In memory of
Tanya Kerstiens Rowe,
Bellingham Wonder Woman
She was authentic, kind, ethical and trustworthy.
She was for peace and fitness and orphaned kittens. Electronic music, hybrid electric cars, an infrared sauna, a garden in the drained Henry Avenue swimming pool where she grew her first artichokes.
She strapped on snowshoes and crampons in the winter and joined in a Polar Plunge on New Year’s Day.
In the spring, she threw graduation parties for the interns at Western and cycled down the Mount Baker Highway for the Ski to Sea race.
One hot summer, she introduced me to yoga in a lunchtime class. Our super limber instructor asked us to twist ourselves into ungodly shapes and told us to SMILE! I fell to the mat, laughing. Saw Tanya in the mirror smiling.
Tanya Kerstiens Rowe did not need to be told to smile.
Another hot summer day, about 10 years later, she started chemo.
Fall was always a time for new beginnings. Her desk clean and organized, the focus point being a miniature Zen garden. In October, the quest for the perfect Halloween costume.
This year she was Wonder Woman. She was, in real life, in fact, Wonder Woman.
She lived life with gusto. On her terms. She was for a natural childbirth at home, and, as a skilled negotiator, she requested and received the finest blend of naturopathic, Chinese and conventional medical treatments for all her health needs, including her breast cancer.
This tiny giant was born two decades before me, and yet she was a role model for me. Tanya was vigilant about protecting her time, her needs, her boundaries, and she pursued her personal and professional goals with tenacity and a great deal of stamina.
She was a momma. There was no doubt: After February 2012, her beautiful boy Benton was No. 1 in the world.
Back in 1998, the Bellingham Herald named her writer of the year. Soon after, she transitioned into PR and media relations.
She was a professional.
She was also true to herself. As she wrote talking points for others, she worried about being authentic and preserving her own voice. She found an outlet for that voice in poetry, essays and other creative writing, choosing the appropriate language, form and sound to fit various situations and genres.
She was unapologetic. She took the words of pioneering journalist Helen Thomas to heart: outrage makes a good journalist.
In person and on the page, Tanya could be sarcastic and diplomatic, sensitive and absurd, angry and serene. Organized, methodical — and spontaneous.
Tanya was as meticulous about a nutritious, organic, non-GMO, bacon-flavored vegetarian diet as she was about accuracy, precise grammar, and the rhythms and structure of her writing projects.
So we laughed when I found her eating ketchup potato chips in bed at the Empress Hotel in Victoria and when she confessed she was the practical joker who had moved the clock ahead five minutes to “avoid being late.”
She blogged about her “last day with boobs” with amazing strength, humor and honesty and chronicled Benton's growing vocabulary, failing only to convince Benton that what Mommy had said in frustration and exhaustion was “Cheese and Rice!”
She appreciated all our prayers and support in her battle against cancer. She kept a positive attitude and gently taught us to acknowledge her need for rest by beginning or ending our messages to her with: “No reply expected.”
I wrote her a haiku.
No reply needed.
Your wrath at cancer restrained.
I will swear for you!
Then I let loose against the cancer: #%%$^^**!!F'ing##$%@@+!!~Cancer
She beat the cancer. She was back.
And yet ... this fall, as winter approaches, we must start learning to live without our tiny, ever-cheerful Tanya, taken from us by the person she trusted most.
Rest in peace, dear friend.
The Sheehan World is the world's leading online newspaper for
Kathy Sheehan's world and has been in virtually continuous
circulation since 1995.