A LEGACY OF GRACE
Mother Teresa said, “Spread love everywhere you go: first of all in your own house. Give love to your children, to your wife or husband, to a next door neighbor… Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting.”
There are no words that better capture the essence of Kay Catrino Wilson. Kay spent her entire life loving other people, from her traditional Italian family in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to her husband of 41 years, Mark, who after meeting her only once, told his parents he had met “the woman he was going to marry.” Kay devoted herself to her two children, Walker and Katie, and never sent a lunch to school without a note or a treat tucked inside to remind them of her loving presence.
But she reached beyond her home and dedicated 41 years of her life to speech pathology. She earned a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama and multiple Masters Degrees. She became an expert in her field and so many people remember her as the woman who literally gave them a voice. Kay gently taught stroke victims how to speak again, and gave children embarrassed by speech impediments the ability to speak confidently and be heard. She did what some would call impossible and even taught deaf patients to speak.
Kay reveled in life’s simple pleasures. She loved to bake her grandmother’s biscotti from scratch with her granddaughter, Greer. She treasured curling up on the sofa reading books to John Walker, her grandson, as long as his toddler attention span would allow. Kay looked for any opportunity to spend time with her brothers, sister and extended family which she held so dear.
She loved her church and the people there, the congregation of the First United Methodist Church in Jasper, Alabama, were brought to tears on many occasions when Kay and her husband joined together in song, their voices blending together in a harmony which was a perfect metaphor for their marriage.
When Kay received a diagnosis of Stage IIIC Ovarian Cancer, in January of 2010, she faced it with the same grace that had become synonymous with her throughout her life.
Kay fought with elegance and as always, looked for an opportunity to help others. Throughout her treatment, Kay teamed up with several organizations to raise money and awareness for Ovarian Cancer. She made sure she always had Teal Toes, she Sang her Ovaries Out and limped through the survivors lap of Relay for Life with a fractured foot and clutching the arm of a fellow survivor.
The Catrino women have passed down their motto for generations, “It can always be worse.” This mantra taught Kay to always see the silver lining, and the cup half full. Her olive skin only crinkled slightly around her almost black eyes with every smile and she had a dazzlingly bright smile for everyone she touched: her husband, her children, her grandchildren, her brothers and sister, her nieces and nephews, her church family, her students and patients, and even her nurses and doctors.
Kay Catrino Wilson was an extraordinarily rare woman because the strength of her loving relationships, and passion for life and helping others changed the people around her. She let no person ever come to her without leaving better and happier. She was “the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in her face, kindness in her eyes, kindness in her smile, kindness in her warm greeting.”
Very often, it’s only in retrospect, after a person has left this world that we take the time to reflect and see what a huge gap has been left in the world in their absence. The family and friends of Kay Catrino Wilson will miss her for decades to come but she left a legacy of grace and her good works will continue.
Her granddaughter will make Mimi’s Biscotti, and one day teach her own granddaughter to bake as well. Her husband will continue to sing. Her patients will speak with voices they couldn’t find on their own. Her children will continue to pack the perfect lunches for their children. Her extended family will remember her twinkling smile every time they gather, and the people who loved Kay the most will continue her fight against Ovarian Cancer. We will make sure we have Teal Toes, and we will give.