I first encountered Kathi Kamen-Goldmark seven years ago when our mutual dear friend and my client, Leslie Levine, asked me to join her, Kathi and Sam Barry to lead what has come to be known as the reading and writing week at Rancho La Puerta, a health spa of some renown in Tecate, Mexico. With her infectious grin, sparkling eyes, wicked sense of humor, and warmth, not to mention a cloud of gorgeous red curls, Kathi was a force to be reckoned with. To know Kathi (and by that I mean, to be lucky enough to encounter her), was to fall instantly in love. And it just got better throughout the week, as Kathi and Sam lead singalongs at the piano in the lounge at Rancho, and regaled us with stories of their publishing escapades and friends. Kathi valiantly took part in early morning hikes, African dance class, yoga and the great fitness classes, but she lived for the Broadway dance class at week’s end, in which a tiny Asian dance master led us through Hollywood routines, leaving us breathless and panting for more.
The week’s highlight was the talent show, organized by Kathi and Sam, friends and partners in music, life, and everything else the universe has to offer. Kathi began shamelessly recruiting for the talent show on day one of our week there, cheering on the talented and the talentless, who like I, could always be part of the back-up dancers and play the kazoo. There is no one else in the entire world who could persuade me to make a consummate fool of myself, but there was no saying “no” to Kathi! (Truth be told, I enjoyed making a fool of myself, but that can be our little secret.) For the finale, Kathi, guitar in hand, would perform “The Slut Song,” her own indelible composition, and one that left us with tears of laughter pouring down our faces.
Kathi also loved our delicious swims at what Leslie called “the secret pool,” high on the hill with a stunning view of the surrounding mountains, graced with an archway looking out on to a vista of what I imagine to be a grove of cypress trees. (A city girl, I am rather loose with my botanical terms.)
From time to time, we had to remember that we were actually there to teach and share our knowledge about reading, writing and publishing. Kathi’s fiction-writing class made the art of writing seem like the art of the possible–and it was such fun. No one was exempt from reading their work, yours truly included.
So most years, I totally looked forward to seeing Kathi, bright halo of hair surrounding her merry face, at Rancho and sharing the good times and mischief. I knew that Kathi had so many friends, countless friends, and felt lucky that in my own little way, I had been admitted at least into the outer circle. In time, Kathi and Sam got married, and it was a joy to witness the tenderness with which they treated each other.
So when Kathi and Sam asked me if I’d represent them for a book they planned to write together on their journey through cancer, each of them as both patient and caregiver (Sam had also had a scare with colon cancer), I was deeply touched and I vowed to place the book in the best of publishing hands. I felt truly honored to be working with them. They wrote a brilliant proposal that was actually laugh-out-loud funny in parts. I found a wonderful editor who had lost her sister to cancer the year before. As Kathi put it, if she had to go through this hellish experience, she wanted at least to be able to share what she and Sam had learned along the way. Sadly, just as we were waiting to receive the fully executed contract, I received the news that Kathi had only perhaps a day or even hours to live.
I hate that Kathi had to suffer, to be scared, and to die. It feels shockingly cruel. But I take some comfort in that she lived so richly that most of us would be lucky to sample the crumbs of the banquet that she laid out daily for everyone she touched.
Kathi, you were and remain a goddess. Thank you for letting me know you, even a little bit.
(Kathi above with Leslie Levine)