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yvonnetada

There are people who enter your life at just the right moment as if the meeting was divinely orchestrated. You have no clue at the time just how important your connection will be. My friendship with Yvonne Kaye was just such a one. I initially discovered this dynamic, outspoken, no holds barred, now multiply tattooed 85-year-old woman in the 1980’s when she was the host of a long time radio program on a Philadelphia based talk station called WWDB. Her listeners were regaled with stories about recovery, grief, spirituality, and humor. Yes, they were often blended together as if a sweet and salty cake batter. I would listen with rapt attention each Saturday night. I would tap into her wisdom as a therapist for a few years, and a mentor since then. She saw me through some of the darkest, most challenging and painful parts of my life. I like to say that she was a lovingly kick ass coach who insisted that I enter a co-dependency recovery program. In her inimitable style and firm British accent, she said, “You’re going.” and so I ‘go-ed.’ On the other side of the program was a freedom I had never known. From her, I learned that I had the right to say no to what didn’t work for me, rather than falling in a lax manner to whatever showed up in my life. I learned that I need not be a caregiver in order to earn love. I learned that ‘discipline is freedom’. I learned that I am loveable, just because. I learned to laugh at my fears, instead of buying into them. I learned to stretch comfort zones. I learned to question nearly every aspect of my life. I learned that my choices impact my outcomes. The treasure chest is overflowing with all of the gems she has offered me over the years.

Today is her 85th birthday. How many octogenarians do you know that rock more than half a dozen tattoos (acquired since her beloved partner John died three years ago), who has a delightfully wicked sense of humor, and can rock out to the music of Bob Marley, Freddie Mercury, and David Bowie? I want to be like her when I grow up. Her resilience in the face of loss and trauma astound me. She gives voice to what many are thinking but dare not say. She continues to use her therapeutic and presentation skills to work with those with addictions, those who have lost children, people who are incarcerated, and those who have PTSD. I was honored to have interviewed her this summer as she shared her perspective on those and other currently pertinent topics.

We have far more than a professional relationship at this point. When John died, I offered my hard earned wisdom, having been widowed in 1998. Since my mother died in 2010, Yvonne has become a surrogate mother, listening with the ears of the heart and holding space as my own mother did. She would often say the same type of encouraging things that my mom would say. When my son Adam married his sweetheart, Lauren on August 12th, 2017, Yvonne shared a prayer during the ceremony and a blessing before dinner.

When I planned my trip to Ireland back in May of this year, Yvonne advised me about where to visit, since John had been her tour guide on their journeys there. She is a lover of all things Irish, just like me. As it turned out, most of the places she suggested were on the tour. I had brought with me, two photos of John. The first was taken when he was a 17-year-old hottie and in the British Royal Navy and the other while he was in his 70’s and looking quite handsome and distinguished.  When I entered one of the shrines called St. Brigid’s Well, I saw tha it was filled with prayer icons, rosary beads and photos of those who had passed. At that moment, in the chill of the alcove, I heard John’s voice asking me to leave his youthful photo there. My response was “But they are dead people.” John winked and said, “I’m dead too.” I carefully placed his picture among the others knowing that he would be well cared for.

I am eternally grateful to celebrate the birthday of this shining light who continues to touch the lives of so many.

 

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