or unmotivated or overspent.

I only knew one girl personally, my age, who had actually picked up and moved to a developing country. Katie in Haiti. The tagline on her Myspace was: My heart belongs in Haiti. I always wished my heart belonged anywhere besides the Target dollar spot.

I have done lots of short-term missions trips—built churches, visited orphans, constructed wheelchair ramps for disabled seniors; I did a three-week stint with the Red Cross after Hurricane Katrina and loved it—but I could never figure out how to cross the bridge from vacation pay to unpaid leave to actually quitting my job and starting a new life. I didn’t even know how to take the first step. And the not knowing scared me into complacency.

Whenever Katie came in town, I would sigh and say, I wish I could do that in Belize. And she would say, “You could.” Then I’d shrug and keep eating my Molten Chocolate or Cookie Monster thinking I could never make it in Belize without hot flowing chocolate at my fingertips.

A week later, she’d go back to Haiti, and I’d go back to entry-level social work (which I loved, by the way) but I paid attention to her updates and support letters, and I began emailing little questions like: But what did you do with your car? What kind of phone plan do you have? Do you live with a family or on your own? How do I defer my school loans?

Those easy little questions and answers nudged me to a logistically comfortable place. It was always important to me to have a plan.

The great news is, a couple years earlier I had been run over by a semi.

In the hospital, the nurse looked at me and said, “God must have something really important planned for your life.” And though I was humbled and inclined to roll my eyes and insist it was just coincidence (I do believe my greatest fear sometimes is that God actually does believe I am valuable and capable of something very important), I nodded and whole-heartedly believed her.

Then I thought I should probably get on with things—figure out how to do something important and extraordinary with the life I’d been lent. So I explored a bunch of crazy interests I’d always wanted to pursue. (You can never know where God might use you, okay? It could have been in the theater classes at IPFW or at The Paul Mitchell School in San Diego, or in an MFA program in creative writing. Who’s to say? The important thing is I looked.)

And, actually, that 14th rejection letter from UNLV last February led to my first consideration for Belize Team 14—almost one year ago, exactly. The rest is history. I said goodbye to the MFA and Paul Mitchell school, put myself on spending freeze, and used the summer to prepare.

I remember how amazing my last day of work felt in September. Remember the crispy white Anne Taylor pants story? I could feel it in my bones—something great was ahead. Something important.  And it HAS been, both great and important.

In October, right after my first trip to Belize, Katie died in her sleep. In Haiti.

It was a terrible shock, and heartbreaking for all of us. I felt like I had just burst into the room excited with my brand new Belize, thinking it could be friends with her Haiti, and she was gone.
Not to mention the fact that she was gone.
It was just hard to understand.

So hard, in fact, I flew home in the middle of a six-week trip to Germany, ready and prepared to never leave Fort Wayne again—to skip Belize, defer grad school, hang on the couch with Sprinky for life.

But sometime later, I wrote this:

The miracle, I have realized—the exception, not the rule—is that we are alive. That our skin comes together and holds everything in. That our blood flows and our hearts beat. That we breathe in and out and are given a certain number of days to complete a certain task in the world, and that we think somehow all of this is our doing. That our lives belong to us. We are created, and we exist so long as our creator continues to breath life into our frail, fragile, pile of bones and skin and muscle. Each time we breathe in and out, we are experiencing a tremendous, fantastic, unbelievable miracle.

When I am here, I feel like God’s finger is on my pulse. I feel him breathing life and purpose into me.My heart belongs here, in Belize. And I can’t tell that to Katie, but God knows, and all he has to do while I am riding in the back of a pick-up truck with a bunch of Belizean kids sucking limes, is nudge her and say, “Look, Kate.You helped plant this seed.Well done.”

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10 thoughts on “Katie B.”

  1. I love that girl. I have been thinking about her a lot, too. I was on her facebook this morning. Thanks for such a beautiful glimpse of how she’s changed your life. All of our lives will have her finger print somewhere on it.

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  2. You are right where God wants you at this time Brooke. There is no better feeling knowing that. Your love for Belize will be with you always and believe it or not will only deepen as you get to share it with others.

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  3. Again, moved to tears. I hope you will send this to Katie’s family…they would want to read this– more confirmation of the type of daughter/sister/cousin they had in Katie. This is the stuff that they would never know unless you told them. And, as you think of how she influenced your journey, remember that there are others watching your journey…nurturing a seed in their own lives…crying tears for unsearchable paths that lead to the right one…wondering how they will ever get there from here. You are leaving great footprints on the hearts of many lives. keep walking.

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  4. Dear Brooke, I’ve only known you for about 7 swiftly passing months, yet you share your heart. You, too, are an encourager for leaving an authentic life, a transparent life, an ‘others centered’ life. I wish I had the pleasure of knowing your Katie. Most importantly, you have breathed in her encouragement and will honor her by encouraging others to reach out — as you are doing each time you post an entry on this blog! Thank you, dear Brooke — and you do count as an authentic adult and incredible woman! :) Love ya’, Suzanne

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  5. I am amazed. And then I sit back and ask myself, “Why?” I have always believed that “all things can be done through Christ who strengthens us” … you are letting me “see” what can be done when we answer His call and say, “Yes Lord, send me.”
    Love you!
    Your Southern Cousin

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  6. Tears are in my eyes RIGHT NOW, this minute, in my newsroom, and well, that’s like crying in baseball.

    I wish I could articulate how right it feels to me that you are doing what you’re doing, are where you are, and are WHO you are.

    Miss you, but don’t want to see you for awhile, because that means you’d be here, and you’re supposed to be THERE.

    May God’s face shine on you in today’s sunshine, dear friend.

    Bec

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