My Friend Catherine

by Sarah Hayes

Catherine and I became close friends after I joined the Young People for Inclusion (YPFI) project at Elfrida Rathbone Camden.  We instantly connected with each other as we had both attended the same special needs school together and knew what it felt like to be misunderstood by people because of attending Special Needs school.  People who have not been to special school can’t understand what it was like.

With YPFI, we worked together as a group of young disabled people delivering disability awareness training and accessibility audits to organisations and businesses.  Catherine was always cheerful, happy and always smiling. Catherine always put 110% into whatever project she took on and was a very loyal friend and work colleague.

I knew Catherine for over 25 years, and in that time she encouraged me to experience new things like attending the amazing light show at Kings Cross – we had a brilliant time.  We would meet up and visit new places together and seeing the trouble Catherine had on public transport and inaccessible buildings made me more determined than ever to campaign alongside Catherine and other young disabled people for change in the way disabled people are treated whether it’s getting on public transport, applying for a job, education, socialising and housing.

We had regular movie nights when I would stay over with Catherine – one night I particularly remember because we spent the whole of time laughing while watching the movie with Catherine and her carer Lucille, and were still laughing and joking about the movie the next day.

I will always be grateful for all the fun, laughter and happy memories I had with Catherine.  She was the life and soul of the many birthday parties over the years and I remember one new year eve, me, my mum and my sister had a lovely roast dinner cooked by Lucille at Catherine’s.  We brought in the new year together with Catherine and Lucille – it was a great night and I will always remember it as a special memory that I got to share with my best friend.

We had such fun together and we helped each other through really good times and some really difficult times. I remember a few years before Catherine passed away, I started feeling depressed she encouraged me enjoy life again and believe that the future is what you make it.

I always tried to make sure Catherine knew if she needed someone to talk to call and if she wanted to talk to me about how she was feeling that it was ok.  She always put everyone else first and always put on a brave face – except with each other, we automatically knew when something was wrong.

I would like the opportunity to continue the work Catherine did to prevent people feeling like life is not worth living which at times is how low I have felt.  You will always be in my heart. Rest in Peace Catherine.