5.4 Editor's Pick
March 13, 2019

Kate Bartolotta: in Celebration of a Life Well-Lived.

“Cathryn Elizabeth (Fields) Bartolotta, of Tolland, Connecticut, born March 14, 1976, in Hartford, to Charles and Christine Fields, passed away at age 42, on April 14, 2018. She was an author and self-care coach, helping people all over the world to live more authentic and healthier lives. Cathryn is survived by her daughter, Caroline; son, Finnegan; their father, Jonathan; brothers, Charles and Colin Fields; and sister-in-law, Kimberly Fields.” ~ Published in The Hartford Courant on May 3, 2018
~

This obituary from The Hartford Courant does its job of giving you the bare bones of who was affectionately referred to as, simply, Kate.

Kate’s birthday is March 14, shortly followed by her transition date, which was April 14th of 2018. To say this is a difficult time for Kate’s friends and family is possibly the understatement of the year.

For example, one need not look further than her still-active Facebook and Instagram pages where her friends constantly stop by to leave messages. Some are of memories. Some of sadness. Some of love. Some of all the aforementioned and more. And some of them…some are just to feel some semblance of connection to one of the kindest souls that has ever walked this earth.

To know Kate was to know joy, authenticity, strength, optimism, and real and raw heart. Kate loved Cadbury’s Screme Eggs—a lot. Kate was also possibly one of the worst drivers to ever be granted a license (trust me, she wouldn’t disagree). I’ll never forget my first time performing kirtan at Kripalu with my friend and yoga instructor Alanna Kaivalya. My car wouldn’t fit my drum set, so Kate, as big-hearted as she is, volunteered to bring my kit and I up to the Berkshires so Alanna and I didn’t have to cancel our performance. Luckily, we arrived a few hours early because I needed that time to settle my nerves from Kate’s chaotic driving. Again, I write this because I know Kate wouldn’t disagree, and, in fact, it’s something we joked about frequently after the fact.

I met Kate, as many of us did, through her work as an editor with Elephant Journal in 2012. We clicked immediately, as she resonated with my quirky way of writing about spirituality. After working together on a few articles, I realized we both lived in Connecticut. It wasn’t long before we met up for a cup of coffee, something that would become a somewhat regular routine for us. Kate was one of the easiest, most kind-hearted people one could have the pleasure of sharing a conversation with. She was there for me during relapses, bouts of depression, a divorce, and never with an ounce of judgment—but instead, heart. Always heart.

And I guess that makes sense, because, after several viral articles with Elephant Journal, Huffington Post, and more, Kate published her first book, Heart Medicine: Write your story; heal your heart in 2014. In Heart Medicine, Kate wrote:

“From the time we are children, we use stories to make sense of the world around us. Or think further back, and on a larger scale: history, religion, myth. All of our constructs for making sense of life are a form of storytelling. There are stories we carry with us from our families, from our childhood. We have cultural narratives about everything from gender and race to love and death. When we open up boldly and look at them, we can take them apart, re-write them where they no longer serve us and write stories of our own. When we take ownership of the stories inside us, they become more than just personal myths. They become a tool we can use to grow, heal and transform our lives. They become our Heart Medicine.”

That, that right there. Those few paragraphs Kate wrote are a shining example of exactly who she was. In 2016, Kate published her second book, Choose Joy: A Year of Creating the Extraordinary in Everyday Life. To give you another glimpse into Kate’s heart and soul, here’s an excerpt from Choose Joy:

“Happiness is fleeting. Happiness is that cupcake icing, hot pink sunrise, here-and-gone momentary pleasure. Happiness is vacation. Joy is where you live. When you choose joy as your constant dwelling place, extraordinary things begin to happen. This is a collection of small joy notes. They are 366 small pieces of light, like fireflies or birthday candles, to help you find new ways choose joy in your daily life.”

Both of Kate’s books were celebrated and beloved by her friends, family, and strangers alike. On the topic of books, my own first book, Indie Spiritualist: A No Bullshit Exploration of Spirituality, was published in 2014 and amongst some humbling endorsements including Tony Hawk and Ram Dass, one that stood out more than the rest was Kate’s. Not because she was a friend, but because she got it. That’s what Kate was amazing at—“getting it.” Whether it was commenting on authors’ writing, helping to edit various works, or simply holding a loving space for those who needed to be heard (myself amongst them), Kate got it. Regarding Indie Spiritualist, Kate wrote, “In a society where spirituality has been commodified and repackaged as a lifestyle accessory, Chris’s zero-bullshit approach to our spiritual lives is a much-needed reality check…If I had to pick one spirituality writer to watch this year, it would be Chris.” As I said, Kate gets it. She always got it.

As I reflect back on my years of friendship with Kate and the many times we spent together, from coffee to teaching workshops to receiving a massage from her gifted hands, I realized I have no shortage of memories, but sadly, not a single picture of us together. Talk about a heartbreaker. There’s plenty of pics from events or things we did as friends, but none of us together. Something I will forever regret.

My only semblance of peace around this is that when I quiet my mind, I quite literally feels Kate’s presence. Her physical body has transitioned, but her essence is still very much alive and present.

The majority of my memories of Kate are positive and uplifting spiritually, but then there was the end of her physical life. Her ins and outs of the hospital. We spoke periodically over the phone while she was there. The first time I was scheduled to go see her got rescheduled due to the fact that she was doing better and starting physical therapy, a great sign (and it also happened to be on her birthday, a nice coincidence at the time). However, I was still unaware of the cancer at this point. As far as I knew, it was just a nasty flu that turned into a sepsis issue. But that’s also Kate—she knows there’s enough pain and worry in the world and didn’t want to add to it amongst those she cared about.

Kate left the hospital for a few days and was doing well. However, she quickly took a turn for the worse and returned to the hospital shortly after her discharge. We spoke on the phone a couple of times again, still without my knowing she had cancer and just how bad things were. We made plans again for me to visit, but this time it didn’t happen and it was completely my fault, one of two of the things that will haunt me for the rest of my life. I missed our visit, and the worst part is that I missed that visit due to a relapse to alcohol. I was too sick and hungover to make it to the hospital that day. God, if I’d only known the severity of the situation. “If only…” two words that, again, still haunt me.

We were going to reschedule, but Kate ended up in a coma. The only correspondence at that point was with either her nursing staff or occasionally her ex-husband. I was promised I’d be kept appraised of the situation, but obviously, there were much more pressing issues to focus on in that moment and the days that followed.

I’ll never forget the morning of April 14th, 2108. I was at my girlfriend’s apartment in New Britain, Connecticut, on a Saturday morning. She was working on a puzzle as she often does. The TV was on in the background.

I sat on her living room floor and logged into Facebook on my laptop. The first thing at the top of my feed was a post—I don’t remember exactly from who, but it said that Kate had passed. My girlfriend was in the middle of a sentence when I read that post, and my face turned white as a ghost, my entire body began to shake, and the ugliest of ugly cries ensued. I’ve lost friends through the years, but this one hit harder than the rest, particularly because I had no idea she was so close to death, let alone sick with cancer.

The rest of that day was like an awful dream. My girlfriend took me out for a drive just to get some air, but with every house, car, street sign, cloud, person that passed by, I felt like a numb zombie. Surreal doesn’t begin to do justice to describe that experience, but it’s the closest word I can think of. In fact, the next several days were completely surreal.

It was three or four days after the fact and in my still-completely-dazed state, all I could think to do was get a remembrance tattoo for Kate. It’s of a coffee mug, representing the many cups we shared, with an anatomical heart coming out of the top to commemorate her first book, Heart Medicine. Above the cup and heart were the words “Choose Joy,” honoring Kate’s second book, while underneath the piece, it reads “K.B. 3/14/76.” I chose not to include the day of her transition, because while Kate’s physical form is gone, her love, spirit, joy, and encouragement are all still right here, right now. They’re tattooed across the hearts and minds of those who knew her personally and of the thousands and thousands of individuals who’ve read her books and continue to stumble across her amazing articles to this day.

I don’t want to be cliché and end this piece by saying something trite like, “You’re missed, Kate,” even though that’s true (and an understatement). Instead, I think referencing the final picture/post from Kate’s Instagram page does a perfect job of expressing who Kate was right up until the very end—a woman who knew how to see the good in life, no matter how bad the situation was.

It’s a sad picture, because Kate’s frailty is obvious, but looking deeper, you see the glimmer of love in her eyes. And her final social media message that accompanied the picture…it doesn’t get much more “Kate” than this: “Hospitals are full of wonderfully fully healing people and Italian ice.”

That was Kate—always choosing joy, finding the light in the darkness, and adding her own brand of levity to situations.

Kate, you are missed. You are loved. You are held dearly in the hearts of every single life you’ve ever touched (which is a ridiculously large amount of people). The world lost an amazing gift the day you moved on, yet the gift that is Kate Bartolotta will never be lost. Your words, your musings, your humor, your love…they’re all still here.

Your physical form may be gone, Kate, but every other aspect of you carries on—today, tomorrow, and until these days come to their final end.

Today I mourn, but more importantly, I also celebrate. I celebrate you, Kate.

Today, I choose joy. I love you so much, Kate, and through the tears that are currently falling down my cheeks, I again feel you with me—right here, right now.

Thank you, Kate.

Thank you.

author: Chris Grosso

Image: Author's Own

Editor: Kelsey Michal

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Kevin Meade Mar 23, 2019 7:12pm

A wonderful testament to your friend. Well done!

Aastha Karki Mar 14, 2019 5:33pm

Beautifully written! You gave a glimpse of Kate and her wonderful soul through your writing, even though I never knew her. Tears flowing! May we all learn to choose joy in the surprises that life throws at us. Love!

Chris Grosso Mar 14, 2019 9:49am

I wasn’t able to include a picture of the tattoo, but for anyone curious, you can see it here: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2383385548361186&set=a.193079797391783&type=3&theater

Thanks for taking the time to read this piece. We lost one of the best when Kate moved on.

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Chris Grosso

Chris Grosso is a youth mental health group facilitator with Newport Academy, public speaker, writer, and author of Indie Spiritualist (Beyond Words/Simon & Schuster, 2014), Everything Mind (Sounds True, 2105) and Dead Set On Living (Simon & Schuster/Gallery Books, 2018). He writes for Revolver Magazine ORIGIN MagazineSuicide GirlsMantra Yoga + Health Magazine, and Huffington Post, and has spoken and performed at Wanderlust Festival, Celebrate Your Life, Yoga Journal Conference, Sedona World Wisdom Days, Kripalu, Sun Valley Wellness Festival, and more. Chris also plays guitar with the noise rock band Intercourse.

Chris is passionate about his work with people who are in the process of healing or struggling with addictions of all kinds. He speaks and leads groups in detoxes, yoga studios, rehabs, youth centers, hospitals, conferences, and festivals worldwide. He is a member of the advisory board for Drugs over Dinnerhosts The Indie Spiritualist Podcast on Ram Dass’s esteemed Be Here Now Network and is a member of The Evolutionary Leaders.