Sunday, February 24, 2019


Though it is not what I had hoped, Kim Vogler Harris left this world without telling me goodbye.

We were cheerleaders together in high school. Though we were close friends for only a short whirlwind of time in our lives, there was a bond formed between us that would always be special to me long after we went our separate ways.

Those years of high school that brought us together were spent  practicing cheerleading routines afterschool, preparing the banner for the football players to run through at the start of each home game, performing at pep-rallies and cheering at the games for our school’s football and basketball teams, and of course there were the weekends. Friday nights we might go to Pizza Hut after a game. Eventually an arcade opened up close-by and we would go to people watch or put some coins into a machine to find out what all the hype was surrounding a game called Pac Man. On Saturdays we might go roller skating or walk around the mall with other friends looking at clothes and oohing and aahing at the cute puppies showcased in the pet shop. Once we had our ears pierced while at that mall—mine for the second time, hers done for a third. Keeping our eyes peeled for cute boys was ongoing though we didn’t actually talk to very many.  And why was a bottle of Boones Farm wine necessary on more than one occasion? Honestly, I have no good explanation for that. Sure it was cheap, but it wasn’t very good. We thought we were so grown-up.

After graduation, we did what a lot of people from our small town did—went to Myrtle Beach, SC for a week of fun in the sun. Those were the days when we didn’t care about protecting our skin. Our skin soaked in the sun’s rays, glistening from that layer of baby oil we had covered ourselves in. That week of freedom and relaxation seemed like the perfect vacation. It was until the unfortunate incident of a boy who Kim had been dating decided to split his time with her and another girl from our high school—yeah, it got ugly.

While I was lost in the land of “I don’t know what career to pursue”, she knew what she would become. She didn’t miss a beat completing her education and becoming a nurse. Seems like only a short time ago—although it really wasn’t—she let me know she was retiring from that 33 year career. It was time to enjoy life, though the decision was forced on her. Ovarian cancer had reared its ugliness upon her life. She, like me, had entered the final chapter of her life.

After my 3rd semester of academic performance failure in college, my parents refused to continue supporting the social-fest I was enjoying. I moved home and Kim and I reconnected getting together on weekends when we could. Soon I had saved enough money, working the breakfast shift at McDonalds and the lunch shift at a restaurant called Annabelle’s, to buy my first car. Kim was there for that $8,000 purchase; sat right next to me in the passenger seat of that 1985 red Ford Mustang with cloth seats that my dad was sure was the perfect car for me. I had dreamed of a Honda Prelude with the fancy digital speedometer read-out, but that would have been a financially bad move so that Ford Mustang became mine.

I soon moved back to the college city I had left to figure out what was next in my life. Kim and I stayed in touch but not as often as we once had. She stopped by once to see me after attending a Bryan Adams concert. The next time we crossed paths was not under such happy circumstances for me. My dad was ill and in the emergency room of the hospital where she worked. We stepped away from the chaos happening around my dad while the doctors evaluated his situation. He had been diagnosed with lung cancer recently, but this particular visit was for a bleeding stomach ulcer. We quickly caught up on our lives and she offered hope to me regarding his condition. Soon I returned to my dad, and she returned to her work.

Kim, Mistie, Me
It was slow, but eventually I entered the Facebook phenomenon. There we connected again.  Four years ago or so, posts let me know she had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The prognosis was good until it wasn’t. In 2016, I asked her if she would meet me and another close high school friend, Mistie. That same night we would have dinner with a small group of other 1983 graduates of Davie High School. At first she wasn’t sure she would meet us, but after some thought decided to join our small reunion. I am so glad she did. We had a wonderful time sharing the direction all of our lives had taken since leaving the world of high school and our youth behind.  It would be the last time I would see her in person.

October 2018 was a horrible month for her physically. Doctors suspected a rare side-effect from one of her chemotherapy drugs had caused her severe diarrhea. She was hospitalized for dehydration along with kidney function decline.  A month later she improved enough to go home but wasn’t completely recovered. On Facebook, she posted the picture you see here hoping the three of us could get together again. I thought for sure she had seen the recent plans for another class of 1983 reunion. She had not. Much of what had happened to her and all events in the world had been missed while she was in the hospital. I asked if she would be coming to the reunion telling her I would gladly push her around in a wheel chair if needed. She declined, still recovering and too weak to be able to enjoy herself. I asked if my stopping by to see her was possible, but she declined that too. Physically and mentally, I am sure she wasn’t ready.

Kim again entered the hospital a few weeks later for a blocked intestine. I thought for sure once the blockage was removed, she would recover, and I would see her at some point in the future. Not too long after that her youngest sister reached out to me to let me know several procedures were done which confirmed her ovarian cancer had spread to the lining of her intestines causing a nutritional decline. She was starving to death. Hospice Home Care was beginning the next day.

On January 12th Kim Vogler Harris died. Her cancer was slow and quiet in the beginning, vicious in the end. Her mother, 2 sisters, one brother, now 20 year-old daughter, husband, and others are now left to live their lives without her.

Though I wish she had talked to me like she did a few times over the course of her treatment--telling me that she was starting a new drug or that her daughter was starting college—she didn’t. I can only guess at the reasons.

People must do what is best for them and their families when an illness is robbing them of their life and happiness. I respect her decision; it wasn’t mine to make. She died her way; quietly to the rest of the world while maintaining a brave face as she said goodbye to her then 19 year-old daughter, and to the people that loved her.

My dear old friend, you are missed.

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