THE TRULY good people in this world flutter through our lives like butterflies. Their beauty feels ephemeral. We can never quite grasp their altruism, but we certainly can remember and cherish the goodness they offered.
In this cruel, unpredictable world, Kathryn Stollmeyer Wight exemplified selflessness and love. When she died on February 16, friends and family described her as “a gentle soul, pure, genuine, beautiful and caring and inspirational.”
Kathryn was the type of kind and uplifting person we all need to find in our lives. She had experienced much that could have made her bitter or angry, but Kathryn faced adversity with love and understanding, converting unspeakable tragedy into lessons about dignity that we all can learn from when life seems unfair.
Kathryn, born in 1956, was the only daughter of the renowned West Indies cricketer Jeffrey Stollmeyer, who was shot and killed along with his wife Sarah in their home in 1989.
Crime enrages all of us and manages to drive many people into bitter outrage, endless criticism and all-encompassing negativity. It makes many of us give up on people and give up on this country, but her personal grief never drove Kathryn to give up.
As newspaper stories have reported, she assisted with many charities including Kids In Need of Direction, Habitat for Humanity and Women of the Soil. She raised funds and packed school bags with supplies every year for those who couldn't afford it. She became an advocate for the poor, struggling people of this country.
Her empathy knew no boundaries. As head of the NGO Wishing for Wings, I benefitted from her words of encouragement.
She believed that we had to look more deeply into what connected us, honour our history, take pride in our country and be more accepting. In one interview with Kathryn, her remarks about immigrants especially hit home for me.
She said, “I don’t care where you came from, what background you had, we all came here. Until we embrace where we came from, and who we were, how else could we show ourselves off?”
In that instance, she was talking about her own Stollmeyer clan who migrated to Trinidad after the abolition of slavery. She knew the importance of personal history.
“Sometimes it is difficult to get rid of this yoke of having a European name in a West Indian country because it was believed that you owned slaves. Oh my God, I would love for that yoke to be released,” she said.
Kathryn had hereditary pulmonary fibrosis. Five years ago, she had been given two years to live. She didn’t give up. Kathryn was a fighter, but she did it better than most of us by summoning all the grace, dignity and love that escapes most of us. To the end of her life, she was a pillar of support for everyone she knew.
A week before she died, Kathryn had sent me a voice message about a Trinidadian artist working in Saudi Arabia. She hoped I would write a story on her. “But no pressure,” she said.
Kathryn had difficulty talking, but she felt so excited about the future of this artist. On a good day, it’s difficult for many of us to believe in the future, but Kathryn never lost sight of it – even near the end of her own life.
Years ago, when I questioned our purpose in this world, I finally realised it is to make our souls soar in this life and the next. Kathryn Stollmeyer Wight made that goal feel effortless.
She left a legacy of love, acceptance and hope, but she also left a blueprint for how all of us should live our lives. Even in the face of unimaginable obstacles, we can choose empathy over hatred. We can affect change by supporting those we love and those who need second chances. We can channel our grief into positive, uplifting projects rather than distance ourselves from the problems of this nation and do nothing but criticise.
We don’t always have control over what happens in our lives, but we do have the power to control our reactions to the defining events of our lives.
We all need people in our lives who help us grow emotionally and be our best selves. Anyone who came in contact with Kathryn knew she was a special, unforgettable person. Her smile, her wisdom and her support remain with us.
RIP, Kathryn, you are still a force in our lives that propels us forward.