My first introduction to the sweetness of Kori’s spirit was not even in person. Although we had never before met … many, many years ago when I was in charge of soliciting donations for something … she voluntarily dropped off a donation for our cause. Who does that?? Unsolicited? I suspected, in that moment, that she was a very special soul. It would be a few years before I would actually get to meet her … and have my suspicions confirmed … in the flesh.
And she did not disappoint. She joined a book study that I was leading at the time. The sparkle from her brilliant internal flame lit up the room. Her eyes twinkled with kindness. Her smile welcomed your heart. Her quick wit brought on the belly laughs … when you least expected them. Yes. The vibrancy of Kori’s spirit is very visible.
We were studying a book by Byron Katie called … “Loving What Is”. I find myself wondering how hard it must be to stand in that frame of reference for her now … with all that has transpired in her world. At that time, we could never have expected the turn of events that Kori would be invited to endure.
It turned out that we got to work together a few years later … and … we did so for quite a number of years. We were not in the same department, but we were employed by the same agency. As a result, sometimes we meet for lunch to ensure we get to connect with each other every now and again. She’s the kind of person you want in your circle. Yes. She just shines. And … she invites every one in her presence to shine too.
Oh … and were it not for Kori … I would never have visited “Carl” at “The Divine Mine.” Carl is a medium who reads your cards and I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting with him on a couple of occasions. It’s always interesting to have someone tell you things that other people aren’t supposed to know about your personal lives. Yes … my daughters and I, along with my Bestie and I have enjoyed some time with Carl because of Kori! I now find myself questioning whether Carl had any inkling of what was in the cards for Kori …………
I’m not sure anyone could have anticipated what was about to unfold on that seemingly regular Tuesday. We were all together attending a computer training … and another of our remarkable colleagues, Jackie, had generously offered to have us over to her home so we could sit in the sunshine and enjoy our bagged lunches outdoors in her yard. Some of us never arrived.
Five or six of us were walking just out of the building when it happened. Our beautiful Kori was walking between Kimmy and I when she fell. Toppled right over beside us. Usually when someone falls … they are flailing about … trying to catch themselves … grasping for anything to hold them up. But none of that happened. Kori didn’t even put her hands out to break her fall. She stiffly hit her chest on the ground and skidded forward … landing on her forehead when she came to rest … arms straight down by her sides.
She roused quite quickly … in response to our clamoring around her …
“Are you okay??” …. “Kori, Kori … oh my gosh Kori … are you okay??”
She said she wasn’t sure. She was disoriented. She said she felt sick to her stomach. She had some trouble getting the words out though. And for a moment, the left side of her face drooped just a little bit. I called 911. By the time the EMTs arrived, she was arriving back to her bubbly self. When they asked what happened … she cheekily joked – with her ever ready quick wit:
“Well, she tripped me … and … she pushed me … and … then I fell.” And after an impeccably well-timed pause … she jovially continued: “No … not really. I just tripped.”
And well … not a single one of us who witnessed her fall were convinced that she “just tripped”. We shared some of our concerns with the handsome EMTs who took her to the ambulance for assessment. We told them that the way she fell seemed very odd.
And while they were assessing her, we laymen collectively concurred that something wasn’t quite right. But that is not what the professionals determined. The EMTs speculated that she probably sustained a concussion in the fall. We tried to convince her to go to the hospital. She pleasantly declined … assuring us that she was “just fine”. Given that they could find no obvious need for immediate treatment, the medics invited her to seek additional medical support if her symptoms got any worse over the rest of the day.
And our beautiful Kori was determined to put it all behind her and get back to work. With one eye on our computers and the other on Kori, those of us who witnessed her fall watched over her when we got back into the training. Not a single one of us was comfortable … and when she indicated that she still felt nauseated … one of us got up and followed her out of the room. And, it took a while, but eventually someone convinced her to let us call her husband to come pick her up.
And even though I knew she was in the loving care of her husband …… I found myself fretting that she was likely to minimize it all and tell him that she had simply tripped. And so, although I worried that I might be overstepping, I decided to call and talk to him about my concerns. When he didn’t pick up, I ended up leaving a message on his voicemail, suggesting that they might want to go get her double checked at the ER.
After he got my voicemail, Kori and I exchanged a few text messages and had a chat. I pressed my point that she should be re-examined. She indicated that she had an appointment with the doctor the next day, so she was comfortable to wait until then. She was so patient with me. I was not so sure they should wait … but after assuring me that she was comfortable at home and “eating popcorn” … I surrendered my attempts to control their evening and reassured myself that things would be checked out the next day.
I will never know if it was by luck or by divine design … but my schedule magically cleared the next morning. I was so encouraged that I would be able to attend Kori’s doctor’s appointment with her …. so I could tell the doctor myself how odd it had looked to those of us who saw her fall. I also mentioned that the side of her face drooped for a bit. I shared that her speech seemed somewhat labored and that she slurred a bit right after she roused. I told him she was instantly nauseated. I was grateful for the opportunity to make the case that something was not just NOT right.
Despite my best efforts, the doctor seemed nonplussed and determined that she likely had a concussion. And, he ordered an x-ray of her wrist … instead of her head. I was absolutely dumbfounded. I even felt a bit angry. And powerless. And perplexed. And scared. She was off to x-ray and I had to get back to work, but I made her promise me that she would ask him about getting a scan of her head. I’m not sure how their conversation unfolded, but the scan never happened until another doctor … doing another completely unrelated procedure ordered it … a whole week later!!
And that is when the real issue was discovered. I still haven’t done it, but I have asked Kori’s permission to hug the wise and intuitive physician who ordered the scan … and … kick the other doctor squarely in the shins. It’s really hard not to be indignant about his diagnosis of ‘concussion’. He missed it. We gave him all the red flags and he totally disregarded our observations. He never even looked at her brain. He was more worried about her wrist. Gah. I will not apologize for questioning the quality of his care or discernment in this moment.
And so … a week later … Kori was completely blindsided by the most ominous diagnosis! She did not have a concussion. No. Kori had a brain tumor. A brain tumor. How does one even wrap their head around THAT news??
We learned later that they believe she had a seizure … which is why she fell. Okay. That is why it looked so odd. And … they determined to treat the tumor for a couple of weeks in order to shrink it before they attempted to surgically remove it.
During that time, Kori was such an inspiration. She approached it all with such grace and optimism and, of course, her exceptional sense of humor. She posted the following on her Facebook page.
And … then she posted this one:
And this one:
And we all bombarded her with love and support and prayers! Her surgery was scheduled for July 6, 2018. And, she posted this on social media in the wee hours on the morning of her surgery.
Yes. THAT is the vibrant energy of this exceptional soul! Even a diagnosis as grim as a brain tumor could not dim the glow of her blazing internal light. And we all crossed our fingers and populated the ethers with more love and prayers.
And … the good news was that the tumor was removed! And more good news … the tumor was not cancerous.
The not so good news is that Kori experienced a stroke resulting from the surgery. And, so although she has bid good riddance to the tumor … we have been holding space for her healing from the lingering effects of the stroke. And, oh my, the love and prayers persisted … wrapped in an infinite plenitude of care and concern and compassion.
And the recovery has been long. She fell on June 12, 2018. Her first surgery was on July 6, 2018. Her second surgery was immediately thereafter. Her third surgery was just over a year ago in early September 2018. She was finally allowed to return home on November 16, 2018. And, on November 30th … a number of her colleagues met to have dinner together and catch up with one another. It was so wonderful to spend some time with her again … and yet … as I said in my text to her the next morning:
I sensed there was so much more we could have discussed. I felt both the brightness of your soul and the weariness in your spirit. I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it is on some days … to find your smile as you work to regain your losses.
And, it occurred to me that because she has always been such a bright light, it might be hard for her to find safe spaces where she could set down her cheery demeanor and simply rest and hold space for the grief that must also be part of the journey. I knew Kori had what it would take to thrive despite of all of this, but I guessed there had to be days when she just felt tired and discouraged. I’m sure there were … but she doggedly persisted in the pursuit of her healing.
And … all her tenacity was rewarded when she got the very best gift for her birthday on May 6th, 2019! As she said in a Facebook post:
“What a nice way to spend my Birthday….. I got to go back to work today! 3 brain surgeries, one hemorrhagic stroke later, and I’m back to work! What a great way to spend my Birthday. Wonderful gift!”
And, the agency is so fortunate to have Kori back at work! She is so incredibly gifted and brings so much to her career! I have always marvelled at the way she handles an audience. She is a fabulous public speaker … brilliantly weaving her beautiful heart together with her fabulous humor. Kori is exceptional. She works with senior citizens … and … her compassionate care and concern for them is obvious. It has been beautiful to witness their love and support of her on social media!
And the love continues to pour in her direction. And … I am in awe of her strength and resilience as she finds her way through this dire turn of events. And, she is a shining example of how one can decide to live a great life anyway … regardless of what you find on your path. And, I think it is fair to say she has inspired so many of us to rethink the way we are living our lives, because one can never know what will come one’s way … on a seemingly regular Tuesday.
And, she has done just that!! Thank you Kori … for showing us … for teaching us … that people can get through the most daunting adversity with the right attitude and the will to overcome the roadblocks tossed on their paths. And, as a counsellor, I am aware that we do not always publicly see the struggles and challenges that are also part of any great overcoming … but … your grit, grace and glow remain an absolute inspiration.
And Kori, I know you have always lived your life from a perspective of gratitude … so much so that you even have the word “Blessed” tattooed onto your foot.
And, while most of us would be hard-pressed to find the blessings in all you have been through … you continue to do so. Regardless of how dark it may seem … you are always looking for the light!
Yes, it is clear that all the love and support extended your way is cherished and treasured in your heart. No. The gifts and blessings in your life are never lost on you! But … I also want to ensure that you know that our lives are so much better because of you … and … with you in them!
I am so grateful our lives intersected beautiful one! I sincerely thank you for casting such a brilliant glow into my world … both pre and post stroke! Yes. I just wanted you to know that although we no longer work together … I am grateful that we still connect every now and again for lunches … and … have hopes that we will have continued opportunities to connect at our monthly “Von Schnitzel” collegial suppers! ❤
I know that your journey continues. And, I also know that you will find a way to ensure that any blessings that might be hidden in the hardships you have endured will be honored and appreciated. You are one of those amazing souls that turns lemons into lemonade … and then … generously offers to quench everyone’s thirst! And may this blog serve to remind you that we are all still cheering you on … ever grateful for all the ways that our lives are better because you are in them. Yes … we are all so much better because of you.
And so, in closing … I just have to share this. When I saw the following quotation, I laughed. It sounded just like something you might say … using your exceptional sense of humor to describe all you have been through since that fateful Tuesday …
With heartfelt gratitude for your shining presence … ❤ Karen ❤