Katie was many things to many people. To me, she was my stepsister. We never lived in the same house or went to the same school. We would see each other holidays and on her visits home to see her father. Because of the age difference, she went away to college in Minnesota when I was still in junior high. Then she joined the Peace Corps and went off to Bangladesh for a few years. After she returned to Chicago, I got to see her a few times, but the next thing I know, she moved to Florida to pursue her Master’s in Public Health at Florida International University. I missed when she got married because I was studying abroad in Barcelona. As she was finishing her grad studies, she took an internship in Romania to do outreach as an HIV/AIDS and family violence prevention educator. Near the end of her time there, she was attacked and killed by a bear.
Four years have gone by since Katie’s passing. I have had plenty of time to process everything, and what has hit home most for me was just how amazing she was. I never really knew all of the great things that she was doing because she talked to me about them. Perhaps it was because I was younger, or maybe because I really had no grasp of what exactly the field of public health entailed. Either way, I didn’t fully comprehend the enormous impact that she left on the world in the short time that she was with us.
Ghandi’s famous quote of “Be the change that you want to see in the world” – her life’s motto – has become so much more apparent to me. It’s time for me to start living it.