• PamPURRed by the best — the last story from our beloved Kathie Yount

    After my son’s burial is over and the hurt has supposedly been laid to rest, and most importantly, after everyone thinks the suicidal impulse has cooled in me for at least right now, I am let out at the edge of the road to navigate my way by myself down the slippery ribbon of my ice-sheeted driveway. Light snow is just beginning to camouflage in white this frozen slickness and while both elements have been unpredicted, they qualify as my convenient excuse to finally be left alone.

    My treacherous driveway, being far too difficult to navigate by car, has become the talking point I have chatted about for miles and miles as we have gotten closer to home.  Although the weather had been sunny and unseasonably warm earlier on this surreal February day, bad weather had made driving increasingly more difficult over the 250-mile return trip, especially after the St. Louis stop at Lambert to drop off other mourners for their flights home.

    After six days of non-stop company day and night, I do not think I can endure hearing any more platitudes. I cannot attempt any more talk of any kind. I know I cannot tolerate the company of stranded visitors. I just want to cocoon with Moses.

    As I wave to signal I am safely at my door, I turn the key to unlock the house that once knew the language of love and happiness, the only childhood home he had ever known from his birth to his death just six days ago. Moses is waiting just inside the doorway. He is a welcome sight as he arches his small soft body into the curve of my greeting hand.  Everything else feels strange, an incongruous after-quiet following this unfathomable horror.

    I am barely able to summon any strength from what is left of myself in the gathering gloom of this Sunday night, but I struggle out of my coat and impulsively take it outside and throw it into the trashcan. I feel deranged. Angry. Drained. I feel I could collapse every time I am struck again and again by my new reality, the grim consequence of the last traumatic hour of his life. I already know that his death is the turning point of my own. But a turn to what? For what purpose? Everything I have worked for is gone. Why, God? What on earth?

    The still house gives up no answers.

    Still, I cannot turn off my tortured brain. Born on a Sunday. Buried on a Sunday. The best day of my life. The worst day of my life.  Born on the first day of spring. Dead on Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, the day before the beginning of Lent and Mardi Gras. 1977 to 2010.  3-20 to 2-16. His life is over. Over. This cannot be happening.  I can no longer remember who I was just six days ago. It seems as if a thousand years have passed. On Tuesday it will have been a week. How could that be possible? Can a nightmare last a week? If so, I want to wake from this cruel joke.

    But I am awake, and like the feelings I harbor for the leftover funeral food stockpiled neatly for me inside my refrigerator, I have no appetite for this leftover life.

    Moses, though, has not lost his appetite. He turns, sticks his tail straight up into the air and trots ahead of me, confident I will follow him into the galley kitchen. And I do. He looks up at me questioningly, eager for his food, though there is already a ton of dry kibble left over from this morning.  After all this commotion, the constant opening and closing of inside and outside doors, the endless weeping and ceaseless talking, the multiple ringing of phones and mustered-up business-like voices making countless long-distance arrangements — all this steady hum of condolences and thanks for the receiving of innumerable casseroles — Moses had abruptly been left alone by himself for most of this singular day.

    I can see he looks much better even in the dim light of dusk. The past six days have been nothing but utter confusion for him.  Since neither my brother nor sister has pets, the urgency of Moses’ condition was lost on all of them. During this strange week, Moses has somehow narrowly escaped his own death, his needs having been ignored by everybody, including me, until Friday morning when, at last, I drove him by myself to the veterinarian. They think he may have been grazed by a car on the highway. The appointment is the first time since Tuesday that I have had to explain why Moses did not get this urgent care sooner to someone who did not already know the answer.  I will never forget the stunned looks on their faces.

    I measure Moses’ medicine and give him his antibiotics before his dinner. I cannot remember if I ate anything in the church basement afterwards as I sit down on the kitchen floor to watch my mackerel tabby cat eat. He loves to have someone watch him eat.  Dylan and I would always share laughs about Moses’ unusual quirks.  Tonight I am so exhausted I wonder if this kind of pain is so obliterating that I will be questioning every detail of our lives.

    Already the comfortable certainty of memory has been permanently destroyed, overcast by doubt and second-guessing on my part. Every smiling picture of my son will forevermore be cloaked in mystery — was he happy there? Here?  What about that little frown? All past, present and future experience will be affected by unforeseen suicide death.

    The violence of Dylan’s death washes over me in the surrounding dark, and I stand up to turn on the lights. The collusion of the San Francisco crowd and the San Francisco police seems ludicrous. What the hell had happened? I only know what the girlfriend and another friend who had flown in together for the funeral have told me.

    In fact, I will not know until many weeks later how the girlfriend will “amend” her statements and say she had been advised not to write anything down. Later still, I will learn that these two both “have no interest” in talking with me.

    At this point, though, I have only seen two forum discussions, printed out for me, since my computer is located at my business rather than at home. This Sunday night I have only an inkling of what going viral on the Internet means anyway.

    I think once again that Dylan had been the most self-reliant person with the best intuition of anyone I had ever known. What impulse or existential angst had called him to the abyss, what the French call L’appel du vide? Why would people encourage someone to jump to death? I have never considered the root of anonymous cruelty in normal everyday life. I always thought hate was a deliberate act, institutionalized like a policy. I considered cruelty an anomaly, occasionally a spontaneous act brought on by uncontrollable rage, but never in broad daylight in a crowd at a busy intersection in front of many police officers.


    I look down at Moses and cannot imagine how anyone could be cruel to an innocent animal either and remember a rich boy I once knew in high school who wrecked his Corvette by trying to run over a cat on the highway. The more helpless the victim is, the greater the crime must be, I reflect.

    Can there be anyone more helpless than an irrational man standing on a sixth story ledge?

    This Sunday night, I do not know what a gift that Moses will be to me or that I will have him as a companion for more than a third of the time Dylan was alive. I do not know I will have nightmares every night for more than seven years now, going on eight. I do not know that I will type Dylan Yount, Hallidie Plaza, San Francisco, 2-16-10, or some variation of that search or man jumps to his death and people laugh every single day between 2010 and 2017. I have no idea I will study suicide baiting, deindividuation, lethal access, means restriction, bystander apathy, high-place phenomena, the San Francisco Police Department, Crisis Intervention Training, or most things associated with suicide research for the next seven years now, going on eight.  I have no clue that the last hour of my son’s life will dominate the rest of mine.

    Likewise, I will have no conception of how Moses will become a great therapist with the right credentials that animal researchers are only just beginning to discover. I am a great believer that a cat’s purring helps mend broken bones and know that my dislocated index finger is healing quickly.  I could not appreciate how Moses (Dylan called him Brother) would pamPURR me throughout my days with his nonjudgmental touch. He will become my reason to get up when he lets me know he is hungry or wants to go out. He will become the only responsibility I have in life.

    I am unaware of all that on the Sunday night after I buried my only child as Moses and I begin to convalesce together.

      • JL Nash

      • January 22, 2020 at 7:49 pm
      • Reply

      This very moving article has brought tears to my ears – such emotive writing. Her death truly is a loss for Ipinion. May she rest in peace.

        • JL Nash

        • January 22, 2020 at 7:51 pm
        • Reply

        Tears to my ears? eyes, heart… you know what i mean

          • Maya Stiles Parsons Spier

          • January 22, 2020 at 10:44 pm

          I knew what you meant. She was amazing. I knew her personally — spent real time with her. She lived near my stepmother, so when I visited my stepmom, Kathie and I could get together. She was funny, kind, generous, strong, pragmatic, intelligent and subtly alpha, probably from being a teacher. She grieved endlessly over Dylan, but she was still capable of enjoying life. I know because when we were together, she truly enjoyed that time. But I think that reunion had to have been one real beauty. The thought of it brings me to tears…

      • Debra DeAngelo

      • January 22, 2020 at 8:09 pm
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      I’m so glad that this story kept a little of Kathie with us awhile longer. Despite her pain and anger, she was a brilliant, eloquent writer. She will be missed… and remembered.

        • Maya Stiles Parsons Spier

        • January 22, 2020 at 10:49 pm
        • Reply

        I got to meet her in person and visited several times after that. She lived near my hometown in Missouri, so if I was in town, we got together. When I retrieved some family heirloom furniture, she helped carry it out of my stepmom’s house and then get it loaded up for transport. There she was, 75 years old, insisting on sparing me — a former power lifter capable of pulling a plow. She claimed that strength with a dedication that told me it was part of how she survived — she held onto the knowledge that she could go on, even though life was never, ever going to be right again. When the SF establishment proved its heartless indifference to the consequences of their cruel incompetence, I think it punched out some of her wind, but she also planned to go to Hawaii and claim some happiness before her life was over. She never got to do that, but she did bring Dylan’s story to the world and made a huge impact in the community that fights suicide. The time after Dylan’s loss was excruciating, but she made it count and that matters…

          • Debra DeAngelo

          • January 23, 2020 at 7:07 am

          I’m not sure I’ve ever known someone with as much tenacity and focus as Kathie. She had one purpose after Dylan died – to bring awareness to suicide baiting. She was just tireless. Let’s not let her message die.

      • Terri Connett

      • January 23, 2020 at 2:12 pm
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