In Memoriam: Kate McReynolds

My very good friend, Kate McReynolds, died last Friday after a year-long struggle with lung cancer. I became friends with Kate after I interviewed her for The Case Against Homework. During my interview, I was struck by how incredibly articulate she was. In fact, although all of the professionals I interviewed for the book–and there were dozens–were articulate, Kate was in a class by herself. I had never met anyone who talked in perfect paragraphs. But it wasn’t just that that attracted me to her. She was my age, like me had two children, lived in New York, and everything she talked about in the interview was something I had thought about before, but had never quite put together in the same way.

When the book was completed, I called Kate and invited her to lunch. I wasn’t expecting a friendship; she was just someone I knew I wanted to talk to more and someone I thought I might be interested in working with in the future. Over the next year and a half, we met often, talked incessantly, and became friends. And then, she was diagnosed with lung cancer.

I spent a lot of wonderful time with Kate this past year, and I’m going to miss her tremendously. I will miss her open-heartedness, infectious laugh, incredible intellect, her insights, and so much more. In a New York Times piece titled Perhaps Death Is Proud; More Reason to Savor Life, a new nurse reflects:

Go home, love your children, try not to bicker, eat well, walk in the rain, feel the sun on your face and laugh loud and often, as much as possible, and especially at yourself. Because the only antidote to death is not poetry, or drama, or miracle drugs, or a roomful of technical expertise and good intentions. The antidote to death is life.

That reflection sums up perfectly what I would say I learned from Kate this past year. And that’s an incredible gift.

In Kate’s last article, “Children’s Happiness,” published in the Spring 2008 issue of Encounter Magazine: Education for Meaning and Social Justice where she was Associate Editor, she wrote:

If we were to look squarely at the ordinary unhappiness of just one child–that is, if we pondered it until we had achieved the deepest understanding of his or her experience–what would happen? I believe that, like my son’s middle school teacher, we might be brought to tears. We might recognize that forces behind our own unhappiness, how we ourselves have suffered from unremitting pressure to make the grade and the subsequent narrowing of all that was meaningful to us. If we then let compassion overtake us, we might do something remarkable. We might, for example, take a leave of absence to give ourselves more time in the present. We might adopt a more modest lifestyle that balances work with devotion to our deepest values. We might, in other words, decide that the happiness children naturally seek is the most important thing in life–for them and for ourselves as well.

3 thoughts on “In Memoriam: Kate McReynolds

  1. Ms, Bennet, thank you so much for your reminiscence of Kate. She and I met at Chaparral High in Scottsdale AZ in 1973, when we were juniors. Late that year we co-starred in a school production of Macleish’s “JB” and after that, we did everything together. We made memories that will stay with me forever. All the usual things, like concerts and dances and parties. But she was so special. One night she tapped on my window at 1am. “Let’s go!” We walked for hours in the moonlight, way into the desert. Yes, she coud laugh, couldn’t she? And what a lovely voice…and heart. I was so pleased to find her again just a few months ago, when she was very ill. We traded e-mails for just a few weeks until her final illness. My last message from her was that she was returning to hospital for more radiation…a month ago or so. I wrote again but….
    I learned of her death this very moment. What I wanted to tell her was this: that as long as I live, though so far from NY and the life you made, Kate, there is a heart and a spirit that holds you and cherishes you, who over the decades never forgot you and never will forget you, and who who can recall like yesterday the desert and the moon and you…..


  2. Wow im stunned that she had died. She had helped me a lot. I was getting deep in the street life in brooklyn while i was going to CCNY. She gave me a lot of life lessonsto live by. She always gave me hope and saw the power i had in myself that i never saw before. Thanks to her i was able to let go of the street life. Tho i stopped going to CCNY after she was fired unfairly. Her lessons stayed with me she was one of the few people that still believed in me when most gave up. She will be missed greatly. R.I.P. Dr. Kate McReynolds


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