Farewell my dear friends

On January 30, 2020 Cathy P. Aten passed away from complications related to her Primary Progressive MS. Today would have been her 65th birthday. She knew that her journey was close to its end, and had a chance to say goodbye to many of those she loved. Below is her self-penned obituary. Her blog readers sustained her for many years and each and every one of you was very special to her.

SUCH bad form to pen ones own obituary and tout my successes in life but I am gone now and do as I choose. Living in relationship with chronic illness for 20 years as I have with Primary Progressive MS affords one too much slow time and I thought that one day I’d need such a paragraph or two; what a gift it would be for my family if I just did it myself and what would I say anyway to sum up a life?

Abhorring false modesty as I do I will tell you that my life has been hugely successful. The meaningful bounty really began rolling in when I left my birthplace of Bloomfield Hills, MI at 20 where I survived suburban family life with father Roger Wilson Aten and mother Beverly Whiting Aten. Brothers Peter Aten and Scott Aten and sister Jennifer Aten Kass survive me having been the best of the best in the sibling department. All our energy in childhood was spent in survival mode dealing with inept parents so we began falling in love with one another on their passing and continue do so.

I was gifted an education at Kingswood School Cranbrook by my beloved grandmother Mary Macauley Whiting followed by a BFA degree in Textile Design from College of Art and Design in Detroit.

My dad was really challenged by the role of father. He headed the Styling Department at GM. The atmosphere there seemed to satisfy him more than family life. GM made good use of his creative and natural leadership brilliance. His legacy to me; hands-off tutorials to discover my own creative gifts through introduction to power tools, general composition and basic design along with the value of try, try, try, fail, fail, try and finally YES! I got used to the flux of a truly organic and alive existence. I never once had to fight familial nay-saying to become the artist I am.

Thirty years of working solely as a fine artist in various media such as hand-painted textiles for the fashion industry and interior designers, painting and ceramic sculpture feels like a very big deal in hindsight ; a precarious existence but how rich I often felt in my bones with absolute freedom to create. I got very comfortable being uncomfortable; the artists boon and nemesis, which has served me well negotiating moment to moment uncharted waters of MS.

For 20 years MS ate away at the nerves governing leg and right arm function so I could no longer count on manipulating substance into form. My creativity gracefully segued into writing resulting in LIVING UNDONE- my blog reflecting how MS changed me into a woman I like far better than the pre-MS Cathy. www.cathyaten.com. I used this venue as a tool to register how my values shifted, had to shift with the grit of chronic illness. My promise to self to write vulnerably allowed me to take off all the pretty metaphorical costumes and identities I experimented with in the art world to present myself as interesting. If MS had not left me so raw and “featherless” I may never have even caught sight of my authentic self. Today, after the hardest work I’ve ever done I can finally stand in my own precious skin with no apologies, agreement or questions as to my worth.

My highest achievement has been the vast riches of connections and friendships created here in my beloved Santa Fe from that very authentic place chronic illness has led me to. I learned what true love is not from a human but through the privilege of love of my dog Emma and also in my cherished relationship to this land and the nurturance she so generously bestowed on me for 30 years.

Thank you, each one of you for your part, whether a glance, shared greeting on the street, margarita maker ,art critic or celebrator, lifetime friend in helping me create an inspired life as my muse.The generous support of the precious community we are made for the finest of theater. I could never, ever have lived such a privileged lifetime without you. A deep bow.

For readers local to Santa Fe, NM, a celebration of life will be held at the Berardinelli Funeral Home, 1399 Luisa St, Santa Fe, NM on Saturday, May 2, 2020 from 3-5 pm. Comments to her blog will be monitored for a while for anyone with questions or thoughts to share.

Cathy was so very grateful for all the support she received in life, but for anyone who wants to remember her with a donation, she asked that contributions be made in her name to Esperanza Shelter in Santa Fe https://esperanzashelter.org/


6 Responses to “Farewell my dear friends”

  1. Irene on February 6th, 2020

    Rest in peace, dear Cathy. I learned so much from your writing. You will always be remembered.

  2. Catherine Siciliano on February 7th, 2020

    Dearest Cathy
    Thank you for your inspiring words over the years – full of courage to the end. I know that somehow you will see this message and I offer you and your loved ones this poem by Kahlil Gibran:

    For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
    And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

    Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
    And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
    And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

    Happy dancing Cathy
    Peace and love from Catherine in Australia

  3. deanne newman on February 7th, 2020

    Happy Birth Day Cathy

    Clearly with you every day has brought new birth to you and to us through you

    How wonderful to have shared your you

    Love, Deanne

  4. Carole Zoom on February 7th, 2020

    We will cherish your artwork with wonder and love. Thank you for the life lessons Cathy. CaroleZoom +Patrick

  5. Adele Rosen on February 7th, 2020

    Thank You Cathy
    You are your most amazing work of art
    Beautiful Beautiful Job
    Warrior Angel
    Heaven help us

  6. Jenny Simpson on February 8th, 2020

    Dear Cathy,
    you have meant so much to so many people, writing with poignancy, honesty , fun, and delight. Your blogs have gone wide, you know, -used at St Andrews on the Terrace on several Sundays ,in Wellington New Zealand, several times in MS Wellington Newsletter. My favourites are many but especially “tools for the journey” (or road ?) and when you fall , look for the gold and bring it back.
    Actually , last time i fell , last week, I cleaned the kitchen floor with my jersey. And no nuggets but I chuckled rather than grimaced or groaned.
    I am so grateful I found your writing , that I could hear your voice, could learn and be inspired to live more clearly and more gently .
    My heart goes to your family and esp Emma
    Arohanui Jenny

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