There have been several times, especially since we took on the three new additions to the family, that people have commented on the expense of doing such a thing. I have always said to them that I am happy to die penniless if it means that I have standing room only at my funeral. What I mean by that is that, as a general rule, people who have had a tremendous impact on others will result in no empty seats. People will *want* to come to pay their last respects which typically indicates that your life meant something to the attendees. Both of my grandparents had such funerals as have several people I’ve been fortunate enough to know in my life. I believe that we’re all put on earth in order to have an impact on others. Whether or not it’s positive is entirely up to us.
And then there was Kim. . .
It was February of last year. I was speaking at my first WordCamp in Chandler, Arizona when she walked up to me. At most, she might have come shoulder high to me with a slight build and long, gray hair. Approaching me, with complete confidence, she introduced herself. “Hi, I’m Kim! I’ve been wanting to meet you. I’m the one who wrote about DesktopServer for the Docs Team!”
She didn’t tell me as if she was bragging. There was no, “Hey! Look at me! I’m the reason you’re on the WordPress.org website.” She was simply telling me in order to give me some context. And it was a good thing, too. Because, I’m embarrassed to say that up until that point, I had no clue who she was. Typically the docs on the make.wordpress.org site are fairly anonymous and while it’s not difficult to know who wrote something, you have to go look; and I hadn’t. Shame on me. And yet, not for a second did she make me feel like I should be ashamed.
I thought it was pretty cool that she wanted to meet me but even cooler was that she not only wanted to meet me but wanted to *talk* with me. If you’ve ever been at a WordCamp, you know how it goes. There are the people that meet people and the people that actually TALK with people. It was obvious to me, immediately, that Kim was one of those people who went to WordCamps to TALK with people. And talk we did. I recall, on the Sunday of leaving that WordCamp, standing outside of the venue while she was taking a break, and chatting with her for a good hour or maybe even longer. I learned a lot about Kim that day; not necessarily about her personal life, but about Kim the person. Kim cared so deeply about everyone and everything she came in contact with that it only took a split second with open eyes to figure it out. She had a warm smile and was always ready with a hug (I noticed this during our conversation as people left the venue and said goodbye). She fancied herself as everyone’s mother and it was easy to see why people embraced the idea.
Since I’m in the Midwest, as was Kim, I was fortunate enough to run into her at several of the WordCamps around here throughout the year with the last one being on the West Coast in San Francisco (she was the last hug I got before leaving). Each time, she made it a point to come up to me just to talk. And each time, I got a little more insight into who she was. I remember talking to her at the after-party in (I want to say) North Canton where she told me about how she was helping a relative fight with the insurance companies. It seemed that the insurance company was not willing to do certain things and there was no way Kim was going to stand for it. Once again, it amazed me how she could talk about herself and the wonderful things she did with so much humility. At no point during her stories did she come across as making it about herself. Instead, it was about the experience, the injustice she saw and how she was determined to stand up for the person who needed it. It was also obvious that she would never back down. Ever.
We talked about life, injustice, photography, the WordPress Community and experience in general. It seemed that there was no shortage of things Kim could talk about and it seemed as though she managed to do it with everyone at WordCamp despite the finite number of hours there actually were. And despite the number of times I spoke with her, I never once heard the same story twice. This either meant (to me) that she remembered to whom she told which story to or she had so many that she just wanted to play story roulette. Either way, it didn’t matter, because I always found her and her stories to be fascinating.
I’ve seen several accounts of her experience in WordCamp Columbus where she helped track down someone who was essentially trying to make life miserable on the attendees and organizers; another story she told me about in North Canton. If there has ever been anyone that really, truly, just wanted to help, it was her.
The other day, I referred to her as a bulldog and I was corrected by another friend and member of the Community who is far more in tune with dog breeds than I. According to my friend, Kim was more like a terrier: petite but loyal and tough when she needed to be. I always suspected that her bite could be as vicious as her bark, when necessary.
They called her “#WPMom” in the WordPress Community, and I can see why. I was never in a situation where I needed her to cover my back, but I suspect that if I ever did, she’d be there in a heartbeat. I never really saw her as WPMom when it came to my short-lived relationship with her but I always saw her as a friend and I will always be grateful that I got to know her, if even for just a bit.
While struggling with whether or not I should even write anything about Kim because it has been done by so many others already in such better ways, by people who worked with her, knew her better, etc, it struck me that the idea of a standing-room only funeral was too small of an idea for Kim. Kim did more than just affect the people around her. She had an impact that reached beyond the confines of physical space. Everyone that came into contact with her loved her immediately. And she helped so many in so many places that if they were to come to a service for her, there wouldn’t be a building big enough to hold them all. It also occurred to me that because of this , many people will not get the opportunity to eulogize her in the way that one is traditionally eulogized. And while, at a memorial, I would very likely stand up and have something to say about her, things have to be done differently in the virtual world where so many of us reside. So, with that thought in mind, for better or worse, I’ve chosen to say goodbye Kim in the only way I can right now. And I’d encourage anyone else, no matter how small the experience, to do the same. It seems appropriate that one of the main ways she will be remembered will be through the tool and Community in which she gave so much.
I know that WordPress and WordCamps won’t be the same and the void she will leave in the world is not one that will be easily filled (not that we’d want to). So, goodbye Kim! Hope you brought your camera because I suspect that wherever you are now is absolutely beautiful.