This article is difficult for me to write, but I want to share this with all of you (I teared up just typing the article title).
On Christmas Day, I was skimming through my Facebook news feed. I saw a post from a young man I don't know sharing that this is his first Christmas without his mom. The reason it showed up in my news feed is because he tagged my friend and mentee Catherine Hawes. At first, I thought he was just tagging Catherine to include her on his message. Maybe it was a relative of both the young man and Catherine that he was missing.
Unfortunately, after some research on Catherine's Facebook page, I came to realize that she passed away on May 29, 2015 at the age of 50. I was stunned and very saddened. In fact, I couldn't stop thinking about her over the next few days. She was so young and so full of life.
Catherine Hawes entered my life on April 20, 2012 when she subscribed to this blog.
On that same day, Catherine added this comment to one of the LSG case studies:
It was really great reading your story. I am fairly new to the litigation support arena as I transitioned from 23 years as a paralegal. I also find myself getting bored easily which is part of the reason I switched to litigation support, for the challenge. I was wondering whether or not taking some technical courses at the local community college might help and you addressed that question. I think learning more about database structures and networking would be helpful. I'm looking forward to the daily challenges and excitement this career promises to bring.
On May 1, 2012, Catherine added this comment to my article entitled Should Your First Job Be For a Service Provider or a Law Firm?
I've had the benefit of both and of late found myself wishing I had spent more time on the vendor side, since the majority of my experience is with a law firm. I believe the exposure you get on the vendor side to the rapid changes in tools available, review and processing platforms makes your skills invaluable. It also gives you more of a global perspective as to what's going on in the market, not just in your own little world within the confines of your firm. I agree that it is more difficult to make that transition from vendor to the law firm, but I think your success with that just comes with your ability to sell yourself to the law firm culture.
On May 28, 2012, I received a LinkedIn connection request from Catherine with this comment:
I really enjoy your blog. It has been very helpful for a “newbie” such as myself coming into the profession. Keep up the good work!
That was beginning of my mentorship of Catherine and eventual friendship.
On March 20, 2013, I received a long message from Catherine asking my advice about several options to continue her education. She was hoping to go for a graduate degree in something related to litigation support and the eDiscovery industry. Catherine had her eye on Georgetown University's Masters in Management Information Technology program.
I was able to connect Catherine with a number of people I know that could share their experiences and hopefully help Catherine make a decision. During this timeframe, Catherine mentioned to me that she had always wanted to live in the DC area (where I live). She told me she kept a little globe on her desk as a reminder of her goal to relocate to DC one day.
Catherine's ultimate goal was to become a director of an eDiscovery department for a law firm or corporation. She figured that a graduate degree would assist with that goal.
Catherine was living in Ohio and working at the Ohio Attorney General's Office as a Legal Technology Specialist. She had a B.A. from Hampton University in Paralegal Studies with a minor in Computer Information Systems. She was well versed in Summation and Concordance, as well as certified in LAW PreDiscovery. Catherine often spoke of her activities within the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA). She was voted Central Ohio Paralegal of the Year in 2008.
Catherine and I spoke on the phone several times over the years about her educational decision process. She would also email me after reading one of my blog posts that resonated with her. I always enjoyed seeing her name land in my Inbox.
When I announced that I was planning to write a book one day, Catherine told me she believed so strongly in what I am doing and the sincerity of my efforts. She also shared with me that was a natural born writer and had been a ghost writer for one of her attorneys for years. She told me she had written everything from speeches to articles.
On April 7, 2014, Catherine came to visit DC and I treated her to dinner at Morton's Steakhouse. We spent about 3 hours getting to know each other better. We laughed a lot. She told me she was so proud of her children, Devin and Taylor. Catherine was a spiritual person and a die hard Ohio State Buckeyes fan. It was wonderful to finally hug her and see her wonderful smile in person. Her smile could light up a room! Catherine sent me an email afterwards saying:
We spent most of our time talking about some of EVERYTHING and I felt that our evening ended far too soon.
During the summer of 2014, Catherine went quiet on me. I sent several emails to check-in and make sure she was okay. Finally, I heard back from her in October. She apologized for disappearing for a while. She told me:
it was partly a reality check, partly regrouping and partly to see where the good Lord was leading her path.
In the same email, Catherine had some great news to share with me. The graduate program she had her eye on at Georgetown University was going to be offering the program online as of the next term. She was accepted to the program in November 2014 and she began her grad school journey in January 2015. She would often posts photos on Facebook of her social sacrifices to devote time to studying.
Later that month in October 2014, Catherine sent me an email asking if I would be interested in participating on a panel for ILTA's statewide forum event in Columbus, Ohio less than a month away. She offered to chauffeur me around during my stay. She wasn't surprised when I had to decline due to such short notice. Now I realize that had I said yes to her invitation, I could have enjoyed more quality time with my friend, Catherine.
In sharing Catherine's story, I want us all to be reminded that we should not take life for granted. Don't wait to pursue your dreams. Make the most of all of your friendships.
Catherine was such an amazing woman who gave much of herself. She was naturally driven to be the best she could be. She didn't want to settle for status quo. She was a kind woman and she took her friendships seriously. I will miss her deeply.
Over the Christmas break, after I found out about Catherine, I read an email from a blogger who mentioned this video. I believe that Catherine followed this philosophy for herself.
Read Catherine's Obituary.