Kathy Rawley was one of the most unusual and interesting people I have ever met in my life. I think she was in her 80s when we arrived. Before we came to Rimbey, she lived in a little house just north of town. There she earned herself the nickname of “the cat lady”. I’ll let you figure out how she did that. By the time we arrived she didn’t have her cats any longer and had moved further north to the little town of Winfield. The church in Rimbey was still her church and she would hitchhike to church on Sundays. She was a very aggressive hitchhiker and wouldn’t wait by the side of the road. Oh, no. Kathy would walk to the middle of the road where she would try and flag down a ride. One day she was hit by a pick-up, not head on, but her arm was hit by the mirror as the truck went by her. Her arm was broken, and she was convinced that God would heal her arm, so she refused any medical treatment. Eventually her arm did heal but her handwriting changed into a scrawl that was barely legible.
Each Sunday that she was picked up was an opportunity for Kathy to share the good news of Jesus Christ. Not only did she share the gospel, but she would adamantly refuse to get out of the vehicle until the driver agreed to pray, asking Jesus to forgive them. That’s probably not the best way to practise evangelism, but it was Kathy’s.
She was also a very generous person and we had to be careful that Kathy wouldn’t give too much money to the church. She would often give more money to the church than she could afford so we had to make sure she kept enough money to cover her own expenses. She would go the bank to cash her pension checks and would then put her church donation into an envelope and wouldn’t just bring it to the church that way. It had to be wrapped in tin foil not once, but many times until the package would be about the size of a shoebox. Then she would wrap it in paper and would write all over the package “Jesus Saves” in her barely legible handwriting.
One morning I received a call at the church from one of our ladies who told me she’d heard that the Cat Lady had died. I knew where Kathy lived, in an apartment in Winfield, but she didn’t have a phone, so I couldn’t call her. I phoned the RCMP depot in Winfield and they hadn’t heard that Kathy had died, so I did the only thing I could do – I drove to Winfield. Nervously I knocked on her door and Kathy answered. She caught me off balance when she asked why I had come. I had to admit the real reason. “Miss Rawley, I heard you had died.”
Her face brightened up and she said “You’ve come for my funeral. How nice.” I knew Kathy had a sister living somewhere in British Columbia, but she wouldn’t give me any contact information. I thought I now had the ammunition I needed. “Miss Rawley,” I reasoned. “What if you had actually died, how could I have contacted your sister to let her know.”
She smiled indulgently as one would at a slightly backward child and said, “You don’t think God would let me die by the side of the road like a gopher, do you? Besides” she went on “I’m not going to die in Rimbey. I’m going to die in Taber.” Now how could I argue with that reasoning.
I stayed and visited with her for awhile and she told of an amazing adventure she’d had a few years earlier. Some friends from the church had gone on vacation and she thought she should do the same. And off she went and hitchhiked to Montréal. After some time in “La Belle Province” she returned home, still hitchhiking. When she got to Alberta, she was picked up by an RCMP cruiser and taken to the depot. After some conversation, the police officer agreed to drive her to Winfield. With a twinkle in her eye, she told me the officer was kind of cute.
Kathy loved Remembrance Day and would always attend the community service and she would be asked to place a memorial wreath because a family member, maybe an uncle had been awarded a Victoria Cross. And then out of the blue she told me that she was moving to, are you ready for this, Taber, Alberta. I was contacted by someone in the home where she was living in Taber to tell me that Kathy was catching a bus to Red Deer so she could attend the Remembrance Day service in Rimbey. Would I meet her at the bus? Of course, I would. We also decided to put her up in the Grand Hotel and have her meals charged to the church. One of the ladies in the church objected to Kathy staying in the hotel and said we should bring her to stay with her. The next morning, I went to the hotel and found Kathy having breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant. I went and sat with her and told her about the new arrangements. She knew and loved Eileen and was looking forward to staying with her. As we sat at the table Kathy wanted me to pray for her sister who still didn’t know Jesus. Now, God isn’t hard of hearing, but Kathy was. I couldn’t quietly pray for her sister’s salvation, I had to pray loudly enough that Kathy and everyone else in the restaurant could hear.
I drove her to Eileen’s trailer and dropped her off. Kathy had a weakness for salt and Eileen was convinced that Kathy had ingested way too much salt in her lifetime and hid all her saltshakers. After the Remembrance Day service, Iona and I drove Kathy to Red Deer for the return bus ride to Taber. We took her to a Dairy Queen across the street from the bus depot and we bought her lunch and I let her take and use as much salt as she wanted. I figured that she had lived over 80 years with a salt enriched diet, a little more wouldn’t hurt her.
As we walked across the street to the bus depot, I knew that she would ask me to pray for her sister once we got on the bus, so I pre-emptively suggested that I pray with her as we walked. In that way I could pray as loudly as Kathy needed me to pray and I wouldn’t disturb any of the passengers on the bus. Had her luggage safely stowed and I walked her to her seat on the bus. As soon as she sat down, she looked at me and said, “Would you pray for me brother.”
It turned out to be my last encounter with Kathy. I was notified that she had died. Guess where? In Taber. We drove to Taber and said our final farewells knowing that our parting would only be temporary – one day we would meet again.
As I look back on the time I knew this amazing woman, I was challenged by her boldness to take on any task that presented itself. Every week she would tell people of their need to give their lives to Jesus. She always wanted me to pray for her sister, believing that one day she would also ask Jesus to receive her. Kathy was a living, breathing example of what it meant to Keep the Son in Your Eyes.