Katie Kralievits: Remarks from Paul Farmer’s Memorial

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Courtesy of Katie Kralievits

Katie Kralievits, chief of staff to Paul Farmer, delivered remarks honouring Farmer on March 4, 2022 at St. Cecilia Roman Catholic Church in Boston:

“I’m grateful to be with you all today in this beautiful church to honor Paul. Thank you, Father John, for opening your home to Paul at the beginning of the pandemic. Thank you for taking such good care of him. I have such fond memories of our many meals together during those two months.

As many of you know, I worked very closely with Paul for the last eight years.

And in this time, I’ve spent every single day either physically with Paul, talking to Paul, or thinking about Paul, and always, always worrying about Paul. Sure, I worried he’d be late for a flight or unable to get out of a crowd of admiring students to make it to his next engagement on time. But most of all, I worried he wouldn’t have what he needed to fulfill whatever intention he had set for that day, month, year, or decade.

And because of this, I made a commitment: to accompany him through it all. It’s difficult to share examples of what this looked like because accompanying Paul meant something different every single day.

Katie Kralievits and Paul Farmer. Photo courtesy of Katie Kralievits

It was beautiful, though it wasn’t always pretty. This role-turned-deep friendship—built on trust, patience, and love—will forever be the greatest privilege of my life.

Paul was a loyal friend. Each morning, without fail, I’d receive a “Good morning sunshine!” text message. In classic Paul fashion, these words were soon abbreviated to “Gms!”—which he continued to remind me also stood for “General medical services”—followed by a compilation of cheerful emojis that only rarely made sense. This exchange eventually turned into a friendly competition to see who woke up earlier and therefore, by Paul’s definition, was more productive. (I did, but always waited and let Paul believe that he beat me to it.) These morning messages were followed by end-of-day ones to make sure I got home safely from the office or airport or even the dining hall at the University of Global Health Equity (which was only a few steps from my room). Paul taught us many things, but understanding what it takes to be a caring and loyal friend will be one of the most important lessons for me.

In these last few weeks, while Paul was in Butaro, doing what he loved so deeply, he didn’t give me much to worry about.

I could tell it in his voice during our daily calls. “Free for a quick hi?” we’d ask each other before dialing. (Paul wasn’t a fan of “cold calls.”) He was so at peace in Butaro, and so in his element. He was surrounded by cohorts of loving students, patients who needed his attention and care, and dozens if not hundreds of redwoods and rose bushes. The time he spent there was a gift he wholeheartedly deserved.

We all experience loss in our lives. Some people lose a parent, a sibling, a best friend. Last week, we lost Paul. He deserves his own category because it’s truly impossible to define who he was to each and every one of us.

In his absence, I am realizing that Paul was just as much my accompanateur as I was his. He was always there just as I vowed to be there for him. So, in this moment, as I try to overcome the overwhelming void that defines this new world without him, I just want to say thank you, Paul, for everything.”

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