I have waited until the right time to sit down and write this.  Here at WBKR, we say this often because it's true.  We consider our listeners part of the family.  We consider you friends.  And that was endlessly true of Cathy Johnson, a woman I first met years ago at The Big O Music Festival here in Owensboro.  I remember that first encounter vividly.  It was about 150 degrees Fahrenheit outside.  Naturally, I was sweating like a hog and walking through the crowd trying to line up folks to interview on air.  And that's when I ran into Cathy.  I didn't know this woman, but I was instantly drawn to her smile and energy.  It didn't take long for Cathy and I to hit it off and it took just moments to realize we were destined to become friends.  And . . . we did.  Sadly, a couple of weeks ago, my friend, our friend, passed away.

Here's our first photo together.  As you can see, she was a country music and NASCAR fan and ready for a Big O time!  She had on her official event t-shirt and her Tony Stewart hat.

Cathy Johnson/Facebook

I have to give Cathy major props for not refusing to hug me, despite the fact that the weather was fully testing the limits of my Right Guard aerosol spray.  But that was Cathy.  That was the essence of her free and fun-loving spirit.  That spirit, however, was routinely put to the test in recent years.

See, Cathy battled breast cancer.  And "battle" is quite the understatement.  It was a fully waged war that Cathy braved like a front-line soldier. It was during that time that she and I crossed paths again.  This time at Brothers Bar-B-Que in Madisonville. Jaclyn and I were there broadcasting and eating virtually everything in sight.  Cathy made a special trip to see us.  She was on the mend, but was showing visible signs of the wear and tear of the journey.  She didn't have any hair that I can recall.  There was a noticeable lack of pep in her step.  But she still had that smile and that unrelenting spirit.  At Brother's, we shared our second hug.  This one was bigger, tighter and longer than the first.  I suppose that knowing what Cathy had been through since our first meeting made it more difficult to let go.

After our meeting at Brother's, Cathy continued in her recovery.  And, let's be frank.  She was a champ and proverbially kicked cancer's ass.  Our friendship, naturally, continued.  Cathy routinely called in and chatted with me and Angel during the morning show.  We knew she was out there listening in, but it always fun for us to get to hear her voice too.  She'd ask how we were doing, check in on our spouses and families and share her sometimes hilarious thoughts about which country music stars were the sexiest.  If you knew Cathy, you are aware that one of her superpowers was a surprisingly wicked sense of humor.  We loved her calls, her Facebook messages and, well, her.

Within moments from returning from vacation a couple of weeks ago, I received a call from Nancy Newman, Cathy's longtime friend and sidekick.

Nancy Newman/Facebook

 

Nancy said, "Did you hear about Cathy?"  I had been out of the country and, because of rather sketchy cell service in the south Caribbean, I hadn't.  Nancy informed me that Cathy passed away while I was gone.  Okay, it's no secret that I'm rarely speechless.  But the jolt of that lightning crash of news left me silent. I didn't know what to think.  I didn't know what to say.

What?  Why?  How?  Then, Nancy explained how Cathy died, suddenly, unexpectedly in her sleep.  In an instant, our friend was gone.

Everyone who knew Cathy is still dealing with this news and loss.  But everyone who had the pleasure of her friendship is also gifted with memories of a woman who persevered.  For those of us who knew her battles and her fighting spirit in the midst of them, Cathy remains a role model in how to fully embrace and enjoy life . . . even when you're struggling to hang onto it.  It's this part of her that will carry on and live in me and everyone else who called Cathy Day Johnson "friend".