Wonder Boi Writes

Goodbye Cate

I had a dream last night about losing a friend. When I woke up, I thought for a second that’s all it had been, a dream. Tears fell again upon realizing it wasn’t. I know that Cate Culpepper would not want me to cry over her passing, and yet I can’t seem to stop. I’ve dissolved into a blubbering mess multiple times over the past twenty-hours, and I fully believe she’s somewhere looking down on my tears and cracking jokes about them right now. She was irreverent like that, never rash or inconsiderate in her humor, but also unwilling to let me slip into too dark a place or take anything too seriously for my own good. She saw the good in things, in people, in me. From the posts I’ve seen both publically and privately, I think she played the same role in many people’s lives.

It’s strange to try to sum her up, as if that sort of summation could ever be done by anyone, and least of all me. I feel like I didn’t know Cate very well at all. I certainly didn’t know how sick she was. I feel terrible for that, even while realizing I likely didn’t know because she didn’t want me to. But more than that, I know very few details of her life. We didn’t talk about her personal life or her history much. I hope that wasn’t because I failed to ask. We did talk about her work with her cherished youth in Seattle sometimes. We talked about her beloved Kirby occasionally. We talked about issues of faith more often. We talked about writing, both the art and the business of it, most often, but even that didn’t happen frequently. In reality we  only talked a couple times of year, and by talk I mean we emailed or facebook messaged. We met in person only once, and very briefly. To be honest, the level of grief I am experiencing seems disproportionate to the amount of time we had together. I spent much of last night trying to sort out my feelings on why that is.

In her farewell video, Cate said, “There’s no need to measure the happiness of a life by it’s longevity.” She was very wise, so I will believe her and humbly add that maybe there’s also no need to judge the happiness of a friendship by its frequency of communication, because Cate’s friendship has certainly been one of my most cherished since breaking into this business. It was also one of my most dependable. At the darkest hours of my career, Cate was there for me. During a time when I counted the people I could trust in the business on one hand, she was always among them, and I like to think I know which of those fingers she would have liked to be counted on because she never left any doubts about her willingness to “Go to bat for y’all in a hot second.” I cannot begin to go into details about this time in my career or the things Cate said to help me get through it, partly out of respect for everyone’s privacy, but also largely because the statute of limitation is not yet up on some of the pranks we proposed or pulled through the years.

Her support for me was so unwavering it’s hard to imagine what it will be like going forward without her. She was a bellwether for me without even knowing it.

It wasn’t so long ago that I struggled with so much uncertainty about my own gender identity, not to mention my fear of how it would be received in the world of Lesfic. I worried that maybe I should femme it up, or at least keep to labels people understood, like butch. The established dichotomies, while not without their detractors, at least had a solid place in our community, but Cate saw me clearly even before I fully saw myself. Even in the earliest days of our friendship, she took to calling me her “handsome lad,” “darling boi,” or “mi hermano,” and I found myself almost giddy at the terms of endearment. She used playful pronouns, and even created a few of her own terms that I co-oped for myself. She recognized that part of me and made me feel accepted, understood, and even enjoyed long before I felt those things about myself. To this day, even though others have become more comfortable with those terms, few have ever given me as much pleasure as hearing them from Cate the Great Amazon Queen.

Likewise, she encouraged me to write and talk about my faith at a time when I feared how such topics would be received. I still hold tight to two emails she sent on the subject. At one point she said, “I hope you’ll “go on” for much longer about your faith, when it feels right.  You would write beautifully about this.  I fully understand your (concerns) but consider writing it anyway…As spirituality is so central to your life, I’d think writing about it would be a great stretch of your creative wings — a story from your heart.” The words meant even more from me because Cate didn’t share in my religion at all, to my knowledge. She had found the Divine along a different spiritual path, but she never criticized my own. In fact, when another author once mocked me for my faith, Cate swooped in, seemingly out of nowhere, and defended my faith more swiftly and decisively than I could have. Her courage, strength, and consideration inspired my own. She gave so many of us such a wonderful gift by showing us the best in ourselves even before we knew it was there.

At the same time though, she wasn’t one to linger in the heavy, or in places of fear or sadness. I know that when the shock and sadness of her passing fade, Cate’s sense of humor and mischief will once again be the first things that come to mind when I remember her. I will be forever thrilled that the last conversation we had consisted of an uproariously funny and hilariously detailed revenge fantasy that came with her sincere assurance that she’d “love to fuck with a few people and then take pictures of them and send them to you to affirm your confidence in me!”

We both closed the thread by saying “I love you,” a fact I will be eternally grateful for (please don’t ever leave those words unsaid). But she was never one to leave things on too serious a note, so I won’t end this reflection that way either. Instead I will close with the last words Cate ever said to me, I think they are a fitting summation of the nature of our friendship and a perfect example of what I will miss so much.

“Just remember, I will be happy to donate Cate’s personal butt-sweat to this cause at any time! Just steal something from their office and mail it to me — I’ll mail it back after ‘treating’ it.”

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October 27, 2014 - Posted by | Uncategorized

6 Comments »

  1. Rachel This was a wonderful send-off to your friend. Even though many of us 9like myself) did not know Cate. We can respect who and what she was by your remarks. Thanks for sharing this moment in time with all of your readers.

    Comment by Judy Comella | October 27, 2014 | Reply

  2. Rachel, your writing is a lovely paraphrasing of a friends life. The portrait you paint is one that I will remember. Thank you for writing this difficult passage. And continue writing the difficult passages, just as Cate would have you do.

    Comment by onamarae | October 27, 2014 | Reply

  3. A beautiful tribute, Rachel. I am so sorry for your tears. Yes, it is amazing how one person can affect us, even though time spent communicating may not have been that long. I think our spirits recognize a good soul when they see one. A soul that resonates with our most inner self. It is beautiful that Cate and you connected on so many levels. Many blessings there. From what you have written here, I’d say that she passed on a lot of her wisdom to you and many others. Because she touched so many lives, the world is a better place, now and for an infinite future.
    Peace to you and all her family and friends.

    Comment by solargrrl | October 27, 2014 | Reply

  4. That was beautiful, Rachel. Thanks for sharing your time with Cate.

    Comment by Beth | October 27, 2014 | Reply

  5. Such a wonderful tribute and you expertly describe Cate, in all her complexity. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    Comment by Pam Goodwin | October 28, 2014 | Reply

  6. […] Rachel Spangler posted Goodbye Cate. […]

    Pingback by Link Round Up: Oct 23 – 29 | The Lesbrary | October 29, 2014 | Reply


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