Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Kathleen Elizabeth Altepeter
April 16, 1971 - April 8, 2011

How do you measure a life, counting it important among us, and knowing it really happened, and truly mattered?

My sister led a troubled life. She yearned for a happiness she could never seem to find. Mental illness and addictions followed her wherever she went, and unfortunately where she went was seemingly always toward those people and places she should have ventured far away from. Abused by her boyfriend, repeatedly and violently, the steps she needed to take to walk away never got her very far. Until, that is, she was led to her death in a car driven by her abuser. Drunk behind the wheel, he sped along with Kathy as a passenger until he lost control and she met a pole at a speed and impact beyond what the car and her fragile little body could handle. As he walked away from the accident and left her to die, the footsteps heard walking and even running away certainly weren't hers. However, the quiet early morning enveloped her as God embraced her and led her home. A final and painful chapter in a troubled life. An opening of a door to a new and everlasting one.

I've been working to gather her belongings at the various places she has been. A little bit of herself left a trail of sorts where I'm beginning to both find her and lose her. Again. Sifting through clothing, clean and unclean. Sorting through papers, a written history with more gaps than bridges. Pictures, sorted away in various fashion, showing who she valued the most: The children she left behind. Matt, 19; Kylie, 13; and Michael, 9 (who celebrated his latest birthday on the day of her death) were dearly and deeply and passionately and eternally loved by my sister ... even though she couldn't always do it in the way most of us are used to.

So, we gather as a family this week, attempting to determine how to pick up the pieces, put them together once again, and create a collage bound not by typical means, and not by time. But, most certainly, by love.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:19-21).


  1. Tom, I can not begin to tell you how sorry I am for your loss and your families loss. What you wrote just brought me to tears. I remember your sisters smile and will always remember that. Your strength amazes me. God has taken her and wrapped his arms around her. I am keeping her children and family in my prayers.

  2. I am so sorry for your tragic loss. I knew you weren't in Twitterland but had no idea you were facing this difficult time. I pray God will grant you peace only He can give. May you find comfort in knowing that God has you in his arms of love.

  3. Tom, Your strength and faith are astounding. I am keeping you close through prayers and thoughts. I am deeply sorry, but glad that you are chosing to share your pain.

  4. An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life.

    “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.

    One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

    “The other wolf is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”

    “The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person too.”

    The grandson thought about this for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?

    The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

    Your sister may have had many challenges to deal with, but she always had in life, and continues to have after passing, a brother who always feeds the good wolf.
    Strength to you and your family at this time.

  5. Tom - thanks for your display of faith and hope in the midst of hard circumstances. It is easy to have faith when all is good but we find out who we really are and what we really believe in hard times. Stay strong and stand firm. God honors those who honor Him.

  6. I am sending the very best thoughts and prayers to you and your family. I loved reading Mitch Albom's The 5 People You'll Meet in Heaven after my Dad died. I wondered who my Dad would meet and how the mystery of his life would unfold by meeting his 5 people. My favorite quote from the book, "All endings are also beginnings. We just don't know it at the time..." I can guarantee that my Dad was one of many greeting your sister in heaven! God bless you and your family!

  7. Tom, you may not remember me, I was a friend of your sister's for many years. I met Kathy when we both attended Lafayette Beauty Academy and remained friends years after. We lost touch about 12 years ago when I moved out of state. I have always and will continue to treasure our friendship. May God Bless you all in this tragic time. Kathy is now her childrens' guardian angel. May you all find peace.

    Jodi Emmons Ellis

  8. Tom, no words can express my condolences for you and your family.

    All I can say is that I am thinking about you lots and hope that we can all give you and your family strength to carry you through this tragic time. The kids are lucky to have Uncle Tom in their lives.

    Big huge hugs from all of us at Connected Principals.

  9. Tom, my favorite verse is John 14:2 In my Father's house is many mansions, if it were not true I would tell you. I go there to prepare a place for you.

    I hope you find the comfort in this verse I do.


  10. Grace and peace to you in this difficult time, brother! May God continue to be your strength and your song, even though the tune is somber. We love you guys and will continue to pray for His comfort in the midst of all this.

  11. Prayers and support to you. Truly a moving and loving tribute.

  12. Tom, so very sorry for your loss...i can't imagine wht you're feeling rigjt now. Condolences seem so platry, but please know i'm praying for you amd your family.

  13. Tom,
    tragedy strikes when least expected. You don't prepare for it, but if we did what fun would life be. Where would the good come from. It takes courage. It takes weakness. It takes honesty to embrace that which is thrust into our lives. Grief is not taught to us, it is learned through experience, it is not isolated to individuals. We experience loss together, collectively. I wish for you, your family, your niece & nephews- courage, honesty, clarity, & hope for a future that honors the past seeks the positive and embraces the future. 

    Much love to you all in this struggle,


  14. Tom -

    I'm so sorry for your loss. This is a moving tribute.

    All my best to you and your family.

    -- Scott

  15. Thank you, Tom, for your moving words.
    I am an old friend of Kathy Mayer's, now living in Mexico, honored that she shared this with me. Gracias, Pat Hirschl

  16. Tom,
    What a beautiful tribute to your sister. I am so sorry for your loss. I hope that sharing your story will bring you peace and comfort.
    Take care,