To Kassie, With Love.

April 10, 2011

I want you to meet Kassie Lee.  It’s difficult to sum a person such as her in a few words, but I could try:  Dedicated, giving, brave and of course, gregarious.   Kassie accomplished more in her short life and touched more lives than some will attempt to do in a lifetime.

On May 31st of last year, Kassie experienced a pulmonary embolism- a completely random, unforseeable medical condition that cut her life short, just about a week after her college graduation.

Those who knew and loved her were shocked and distraught- how could something like this happen?  How could we begin to understand or grapple with something that seemed so random, so heartbreaking and unfair?

As the year has passed- I still don’t have have any lessons to take away from her death, and perhaps there is no need.  What I can relay to you is that there is something profound to take away from her life, and it is the greatest comfort one can take away from a loss. This is what I have learned:


-Someone Out There Needs You.  Get Over Yourself and Reach Out.

How many times have you seen a need in someone- either for a hug, a note of condolence or a word of encouragement, but YOU got in your own way?  Kassie was always the brave one- she reached out to people when I shied away.  We tell ourselves “Oh, they don’t need to hear it from me,” when a coworker seems to be struggling and needs a boost, or you feel too intimidated to offer a hug or send a note to someone who just lost a loved one?  Usually our excuses and resistance to helping others comes from our own insecurities, not an authentic assessment if another person needs our help or not.

Several years ago, when our mutual friend Vickie was sick with cancer, Kassie made the 6 hour drive from central California to help the family out while Vickie was battling the disease.  I lived a shorter distance away but admit, I was too insecure that I could “help,” to make the same effort- I literally was scared.  I didn’t have confidence in myself enough to reach out and help a dear friend- I didn’t think my efforts would help in the ways this wonderful woman truly deserved.

I realize now the error in my thinking:  get over yourself and reach out.  Helping someone else, even in a small way is never about you.


-Your Greatest Asset is Not What You Can Do Yourself, But What You Inspire in Others.

You will do some great things in life, but you will be remembered for how you made others feel. Kassie did some tremendous stuff educationally, personally and professionally- but reading her achievements on paper are just a fraction of the impact she made.  Ask anyone about her, they will relay her life to you in feelings, not her accolades.

Kassie used to tell a story about the white crayon.  Many people don’t see the point in having a white crayon in a box of so many other vibrant colors.  She relayed that the white crayon can be the most important one in the box- simply because it allows the other colors to stand out. We all have the chance to be the bold, gorgeous colors at some time- and someone has always been our white crayon, offering support from behind the scenes. She often tried to build others up in a way that didn’t bring attention to herself, but really brought out the best in people.

You have the ability to be a white crayon for anyone, bring out the best in them, and let them be their colorful selves.  Simply being around and supporting their dreams, making them feel special and loving them however you can will bring out their true colors.  Being the white crayon isn’t boring- you’ll find you’ll be surrounded by the most beautiful and resplendent people and they might just bring out the color in you as well.

-It’s Never Too Late to Live and Love.

Experiencing loss will bring up every emotion imaginable, even regret.  For every time I felt joy for her life, I felt regret that I should have done better for her while she was here.  I began to look over my life, and critically evaluate my choices.  While in moderation, self-evaluation can be healthy, beating yourself up for the past does no one justice.  Learn from the experiences you’ve had, step forward in gratitude for the lessons both good and bad and forge a new day from what you’ve learned.

Loss will change you- you learn to cut negative people out in your life, and draw loved ones closer.  Of course, I felt insecure reaching out to those who also miss her- but eventually, love takes over.  Relationships will change for the better- the past won’t matter as much, and you’ll appreciate the new opportunity to strengthen friendships.

Kassie’s passing left a huge hole in my heart, a hole I never thought could be filled.  How lucky I am that people reached out to try and  fill it and to develop new and stronger friendships- to grieve together, to heal together.  She can never be replaced, but even though she is no longer on this earth, she has a left a legacy of bringing people together.

-HUG.  Do So Often.

I used to be weird about hugging.  My nuclear family didn’t do much hugging growing up, and I guess I never appreciated the art of hugging as much as I do now.

I’m very blessed to say that one of the best hugs I’ve ever received was from Kassie.  She and I served in the same non-profit organization for several years, and in 2005-2006 I served as the president of this great group.  I wished and prayed that Kassie would be taking my place.  Nominations for state office are done in secret, so even those nominated and the outgoing officers have no idea how positions will pan out.  I knew she would do amazing things in office, and stood waiting to hear the name of the new appointee- praying I’d hear her name over the loudspeaker.   Suddenly- the dream came true- it was HER.  She ran down the stairs to greet me, and I was given the best (happy tears) hug of my life.

I thought the best moment in my life had been during my appointment a year prior, but I experienced a greater joy in seeing her get the chance to live up to the potential I knew was within her.  She didn’t disappoint, and I will always treasure that very special hug.  An embrace of congratulations, an embrace of hope for the future- I think I show affection a lot easier now.




For nearly a year now, I’ve gone through everything a person can go through- the feelings of loss, the sting of regret, the gratitude of her friendship, and the intense passion to live by her example.   I’ve learned that it’s okay to feel pain even as you celebrate a life.  It’s okay to forgive yourself for what you lack and let go of what “could” or “should have been.”

You can learn something from every loss, it may seem to create a hole in your life and in your heart, but it can be filled up with amazing people, memories and the gratitude that you had loved in the first place.  Here’s to you Kassie, I know you will continue to touch lives.

19 comments so far.

19 responses to “To Kassie, With Love.”

  1. I loved this …I miss her all the time and your tribute to her was so right on….thank you

  2. Lindsey says:

    Wonderful tribute, it shows your dedication to your friendship. We also, get to see a window to your soul by the loving words you have about Kassie, and acknowledgment of insecurities. You’re a wonderful friend, and Kassie’s lessons will never be forgotten.
    She’s proud of you and your friendship.

  3. Paula says:

    Beautiful tribute!

  4. One shouldn’t learn these lessons so young, but you’ve absolutely taken them to heart. I empathize with your fear of being the one to step out and offer help. My mom used to tell me that when I was nervous or scared that I was focusing on myself instead of the other person. So, by thinking more about what others need or the results of my efforts I’m more easily able to be of service to others. Just a shift in thinking.
    You had blessed time in life with Kassie and to learn these lessons through her is beautiful. God bless you both.

    • Ruby says:

      Totally- sometimes all it takes is a “shift in thinking,” to get over the hurdles we create in our own mind…when you just look at the boundaries you create for yourself with other people, you realize how small and silly they actually are! Making connections with others is totally worth the small risk of rejection, and the rewards are so grand. Thanks for commenting, it meant a lot!

  5. laurel says:

    Wow. Well shannyn, I love you and your words will never cease to make me cry. Just like your GA speech. I love you. You are a wonderful person and you will continue to touch lives as well. This was wonderful, but you are right. Kassie cannot be summed in words. And I still remember the WA luncheon I was at her table talking and laughing with her. At the end of the luncheon I was helping you carry things and you said “do you like her? I like her I want her to be GWA” and she was. It was a magnificent GA. I love you forever and always.

    • Ruby says:

      I remember that Laurel, one of many special moments you and I have shared. I love you too and am always here for you!

  6. Kelley says:

    I miss her so very much too… We are truly lucky and blessed to have had Kassie as a sister and friend. I want you to know that I’m so glad I had you this year to hold my hand as well, because I need it. I love you!

  7. Melissa says:

    This blog really described how I feel about Kass to a T. She was such an amazing inspirational person who always had others needs on her mind. I want you to know that you are also an incredible inspirational person, and I am grateful to have you in my life. You have such a huge heart! I love you!

    • Ruby says:

      Thanks Mel- I look at the pics of the three of us all together and it makes my heart smile! I am so proud of you and so excited to all the things you have going for you, I know you are someone to be proud of, and I’m lucky to have so many good memories with you!

  8. Alana says:

    Thank you for sharing this, Shannyn! Your tribute brought tears to my eyes. Several times over this past Year, I have thought of her, and would ask myself – what would Kassie think? Or what would Kassie do? She was such an inspirational woman and there are times when I have to remind myself, just like you, to “get over yourself” and just do it or go for it or whatever it is. We are here on Earth for a short time, we just have no idea how long we get to be here, so let’s make it the BEST life you can live.

    • Ruby says:

      So true Alana- we often have to get out of our own way. The self-talk that goes through our minds that we aren’t needed or good enough, or that someone else is probably “okay” and doesn’t need a kind gesture is so silly. More often than not, we talk ourselves out of reaching out or being our best selves…it’s something I have to remind myself of and really strive to get out of my own way. Thanks for the kind comment!

  9. Theresa says:

    Very well said Shannyn. I never had the honor of meeting and getting to know Kassie, I was still devistated by her passing. Like I told my assembly (here in NC) when I told them about Kassie, even though you may be far from home you will always have your sisters and no matter what jurisdiction you are from you have sisters all over the world.

  10. […] up next, will be a fundraiser in honor of my dear friend Kassie who passed away last year- see my blog post about her here.  My goal is to raise $500-$1000 for the foundation that enabled her to meet her dreams, and […]

  11. […] you can see in the video, I’m going to be doing a fundraiser in honor of my friend Kassie to support a foundation and organization that does a lot of good for young women and the community […]

  12. Rene says:

    Shannyn, you are a beautiful young woman. Kassie always had a way of making me feel like we were friends from way back and yet she didn't know me. I am just another mom. My daughters just love her too. Over the past year I too have thought what would Kassie think of this or that. How would she handle this? We have had many conversations about Kassie and what an amazing person she was and how she touched this world. God must have great plans for her.
    But please, don't sell yourself short. You have so much to offer and you are beautiful inside as well as out. You have to be a special person because Kassie loved you.
    Take care and keep your memories of Kassie close to your heart.

  13. […] have learned too much from the past year { see here and here}  to continue on doing anything else less than authentic, impassioned, and inspired.  I […]

  14. Angelica Snyder says:

    Today was a hard day for me over this. I knew her well and was her sister, I miss her greatly and wish more than anything she was still here. You are an amazing writer and you described her perfectly. She truly was an inspiration to us all and I know she will rest in peace. Thank you for writing this article

  15. […] been fortunate enough to get through the lean times without losing my mind.  Through the pain of losing someone I loved, going through graduate school and starting over in a new part of the country I had never even been […]


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