Keep on Loving – Remembering Katie McQuade-Toig

This weekend one of my dear friends and a truly beautiful woman died. While I am confident Katie’s soul and presence will never leave us I am struggling to make sense of the loss of her physical being.

Katie and I met in 2010. I was preparing to move to Kenya and transitioning some of my work at Trinity to a volunteer team she wanted to join She and I shared breakfast at Zaftigs Diner and it took about 10 minutes of conversation to realize our meeting (and following friendship) would extend far past Almost instantly, Katie and I sensed a resonance between us and shared about our struggles with food/body, our desire to make a difference/fear we would fail and  our beautifully checkered pasts. This was one of Katie’s great gifts, to open up her humanity in a way that made strangers feel like friends within minutes.

We grew closer over the next two years, exchanging emails about my life in Kenya, Katie’s life as a mom/wife/student and how we continued to yearn for internal peace. On one of my trips home to Boston Katie and I met for coffee to talk about the organization I was running, Tatua Kenya. Katie loved the stories I shared and asked if she could come visit us in Kenya. The ten days Katie and I spent together in Kenya will be forever special, outside of my mother, Katie was the only person from the US that came to Kenya to visit. She so deeply wanted to understand my life, Katie was not satisfied with being casual friends, she wanted to see you and she wanted you to see her.  On that trip Katie saw me. We spent the days visiting possible partners in Kenya, nights out having dinner/dancing and took walks around my neighborhood where we opened up about mutual frustration with the unrest that continued to beset us at times.

Spending a night out with Katie at a small bar in Maua Kenya.
Spending a night out with Katie at a small bar in Maua Kenya.

Those conversations provided such comfort in knowing that some one “got it,” Katie and I wrestled with similar forms of disordered eating habits and depression which allowed us to connect and support one another through the highs and lows. The last time Katie and I were together it was apparent to me that the depression and food stuff was getting easier for me. I believe this stems from an ability to accept my challenges while loving myself. However, I could tell this wasn’t happening for Katie. I could see she was becoming increasingly more frustrated and more tired of the struggles she knew so well.

I have no idea why our paths diverged – I can only attribute this understanding of unconditional love to grace. It breaks my heart that Katie could not harness that unconditional love last week. I so want her with us still and I will spend many moments wishing there had been a way to communicate that love to Katie.

One day Katie shared her thoughts that both of us had a little bit of the Virgin Mary in us, not because of our purity, but because of the way that we both served as midwives for beauty and wonder. I am convinced that the most powerful thing Katie’s soul could birth after her passing is an awareness of our goodness. Katie so desperately wanted to do good, but her death reminds me that the essential things is not to do good but to recognize that you are good. It is about knowing that our human hearts simultaneously hold darkness and light.  It is my hope that the loss of Katie will not inspire us to do good but instead to realize that we are good; to see that everything inside of us – even the most painful parts – can give us a glimpse of God as long as were willing to look at it through eyes of love.

3 thoughts on “Keep on Loving – Remembering Katie McQuade-Toig

  1. Natalie,
    This is a beautiful tribute to Katie. I just found it & was so touched to read it . I know how much she loved her time in Africa with you & how she said it was absorbed into her essence. I am certain it had a lot to do with experiencing it with you.
    There were so many people that loved her & all of us will carry her beautiful spirit with us.
    Sharing your sadness always,
    (Katie’s mother in law)


    • Carole,

      Thank you for your words – they come at a perfect time. I am visiting Boston and I have profoundly felt Katies absense on this trip. It is healing to be able to connect with you in this way.

      With Love


      • I know how you feel. I was in Boston last month & revisited some favorite Katie spots to feel here presence.
        Sending you a hug.


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