The sun rises over San Francisco. The fog rolls in. Night comes. Another day slips by.
I’m not sick, but I feel like I am. There was an explosion and I lost half my brain. I can’t focus. My appetite is gone and bright lights hurt my eyes. I am paralyzed by sadness, pain, and fear.
I’ve experienced grief before—my parents, some friends who died young, a divorce. But never anything this overwhelming.
On May 24, I lost my wife Kathi Kamen Goldmark—best friend, partner, love of my life—and now I can’t see how to take the next step. It’s been just under three weeks, but it feels as though months or years have passed.
I keep hoping this is a nightmare and I will wake up. I’ll put my arms around Kathi and we’ll talk it through. Soon enough we’ll be laughing. We laughed all the time.
Kathi was a superhero. Other people have their powers—the ability to fly, telepathy, X-ray vision, etc. Kathi’s powers were softer. She fought pain, sorrow, anger, and narrow-mindedness with kindness, humor, joy, and understanding.
Now she’s gone. Decisions that I thought would be hard are easy, while the simplest of chores are unbearable. The necessary trip to the mortuary was surreal, but not emotionally wrenching. Two weeks later, on the other hand, I have yet to go to the grocery store on my own. I need milk, but buying it seems like a huge issue. Not being able to call Kathi from the grocery store to ask what we need is too real. Shopping for one is too real.
I haven’t starved because I have been living on food friends have brought me, or dining out with them. Our friends and family are like a great cloud of witnesses watching over me, talking me through the rough times, carrying me until I can walk again, thinking for me until I can think clearly on my own. It’s as if Kathi is present through them, and the love she gave to so many is here, washing over us all, salving the loss.
Kathi was connected to so many different people and worlds, and there have been and will be numerous events to remember her, formal and informal, in the publishing world, in San Francisco’s musical world, in the non-profit community, online, in places high and low. She did not discriminate. One of those worlds was grassroots, live music. Last night, June 12, our wedding anniversary, I was at Los Train Wreck’s All Star Jam, the musical event that Kathi created with pedal steel player David Phillips. Because of her spirit and out of love for her, some of San Francisco’s finest musicians have shown up month after month for twenty years to back up singers and players both gifted and, well, less so. Befitting the woman, it was and is always a fun and somewhat wild event.
El Rio, the honky-tonk where the jam takes place, was packed. Virtually every performance was a tribute to Kathi—a song she loved or had sung, and others written especially for the occasion. And when it was time to end, bassist Paul Olguin led us in the great song by The Band, “The Weight,” and an entire building of people joined in and sang with him. It was a magical evening—one more gift from Kathi.
I said before that I am paralyzed by sadness, pain, and fear. But that’s not the end of the story. My beloved Kathi lives on through all of us whose stories became entwined and enriched, because of her.
It’s wrong that Kathi left us too early, but she was not cheated by life—not one bit. She lived each day so fully, with so much joy, that she managed to pack several lives into her one, too short life. Good bye, beautiful spirit. I am so grateful to have been your soul mate. You are amazing and I am forever changed because of you. I promise to keep laughing, writing, playing, and to share the fun. Thank you. I love you.