Goodbye, KL, My Brave Friend


“I’m sorry but she’s gone.”

The woman who said it was holding a single piece of paper. She turned it toward me. “I have just certified the time of death at 10:18.” It was Saturday January 29, 2022. Shala, the Siamese cat sitting guard, hissed at the woman.

I had known my dear friend Kathryn Lance (KL to all who knew her) did not have long to live. She hadn’t eaten in over a week and her frail body was riddled with cancer that started in her lungs. This once active woman, who with her published book Running for Health and Beauty helped to start a movement, was gone. Still, I was shocked and the tears came immediately. How can you ever be ready? My thoughts immediately went, not to the past several difficult weeks, but to over 6 years ago when we first met. We were looking at the same bird.

“It’s a verdin,” said the woman who sat down on the bench beside me. She wore a docent uniform and her name tag read KL Lance.

I smiled. “I love birds but I’m the world’s worst birder and I don’t live in Tucson, but I’m trying to move here. I’m in town to look at houses.”

Our conversation took off—effortlessly and full of laughter. We talked about birds, about Tucson, about house buying, about her docent job at Tohono Chul Gardens. We exchanged email addresses and just like that, we became friends. When I moved to Tucson a short time later, she was the first person I had lunch with. It was the spring of 2016. We continued to meet for lunch on occasion and chatted on Facebook and through text. She came to my house with her kind husband Rocko. I went to theirs. I told her all about the book I’d written about my late husband, and eventually about the climate fiction trilogy I’d been working on. It wasn’t until later that she told me she was a writer. I assumed she had written a book or two. I was impressed when I learned she had over 50 publications to her name, and then the biggest surprise of all: her running book.

Running has been one of the most important, joyful parts of my life. Of course, I’d heard of James Fixx, and there was a woman too, who wrote a book that helped fuel the running revolution. I had a logbook in which I entered my miles and the races I’d competed in. I started down this wondrous road in 1982. I was 23. My first race was a 10K and after coming in 3rd in my age group, I was hooked. Hundreds of races and two marathons later, I still run—slowly now that I’m older with a few injuries, but as I’m fond of saying, no regrets.

Once over lunch, I told KL about my running. She’d smiled and said, “Jim and I were friends. I wrote a book before him about women in running.” My reaction was immediate. I gushed. I swooned.  I almost kneeled at her feet. I was a runner, in part, because of her and the movement she helped start. At our next lunch, she brought me a signed copy of her book. I held it reverently and with gratitude for what she’d done. She was always so modest about her writing and her achievements, so I had to look up the information myself. Her running book had sold over a half million copies!








As I sat with her now still body, alone except for the devoted cat Shala, I thought of how terribly brave she’d been these past weeks, even cracking jokes about politicians she’d no longer have to hear about. Every time I visited, which was daily at the end, I tried to make her smile. I went for short walks with her; I read her newspaper headlines; I took her for a ride in my car; I brought her a tribble (we were both trekkies). She thanked me and everyone else who visited or did even the smallest thing for her. And she did it repeatedly. She was like that, always worrying about others and fretting over their feelings. I told her over and over that she was the person who mattered right now and to think of herself. But she couldn’t help it.

The day before she died, which was the last time I saw her alive, I sat with her for a few hours. I read the final chapter of her Pandora’s Trilogy—the most important of all her books, she’d told me. I spoke to her about our friendship, and as I held her hand, I said through tears, “Writers never die, my friend. And I will never let your memory go.” She whispered something that I couldn’t understand, but now I’m sure of what it was.

“Thank you.”



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3 thoughts on “Goodbye, KL, My Brave Friend”

  1. What a lovely memory. Thank you for sharing this. I met KL through Facebook and our last correspondence was on January 5th, me telling her I was reading her trilogy and her sending a 😍. What an amazing woman. I will never forget the grace with which she faced death. ❤️‍🩹

  2. Thanks Carol for this tribute. I knew her only briefly. It was my husband who figured out her Iphone problems. She was so appreciative. I was shocked she had so little time to grieve her husband and to recognize her life was ending before she got everything done. Another wake up call for all of us to help each other before it’s too late.

  3. So beautiful! Thank you for this tribute. KL was a lifelong friend of my father’s. We became after she heard about my father’s death (2years after the fact). I wanted to meet her in person, but my sister died in December. I thank you for your beautiful words and the time you gave to her in her final days.
    Mara Melton

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