Kate handled life in stride for the most part. I owned a theatre company when she was about four so she was raised around my actors. That taught her a great sense of absurd humor and she was always saying things that amazed me.
Once, during her fifth Christmas, she made a card all by herself on the computer. The front of the card had a picture of Santa Claus and it said, “Peace on earth and good will toward men.” Oh, how sweet, I thought. On the inside it said, “It’s always about men, isn’t it?” Where did that come from? My little girl, already a man-bashing harridan. How adorable. How quaint. How like mommy.
Right around that time I was taking some oral medication that tasted like furniture polish. It was some homeopathic remedy that was supposed to help me ovulate. Kate caught me in mid-gulp one morning and asked what I was doing. “This is to help mommy get pregnant.” Without missing a beat, Kate said, “Oh, are you drinking sperm?” Now, if I’d been a goooood mommy I would have tripped over myself with giggles and squealed, “Aw, isn’t that cuuuuute?” But no, I was a baaaaad mommy. I said, “Only when mommy wants a new car, honey.”
We played games together, like Monopoly. She liked to read the cards. Once she said, “Look! I won a YACHET! . . . What’s a yachet?” She meant to say “yacht.” And she loved learning. Once she came home from school and read what she wrote about whales. She said, “Did you know some of them weigh about 4,000 loobs? She meant to say “pounds (lbs)” but “lbs” looked like “loobs” to her.
Kate wasn’t raised on cute little Bible songs and Girl Scout melodies. We sang Bette Midler tunes. Divine Miss M. We sang Broadway musicals. We sang songs from Jon Waters’ movies. We watched South Park and Disney films.
But Kate surprised me a lot too. She was in love with Jesus from the time she was about four years old. I can’t imagine where she picked that up because I was Muslim at the time. There may have been a Bible or two somewhere on the bookshelves, but they were never cracked open. Kate had a collection of little Bibles that she kept in her room. She had a collection of Jesus figurines and she cherished them. They were on her lowest bookshelves so she could easily see them.
I walked by Kate’s room in the evenings and saw her sitting on the floor beside her bed. I could clearly hear that she was having a very serious conversation with someone.
“Hey, who are you talking to?”
“Ooookay. I’ll just leave you to that.”
I’d listen for a while and sure enough, she was talking to God. It usually sounded something like this:
“Dear God, how are you? I’m okay. I got into trouble at school today for hitting Bobby. But he deserved it because he was picking on Rachel and you would have hit him too. But I’m sorry for hitting Bobby and I promise to be good tomorrow. I got a good grade in spelling and I played on my bike after school. And I ate all my dinner and I hope you had a good dinner too. And please hug Jesus for me and bless my mommy and dad and my dog and my rabbits and everybody in the whole wide world. Amen.”
She wrote songs about Jesus and wanted to sing them to everyone. At our dinner parties, Kate could be found reminding one of our guests that gossip wasn’t very nice and the Bible had a lot to say about it. Then she’d go get one of her Bibles and find a verse that matched the occasion. My friends thought she was odd and wonderful. They all felt very convicted to be better people—at least while they were visiting our house.
I’ll never forget how much in love she was with Jesus. It’s what I cling to now when I feel like she’s going straight to hell for being such a mouthy, disrespectful, lazy lump of flesh.
When Kate was nine years old, we discovered that her step-dad (my husband and her favorite person in the world at that time) was gay. So Kate and I left Montana, I went through a painful divorce, and my little girl and I started a new life—alone—together in Nashville, TN. We hadn’t been in town a month when Kate looked at me one day and said, “Mom, there’s no one looking out for us up there.” And I said, “You’re probably right.”
If only I’d been a Christian at that moment. I could have spoken the breath of life into her. I could have taken her by the shoulders and looked her in the eyes and said, “Kate, there is absolutely some one up there looking out for us. God is up there, and He’s not missed a thing. We can’t thank Him for all the good things in our lives and then pretend He doesn’t exist when something bad happens.” I had a defining opportunity in that moment to share the Gospel with Kate. But I was still a year away from believing in God of the universe and knowing Jesus. So I agreed with her. My heart is still broken from what I lost in that moment. My baby’s innocence.