"All my life's a circle; Sunrise and sundown; Moon rolls through the nighttime; Till the daybreak comes around. All my life's a circle; But I can't tell you why; The seasons spinning 'round again; The years keep rollin' by." — Harry Chapin.
The world lost a great newspaper reporter and I lost a friend and former colleague Sunday when Kate Leckie died at the age of 50.
Esophageal cancer claimed her life way too soon but, by all accounts, it was not able to claim her spirit.
I worked with Kate at The Frederick News-Post, a daily paper serving Frederick County.
Kate was the much-respected courts reporter who rarely had to tell anyone her last name, who she worked for or why she was calling them.
Everyone knew Kate and respected her for her work ethic, her accuracy and her fairness. Whether she was talking to a defense lawyer, the state's attorney, police chief, sheriff or the mother of a victim of a heinous crime, all could count on getting a fair shake from the reporter who knew her stuff.
Beyond the work ethic that made Kate a respected member of the Frederick community, she was also known for always carrying a broad smile and a cheerful greeting for everyone she encountered.
I will remember her for exactly that — the happiness in her voice and the laughter that always seemed to be ready to burst forth should the occasion call for it.
Her cheerfulness and outgoing personality went a long way toward infusing a sometimes sterile newsroom with needed humanity.
Kate and I were committed to keeping that humanity, taking that responsibility seriously.
Kate mentored young reporters in a field that often does not nurture its up-and-coming writers. She reveled in that responsibility and enjoyed sharing her experience and passing along tips that worked for her.
In the process, she made friends and earned respect inside and outside of the newsroom.
Life is a cycle, and it's difficult for me to admit I'm reaching an age where I'm attending more funerals than weddings.
It's funny, in a sad sort of way, how we move through milestones that naturally occur at certain points in our lives.
As kids, we celebrate the birthdays of neighborhood children and classmates. As teenagers, we look forward to getting our high school rings and attending proms and graduations.
As adults, we celebrate weddings, we throw baby showers and we begin anew the cycle as we celebrate the birthdays and other milestones of our own children.
At some point, we bury our parents, and we comfort our childhood friends as they bury theirs.
We wonder how seemingly overnight we got to be in our 50s and, just as suddenly, all of our childhood friends are grandparents.
Where does the time go?
But even as these cycles march on, stopping for no one, I am not prepared to be losing colleagues who worked a couple of desks over from mine.
Kate was the second News-Post colleague lost in just over a year or so. Cancer also claimed the life of longtime FNP photographer Skip Lawrence, 54, in November 2010.
I realize it isn't my call, but Kate should still be in the middle of her circle of life.
She has two young adult sons in college, and she looked forward to their graduations, and no doubt their marriages and then perhaps the grandchildren of her future.
Instead, her heavy-hearted parents will bury her this weekend.
No one ever said life is fair, but sometimes it seems downright cruel.
This is one of those times.
Godspeed, Kate Leckie.
I'm proud to have known you.