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Tributes

There have been many moving tributes to Kate since her death and we are collating them her for the boys. Please leave your memories and tributes for Kate in the comments at the bottom of the page so they can discover them when they are older.

Remembering my darling wife Kate – Billy Boyle

Recorded and played on Kate’s funeral on the 9th January 2015

 

Seneca The Younger was an old Roman philosopher who wrote 124 letters to his friend Lucilius, to help him understand what it means to live. One letter has the line  “As in a story so in life, not how long it is but how good it is, is what matters”

In words Isaac and Oscar can understand, Kate was someone was did good, who was good.

With Tony she founded AGI to make government work for some of the worlds poorest people – even today it is still an organisation whose values are defined by her character. At the end of November we went on a walk through the woods of Wimpole – I asked her what she was proud of. Characteristically, she said she was proud of the achievements of others, the impact the AGI team are having in the Ebola ravaged countries that she loved. In her last days there were many messages of love from the AGI team passing on quotes from others. Here are three:-

From the President of Liberia: “I really appreciate your support – we need far more AGI people.  You stayed during our crisis and helped us overcome it”

From the head of Ebola response: “You hugely enhanced our work in stopping Ebola in Liberia”

And, finally.

“Without Kate, none of this would have happened”

Kate was at the centre of the spiral, but the arms of the spiral are cast half away across the globe and they still embrace and protect the lives of many families in Africa today.

Because Kate touched many lives, much has been written about her over the last few weeks, and while we are proud of her public achievements we mourn today for the private moments.   Many have sat in the same room as her, but it is all of us here, who have walked through the years with her. Tomorrow is our 11th anniversary. I’ve been thinking about it constantly, where we met, what she wore, where we went, what we laughed at, trying to edge closer to her as we stood in the rain waiting for the bus – and while these memories bring pain there is great joy because I have spent everyday since living in the grace of her love. All of us here can right now bring to mind our Kate, the love she gave each of us, our own unique memories, stories never to be written down, but forever etched in our hearts, to be brought out frequently and placed alongside the best cutlery.

She was constantly bringing people together but was supremely skillful at carving out the wonderful warmth of her attention for every person there. The wildly ambitious, last minute dinner parties where confidences would be shared over densely packed lamb shanks. She was the doer – the one who planned the holidays and long walks, where she would peel you off from the rest of the group to find out your news. The boss-friend who cared about what you wanted to achieve in work, not what she could get out of you. She would find a Christmas present for her sister in June and hide it at the bottom of the wardrobe until December. A slapdash perfectionist who washed the dishes at full speed and slammed the door in her haste to get outside and make each of our worlds a better place, all the while still making sure to take the time to savour the wonder around her.

Last term the boys had writing homework where they had to ‘fill in the blanks’ – “I love_blank_because_ blank”. In Isaac’s small neat handwriting he wrote, “I love Mummy because she gives me hugs”. The job title “Mummy” and job description “hug giver” was the one that she cherished the most. An accolade missed out in the obituaries was “Mummy the master lego builder” and in 47 Ross Street, no one could transform Optimus Prime faster than her. She could do these things because she was there with them – she was there with them when when it mattered most – sitting beside the boys over the months and years – giving them a gift only she could give – the unconditional love of their mother. She will still be with them because of what she has already given them. She is there in the happiness that they have everyday. My friends, as the boys grow up, we need you to take out your treasured memories of her, to share with them, so they might know her better. From stories of naughtiness at Oxford to her inspirational work – tell them all. Tell them what what she was like when she wasn’t ill, and when she was, how she defied it.

When The Nuisance arrived, the battle and bravery metaphors of cancer annoyed Kate. She made the choice to show up for gruelling treatments but had no control over the outcome of the battle. Forces beyond your control can take away everything, except the last of human freedoms, your freedom to choose how you will respond. Kate was brave and remarkable because of two choices she made when confronted with fate. In the face of debilitating treatment, and even in her last days,  it was others she thought of – How are the boys? are Mum and Dad ok? She was also able to find meaning in her own suffering through writing. She wrote a blog post about how we must be careful not to avert our eyes to the suffering of others. She did this while lying in a hospital bed, in pain, days before undergoing yet another operation. Kate freely admitted her own imperfection and she definitely wouldn’t want the halo burnished too brightly, but the fact is that she lived up to her own writing and a powerful part of her legacy is to challenge us – to exercise our muscle of compassion, to be more and do more – from changing the world to reading our children just one more bedtime story.

Her blog became a book and Late Fragments was published just this week. On Amazon it was categorised in the death and dying section. I tried to find a phone number to tell them that they had made a mistake; to tell them that this is a book about life and living.  Her letters to us, to help us understand what it means to live. She is gone. But we can still find her on these pages – her humor, optimism, strength and joy for life.  A gift to our boys so they can know her better when they are bigger, but also another way for us to carry her in our hearts until our own deaths.

The last words she ever wrote to me are on the inside cover of her book –  “love is stronger than death” – it is difficult to feel that today, but as we know, our darling Kate was almost always right.

 

My Sister – Jo Gross

Amidst all the grand and articulate tributes to my remarkable sister, it’s hard to know how to explain my perspective on her life. All I can do is share some things I, and I think all of us, love most about her.
Kate always was some kind of mythical creature to me. I looked up to her and followed her around like a lost puppy, copying her every move throughout our teenage years. She was example of what a young person could be and achieve, and inspired us all from the get-go. Although to the outside world it may have appeared that we fought tooth and nail, as all siblings do, we both agree that these are not the memories that have lasted. Instead I remember walking together around the pond in Bishopstone on wet green mornings, surrounded by the smell of damp dock leaves and horse chestnut trees. And paddling in the stream at the bottom of the garden with our wellies on, squatting with buckets trying to catch something or other, freezing our tiny fingers in the clear, icy water. Our father passed on to us his quiet love for nature;  names of flowers whispered in our ears time and time again reverberate through Kate’s book, providing a solid anchor in the firm ground of this earth.  As young children our best chats were almost always facilitated by nature, although at this stage she was usually chief adviser on important topics such as how best to crimp Sindy’s hair in the toaster and how to nurse sea urchins back to life after mild torture. As we grew older and walked together with mum and dad, in the stillness of nature Kate was always able to give the piece of advice that would reset my path and solve all my problems. I think everyone that knew her as a pre-hatched grubbling would agree that her ability to nurture, protect and wisely advise those she loved defined her from a young age. Days after she died I walked on Mersea Island and felt her in the spiralling starlings and in the still wetland ponds, and most of all in the stars and the big black sky that night. The wisdom I feel from her is no longer expressed in words, but it wraps me up like a warm wadi wind.
Kate always had a gift with words. In her younger years she turned her fierce intellect to analysing the world’s greatest literature. She fired my passion for books and her unique perspective on the power of the written word, passed down from my mother, has had a similarly profound effect on many of the people who loved her. But what has struck me most about my incredible sister, and what I really wanted to say about Kate, was how she blossomed over the years. How she took that ability to sculpt words and began to reach deep within her heart to make the personal political, and find new depths of honesty, new ways to touch people’s hearts as well as their minds. I think this metamorphosis began when she met Billy (how could she not up her game when walking side by side with the most genuine soul imaginable) and had the twins, and her world began to close into the four square. Luckily this served to strengthen the bonds between the original four square and the new one, and I think also between Kate and all of her immediate Bests. She became a mother, first and last. This new-found softness and absolute commitment to what is truly important in life extended through her career to her relationships, and later her writing. She became not only the most intelligent person I knew but also the nicest.
Every chapter of Kate’s life has held new inspiration for me. But her final chapter has left me charged with a drive to do more, enter the arena, stand up and be counted. Judging by the wonderful letters the family have received, and the incredible response her blog and book, I am by no means alone in this. What a gift to the world to achieve so much and affect so many across the world so deeply. Thank you, Kate.

 

IN MEMORY OF KATE – Tony Blair

Kate Gross died early on Christmas Day, aged 36, leaving behind her husband Billy, her parents, her 5 year old twin boys, and a large number of grieving friends of which I was one. Her last two years were spent fighting a cancer that she knew would take her from everyone she loved and from everyone that loved her.

Praising the quality of her all-too-short life is easy. Making sense of the injustice of her death is harder. No-one conquers death. But you can achieve a certain triumph over it. This she did and how she did it is a lesson for those of us who knew her well and those of you who never knew her at all.

Kate first came into my life in Downing Street, when at the extraordinarily young age of 26 she became my principal civil servant adviser for Prime Minister’s questions. It was an important position. I remember meeting her, preparing for our first Question Time, thinking how young she was, wanting to put her at ease and saying how she needn’t worry about being nervous. She replied that on the contrary I needn’t worry. “I’ll do my job and provided that you do yours, we’ll do just fine” she said with supreme self-assurance. Later when I got to know her better, I asked whether she really felt so at ease. “Of course not” she scoffed, “but the last thing you needed was some petrified youngster exhibiting their signs of stress whilst you’re experiencing yours.”

That was very typical of Kate. She would not like to be thought of as superhuman or a saint. She had the same feelings, anxieties, and crises of confidence as the rest of us. But she had the self-awareness to recognise them; and the determination to overcome them.

She didn’t always know she was going to die young. But she lived as if she might. In other words, there was not much wastage in Kate’s life. When she left Downing Street, she came to work with me in setting up the Africa Governance Initiative, the Foundation which works with African Presidents and Prime Ministers to promote effective Government. This can involve everything from delivering better healthcare for children and pregnant women to reforming the business environment to attract investment. The Foundation is now in seven different countries and set to expand further. But when it began under her leadership, it was just a handful of people and a very limited budget. She built it, nurtured it, gave it its culture and allowed it to become the organisation of scale and impact that it is today.

Even when she became sick, she still took huge interest and pride in it, especially in these last months when the teams already working in the Ebola-stricken countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, refused to leave, and insisted on staying to help the Governments combat the disease.

It was on a trip back from the USA where she and I had been fund raising for the Foundation that she suddenly took ill. She had terrible stomach pains, made it to A and E and within hours was undergoing an emergency operation for colon cancer. Unfortunately, the cancer had spread to the liver. After another operation and the cancer had been removed, it seemed for a short time that she might survive. But it wasn’t to be. Last year it came back and from then on, she was sure to die soon.

Once she knew her fate, she made the briefest possible stop at the place of self-pity and decided to move into a different gear to a new and more creative destination. I had literally no idea that Kate was such a brilliant writer. She began to blog, about her impending death naturally, but the blogs turned into a set of beautiful insights about life. Then she conceived of writing the book that will be published shortly. It is called ‘Late Fragments’. It is a gem – a wonderful, uplifting reflection on how to die and how to live. It is sad because of the context in which it is written; but there is nothing tragic about its message which is a happy one, full of life’s possibilities not its limitations.

Along with all of this, she managed to achieve the deepest of love with her family. She knew the summer of 2014 spent in France was going to be her last. So she made it special and joyful.

So what is the lesson of such a life? It is the lesson that we know as a matter of theory, or when we’re in an exceptional moment of spiritual awakening. But it takes a real life as a real example to make us understand that the theory can be made practice; and that it is our choice as to whether it is so.

The lesson is that it is not the longevity of your life but the intensity of it which counts; that what you give lasts longer than what you take; and that if you contribute, even to the smallest degree to the betterment of humankind then you will not be a memory but a living and moving spirit that even after death can change the world around you. Such a spirit is Kate.

 

Keble College Oxford – Remembering Kate 

It is always a shock to learn of the death of a former student. Tutors do not expect to outlive their former charges, and Kate Gross was so memorable that seeing her graduate fifteen and a half years ago is today as if we saw her yesterday, and another essay might be expected next week. We first learned of Kate’s illness in the summer of 2013 at a gathering with some members of that eminent English graduating class of 1999: there was quiet, very serious concern for her, and she was conspicuously absent. Kate Gross made a big impact in the world: she found the drive, the vision and the means to make a difference, from the Prime Minister’s Office to being CEO of the Africa Governance Initiative. Much has been said and more will be said of this in the weeks and months to come. Tony Blair paid her this compliment when he said that she fashioned ‘an organisation that took a new and innovative approach to development and today is making change happen in many different African countries.’ She was a phenomenon, and taken from the world far too soon.

Kate had that drive when she first arrived at Keble in Michaelmas 1996. She came from St. Laurence School, Bradford on Avon, where she was taught most effectively by Simon Mitchell, who had also read English at Keble, taking a first in 1982. We remember her cheerful, engaging, enthusiastic presence, brimming with ideas and always ready to put a question. She worked hard, and her best essays were, according to our late colleague Malcolm Parkes: ‘clear, full of penetrating insights, and well judged.’ You can read her passion and her sharp insights in her articles and blogs, and in her book just published, which is stirring awed admiration: Late Fragments: Everything I Want to Tell You (About This Magnificent Life) (William Collins, 2015). She was bright and that sunny friendliness worked in classes to encourage others, perhaps more shy, to speak. She learned well how to parse an author, how to generate insight from analyzing textual detail carefully: that was her strength and it made her a professional. What a powerful writer she grew to be. The year group was and remains some eighteen years later particularly well integrated, and Kate’s role in that group was notable, as much as she was also a force in the College more generally. Sometimes the sheer presence of all her interests made it hard to deliver the best every time: we tutors feared the Keble Women’s Rugby Team for this reason. Yet she finished with a most creditable first, and that resounding success was surely the harbinger of all that was to come. Kate’s life was magnificent, no less so for the courage with which she faced her last two years. Her memory will be precious to all of us and all our sincerest considerations and prayers at this time are with her husband Billy, her twin sons and her parents.

Nigel Smith, Fellow and Tutor in English 1986-1999

Ralph Hanna, Fellow and Tutor in English 1997-2009

12 Comments

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  1. Mother Carrie Thompson / Jan 9 2015 6:51 pm

    I was at Keble at roughly the same time as Kate. I didn’t know her well – she was a year or two below me – but I do remember her well. It sounds like a cliche to say that she had a smile that lit up the room; but she really did. I haven’t seen her for about 17 years, but when her photo appeared on my Facebook news feed, I recognised that smile instantly.
    I dare say that she had her down times (don’t we all?), but my abiding memory of Kate is that she was always cheerful, always laughing. She had an infectious giggle that was at the kind of pitch and volume that would have shattered the glasses in the bar if we hadn’t been made to drink out of crappy plastic ones. Even the way she moved had a kind of ‘swing’ about it. She brought a little sunshine with her whenever she entered the room, and you just couldn’t help but smile in her presence.
    She will, I am sure, leave a huge gap in the lives of all her friends and family; but you don’t need me to tell you how blessed you are to have known her and loved her.
    May she rest in peace and rise in glory.

  2. Jenny / Jan 11 2015 8:36 pm

    It is impossible to encapsulate Kate in any amount of paragraphs, though I am hoping I will get better as time goes by, so that I may be often talking and writing about her. It was one of the greatest strokes of good fortune I ever had that we recognised our potential friendship and were able to make it last nearly 20 years, never growing apart, always seeming to converge on everything that mattered, and on the little things which didn’t, but which are the meat of friendship.

    For which Kate must take the credit – her great gift which didn’t make the public tributes was how easily and lightly she mastered the making and maintenance of friendships. Kate *shone* on those she wanted to know. To put it unpoetically, she was a ‘super-connector’, linking friends across continents and contexts. 10 for dinner at a table for four – no problem! 20 people coming for a party half an hour after she got in from work – clear the decks!

    She was also the best person to be alone with – the person I ALWAYS wanted to see most, no matter how often I saw her. Whether you were alone with Kate in a crowd, or really alone on a walk, or latterly in her room in Cambridge, she took your time as a treasure and returned it to you increased. When I visited her in hospital, I would arrive feeling anxious, and stupid-tongued, but leave feeling a strange combination of calm (because she always made you feel everything would be alright) and excitement (because it was always so *exciting* to see her).

    She was generous with laughter – and much funnier than she thought. Incisive in her gossiping, as firm as me in her intolerances, but much kinder in her judgments. NOT A SAINT. A shallow mean girl like the rest of us when the the occasion called for it. But her shallow means fitted mine perfectly.

    I wish I could add up all the hours I spent with Kate and redistribute them so I could ration them and make them last a fair lifetime of friendship – 60 years not less than 20. Two memories at the moment – though there are so many that are tripping me up. At Kate’s funeral, the Revd Dr Malcolm Guite used the metaphor of Kate travelling upstream towards the end of her life. We went to Yosemite when we were 20 and had two perfect sunny days there. We lay in the shadow of Half Dome, and trembled in our canvas hut for fear of bears. Kate fed our pizza to raccoons while I shrieked in terror. And although i think it was against the rules, of course we swam in a picture-perfect stream. And of course Kate took a picture of me while I was hopping about on one leg trying to put my clothes back on.

    And just this September, we had what we didn’t know would be our final weekend away in Suffolk. To me, it was perfect. Crabbing in Walberswick, pub lunches, ice cream, a birthday tea for Frank where Kate led the games, and a long walk just Kate and I across improbably purple heathland where we discussed how would be best to care for her beloved boys when she was gone, arrangements for our planned half-term trip to France which we didn’t get to have, and whether there were any fitties at our respective workplaces.

    That weekend she also gave me her copy of ‘Crossing To Safety’ with a note that it was the only novel she’d ever found about friendship between couples in which they actually stayed in their original pairs. A quote she had underlined, does a better job of encapsulating Kate better than I ever could.

    ‘In high school a bunch of us spent a whole year reading Cicero – De Senectute on old age; De Amicitia, on friendship. De Senectute, with all its resigned wisdom, I will probably never be capable of living up to or imitating. But De Amicitia I could make a stab at, and could have at any time in the last thirty-four years’.

  3. Edouard Asselin / Jan 11 2015 10:37 pm

    Billy, I don’t know you but you are in my thoughts tonight. A friend of mine forwarded me the Guardian article about Kate which appealed to me. I lost my wife to cancer 3 month before you on the 25th of September 2014 aged 33. She leaves me with Bertille our daughter of 2 and 10 years of the happiest memories. Bertille is there to remind me that life goes on and Magalie’s memories to remind me how beautiful life can be.
    When I read about Kate, your story, ours resemble it so much. Magalie shared Kate’s spirit, she remained the happy bubbly caring person she has always been until her very last breath and never let the nuisance get into her way. Both are such lessons of life, Kate will be your strength and so will your twins. I wish you so much your twins resemble her and you preserve her spirits in them.
    I am not offering you to launch a club of widower’s in their mid 30’s however if you ever came to London and fancied sharing stories round a bottle of proper French wine (we are French I am afraid), or a proper pub crawl, you give me a shout anytime. You don’t have to but my door is wide opened and I mean it sincerely.
    Keep strong, don’t look to far ahead, enjoy the present moment like our wives taught us.
    I am have ordered Kate’s book and am looking forward to reading it.
    I don’t wish you a happy new year, just a good night and to live fully every day that follows to you, to the twins and your families.
    All the best.
    Edouard

  4. Lucy Higginson / Jan 11 2015 11:49 pm

    I hope it is not too presumptuous to leave a message though I am a stranger to Kate and her family. Not that anyone who has read her writing feels a stranger to her really.. But what a lady; what courage and eloquence and love she exudes.
    I hope those she leaves behind can feel some of that reflected back from all the people, like me, who have been moved to re-examine the things that matter most in life by reading her story, your story. We will all try to live a little better because of Kate.
    With love, LH

  5. Emma Jackson / Jan 16 2015 10:58 am

    Many amazing things have been written about Kate’s professional career, and while I proudly read these and get to know another part of her life, I will miss her first and foremost as my wonderful friend.

    I met Kate in my second week at university in the inauspicious surrounds of the Fifth Avenue nightclub. The next day she marched to my room, went straight to my wardrobe, and started borrowing clothes. I had never had a female friendship like it before – over an hour our conversations could span literature, boys, politics, fashion, what we were doing that evening, and economics. We started a conversation that morning that carried on for 18 years. I knew Kate all of my adult life, and it was so much brighter and better for it.

    Kate taught me so much. She opened my eyes to a wider world, of back-packing in Thailand, and jungles in India – we spent our Gap year together, and she led me on adventures to places I still vividly dream about. She taught me about cooking with olive oil, and eating artichokes under the early evening sunshine in France. She showed me that girls could be fiercely proud of being funny, smart and ambitious. She showed me Bath, and minimalist white interiors, and had an uncanny ability to make even the most studenty dive look chic and welcoming. She was exotic – she shopped in Whistles, had a (admittedly dreadful) boyfriend who whisked her away to Venice. She was brave and fearless – I taught her to ski and on her sixth day on the slops she insisted on taking on an icy black run.

    From university, a tight group of us have remained great friends, and Kate was always the very heart of it, cooking up a feast, organising a weekend away. I have such fond memories of hanging out in her room at Liden quad at Keble, summer university holidays at 55 Lyncombe Hill in Bath, dinners around her little white table at her first flat Kennington, lunches in Cambridge, drinking rose under the stars in France… Wherever we were, she could open your trusty recipe book, and cook up an exotic treat for waifs and strays who found themselves at her door. Kate had a legion of friends from different parts of her life, a young family and a demanding career, but always made time for her friends. The day after I came home from hospital with my first son, she was round, just back from Africa, clutching a laptop, briefing papers and a homemade cake.

    And Kate was an amazing mother who led the way for me here too. I nervously cradled a week old twin in Cambridge, having just found out the day before that I too was pregnant, and marvelled that a little life was growing inside me too, and wondered how on earth I would cope with one, let alone two. She showed me how to balance the shifting and competing priorities of family, work and marriage, and do it all with a sense of humour and a strong sense of self.

    And despite knowing all this, and having been her friend of 18 years, the way she coped with her diagnosis and illness staggered me. I will attempt to avoid the cancer lexicon I know she hated, but her searing honesty and, at times, black humour, got her friends though this. She got angry, she got sad, but I’ve never saw her bitter. I’ve never met her, even as a chemo buddy for gruelling mornings at the Marsden, without her still wanting to know the banal details of what was going on in my life too. I cannot put myself in her position and imagine how I would have reacted, but I strongly suspect I would have spent a lot of time curled up on a sofa, and certainly not starting a new career as a writer, and finding so much time for my friends lives when my own had been tipped upside down. Her focus was entirely on leaving memories, legacies and a lifetime of love for Billy and her Knights.

    I imagined that our friendship would wax and wane over the years, but I assumed it would always be there, that we would grow old together, in the Home for Mothers of Boys. That we would holiday together, share more adventures, happy times and bad times. Kate was there for every seminal moment in the last 18 years of my life – getting the results of our finals in Edinburgh, starting our first jobs, finding our first hovel to rent in Clapham, the exhausting and life changing first days of motherhood, getting ready for our weddings. I’m angry that there won’t be a celebration in the future where there will not be a sadness that she is not there. Who will lead the way and guide me through the next phases of our lives – the mother of teenage boys phase, the grey hairs, the mid life crisis, the empty nest? And I’m angry not to see what Kate could have done next, what achievements the next 40 or 60 years might have brought, because the first 36 years of her life were so spectacular and dazzling.

    What I do know is that Kate will always be a huge part of my life – through university memories, Gap Year photos, the things she has shown and taught me, the meals I cook my family, and the stories I tell, the person I have become, and the mother I want to be. I am also so grateful that we have her charity AGI, her writing and most of all her wonderful family, who were her proudest legacy. I look forward to watching Oscar and Isaac zip down ski slopes, sharing meals at Ross Street with Billy and the boys, and seeing her smile in Isaacs’s dimples, and her fierce concentration in Oscar’s eyes.

  6. Charlotte / Jan 16 2015 11:50 am

    I have just read Kate’s book, so I am simply one of her ‘readers’. It was inspiring – inspiring me to read more and be even more committed to slowing down rather than be consumed by the business of ‘succeeding, working, consuming and rearing.’ It reinforced my motto ‘Carpe Diem’ and gave some practical insight on what that actually means and how to do it. Seriously a beautiful manual on how to live, what a legacy for the Knights.
    After reading it, I discovered I am a fellow school Mum with her great friend, Arabella Pike, who encouraged me to spread the word of this book ‘everyone should read’. I had already been spreading the word to my clients yesterday – busy professionals who sometimes need reminding what really matters in their life. So I have spread the word this morning to friends around the globe AND within minutes friends have already downloaded it to their kindles. She will leave even those who didn’t know her glad.
    Thank you Kate for touching my life through your words. Sending you all love and courage as Afterwards begins.

  7. Sarah S / Jan 18 2015 4:00 pm

    Kate was my friend from when we were 13 and we met at the Theatre Royal Bath Youth Theatre. I remember the beautiful girl trotting up to me in a black beanie and making me laugh so hard I peed a bit. From then, she was quite simply this little ray of sunshine that I couldn’t wait to see every Thursday evening or weekend.

    Everyone has spoken of her incredible achievements, and there were so many, but to me, Kate or, to give you her REAL names; Kaker/Kaz/Kate. E. De Grenville (a stage name that stuck until her death – I was Samara De La Rhondie D’Amour), Pinky (of Pinky & Perky as we called ourselves after deciding we were literally pigs….emo was all the rage back then) was just so darn FUNNY. We used to cackle until we were hoarse, bitch like little witches and encourage each other to be naughty during theatre sessions. It was brrrilliant.

    Throughout the 13-18 years Kate was my on-call cheerleader and personal motivational coach. I’m so lucky to have been blessed with an especially good bunch of girlfriends from school who I still call my besties today, but Kate had a wisdom then that no-one else did. I knew immediately Kate was bright. Okay, not just bright, but, y’know, like MEGA-bright. Academia never came very easily to me and while we were revising for GSCEs (and later A Levels) Kate would patiently explain subject matter from history to science to literature in a way that I could understand, ‘you are NOT stupid Sazza, your brain just works differently’. (Years later, whilst doing a post-grad I would indeed learn that my brain was indeed wired differently). We were on holiday in Mallorca with my family when we got our GCSE results, I was gobsmacked to get all As and Bs, and it was only moments later when Kate got ALL A*s (except, I believe, in the 2 that didn’t offer that grade yet) that I really absorbed just how much of a brainiac she really was.

    Kate shaped so much of what I am now – she introduced me to so much literature and poetry. It still makes me laugh that before Kate I didn’t ‘get’ Shakespeare (something she relished reminding me of when I told her I was teaching it to actors!). I remember her being nervous about going to Oxford and how I roared with laughter at the possibility that she might go elsewhere. Seeing her at Oxford and seeing her being genuinely pushed academically for the 1st time was like watching a tethered horse finally being able to gallop.

    I was furious when I realised Kate’s diagnosis was terminal. I was so angry that my funny, silly, brilliant, loyal friend wasn’t going to be there anymore. The wonderful thing is her love of words has left many beautiful letters to remember her by. These, I’ll treasure forever.

    Nothing Kate achieved surprised me. I feel that however sad I am that I lost her, I am utterly devastated on behalf of the world…she would have done so much more…. But someone sent me a quote which I shall try and remember whenever I feel sad and angry; ‘Be happy you knew them, not sad you lost them.’

    I am so very, very, VERY happy I knew her.

  8. Keely / Jan 20 2015 9:24 pm

    I came across Kate’s writing from a Compassionate Friends article only weeks ago, while I was up all night unable to sleep grieving for our young daughter we lost last year. I immediately ordered Kate’s book. Instantly I have poured over every word Kate wrote. I hadn’t realised she had lived just 15 miles from us. Today I googled Kate and realised she had passed away this christmas. My heart sank and I feel a deep sadness that as I’m continuing to read her book now, she is no longer here with you.
    My mother (also from Cambridge) died from cancer too, she was 35 and left us 3 young children. I felt compelled to write here, I guess mainly for Oscar and Issac as a 33 year old who grew up without her amazing mum. Firstly I’m so sorry that this has happened in your life and know that there will not be a day you don’t wish your mum was here. As children our mums tend to be the centre of our universe and without them we feel very afraid and long for them so very much.

    But, looking back over 19 years without my mum, I have still had happy times
    and I have still continued to want to live a full life. I believe that the love my mum poured on me has never diminished, I would never swap those years that we shared. Over time, while you never stop missing her, you realise how lucky you are that she was all yours.

    Now that i have sadly lost my own daughter, my emotions are so entwined. I know that no one other than myself and my partner can look after my daughter as well as my mum will. But seeing things from my mums perspective, my only wish would have been for my daughter to live a long and happy life, so I know that’s exactly what my mum wanted for me, and yours for you.

    My thoughts will always be with you and your family, above everything, the love Kate had for you was emulating from every page and was a love beyond words.

    Keely

  9. Caroline / Jan 29 2015 1:19 pm

    Reading all the tributes to Kate has been humbling. I actually didn’t know her in the professional sphere. To her Coven, she had many alter-egos. One of these was ‘Executive Gross’; serious, suit-wearing and successful-in-the-world-of-work. I mean, it was hard to ignore completely. One holiday in France one year I did notice she was on the phone to her boss ‘Tony’ quite a lot. But she didn’t boast, didn’t lord it over you. But it wasn’t really the Kate I knew. The Kate I knew best was Kaker G, who persuaded me to go skinny dipping on a deserted beach on a little Thai island one night. As we were skipping gaily down towards the sea I fell down a fairly deep hole in the sand. She hauled me out. Laying there on the sand with the moonlight reflecting off our pale birthday suits, we laughed so hard for so long I thought we might die of mirth. I don’t know what words to use to tell you how much she was to me. Kaker was a true friend, who understood me and who loved me for what I am, whether present or missing in action. The only friend who would ever demand to cuddle me. I haven’t even begun to miss her and the missing itself will take another lifetime.

  10. Orla Fletcher / Feb 7 2015 10:46 am

    I knew Kate for 478 days.
    The first time I met her was in a short queue in the porch of St Alban’s Catholic Primary, holding Isaac’s hand and persuading Oscar not to press buttons on the wall. We gave each other a knowing look. She asked my son Rory his name and recommended all three boys be friends.
    It would be very easy to lapse into cliche to describe Kate, one of our merry band of Dutch-biking mums-at-the-gate. She had a bright, soft face, diamond-sparkle eyes and a wide smile. The highest of academic and professional achievers, a charity founder with more than a passing political influence – and yet she made time for the likes of me, a numpty clad in cycling waterproofs waiting for school turfing out at 3.15pm. She made time for everyone.
    I remember her appearing behind me at the school playground slide, wearing a fabulous red lipstick, after a diversion through the make-up concessions in John Lewis. And how polite she was to a cursing cyclist she inadvertently bumped at the traffic lights as we all approached in Bakfiets convoy one morning.
    I must confess I came across Kate’s blog by accident and read the whole thing in one night, then kept up with it over the ensuing – and final – months, desperately routing for her and cursing those damned tumour markers. There’s no self-pity in there. It made me sob, primarily out of anger at the injustice of it all.
    She is never far from our thoughts. I feel privileged to have known this girl, albeit for little more than a year. I’m so glad now that I made a point of telling her in my clumsy way that I thought she was a lovely writer, to which she replied that she was working on a book, and we joked about how we’d all wave from the queue for her signings in Waterstones. How we’d claim we know her when she’s famous, and I’d bag an exclusive interview, naturally.
    And therein lies the biggest sadness for me: what could have been. We can imagine, but we will never fully know, what this extraordinary woman could have achieved in another 36 years. In time, her little Knights will become aware of her true legacy and brim with pride. In the meantime, all their little schoolfriends will be there for them, pulling faces and conspiring about Lego Star Wars.
    I only knew Kate for 478 days.
    But she changed my outlook on life. Waste no time. Do – and be.

  11. Sally Bercow / Mar 14 2015 10:57 pm

    Just read Kate’s (beautifully written) book and so affected by her humanity, bravery and insight that immediately re-reading. What an amazing person she was. It would have been a privilege to have met her. Like Kate, I went to Oxford (Keble) and live in Westminster bubble. But (unlike me) she packed so much into her life and will be an inspiration for so many. Totally empathised with her motherly love and angst though. Thinking of you, Billy, and your boys – she has blessed their lives. Sally Bercow xx

  12. David Nicholls / Sep 5 2015 10:09 am

    Kate died 8 1/2 months ago. I haven’t written on this blog yet but now seems the right time. Not sure if anyone is reading or watching but then again, I’m not sure that particularly matters.

    Kate is everywhere now, just when I least expected it. Plastered over tube tunnels, popping up in the Telegraph. Irrepressible in life, and in death. And I think about her often – when troubled, I find myself asking: what would Kate do? What advice would she give me? For she was a confidante (as she was for many) and a true friend. The answer is always sensible and measured and a comfort. She lives on in our hearts.

    Two weekends ago I was in St Antonin Noble Val at the Gross Family Home in rural France, a beautiful place that Kate loved and which I have been blessed to share with her on many occasions over the past 10 years or so. From that first visit in the winter of 2005/06 when Tammy Hoyle fell off the ladder to the upstairs bedroom and we sat in the dark coldness of a French winter reading books and drinking red wine, to later summer visits, too numerous to enumerate but invariably involving delicious meals, copious drinking, long walks, and wild river swimming.

    My favourite memory – and the prompt for leaving this comment – is from September last year, which my recent trip to France refreshed. Her time left was short but she was relaxed and happy. Never before had I seen her so radiant, so calm, so content, and so full of maternal love for her boys. I remember her swimming and playing with them in the pool, the walk we took up to the Roque des Anglais (?), and the lovely lunch we had in town. There was a simple peace and joy to her despite all the pain and sadness that had come and was to follow. This is my abiding memory of Kate and I am glad of it.

    With love to Billy, Isaac, Oscar, Jean, Tim, Jo, Lola, & Baxter x x

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