A Gift from Rod McKuen to Jo Anne Pauli

Subject: Kimberly

Dear Jo Anne,
I can only imagine how difficult today must be for you but I hope it will be of some small comfort for you to remember how many of us have been and are still affected by the beautiful, talented and one of a kind daughter you brought into the world and shared with each of us.

Over the last ten months I have tried to write you many times, always abandoning the letter because I just didn't seem to be able to come up with the right words that would bring comfort to you or begin to articulate the terrible loss I too feel. As a writer I have struggled to set down something about Kimberly that would tell others what a unique and indispensable human being she was to so many of us. That has proven even more difficult than writing you.

Today, on what would have been Kimberly's 43rd Birthday I have written something on my website about her. It isn't much or what it should be but as I pointed out in my notes it is a start. Here is a link.


My apologies for not writing sooner, I feel I have your friendship andfriendship and wanted you to know you will always be able to count on mine. And, please know how much I am tKimberlybout Kimberely today and even more about you. Thank you for one of the great gifts in my lifetime, the life you gave to Kimberly.

With my love,


For Jo Anne Pauli

She stands smiling
a child-woman of no age,
she laughs and it is not a lilt projected
but the sound of jubilation and of sorrow mixed
each discernible and of substance.

Back behind her eyes lies something
I am meant to know if I could reach it.
Not a secret but a sureness, a purpose.
Come on in those eyes invite
but I see no open doorway, no hatch askew,
no window that would let me in or see me through
these early summer orbs that wish to show me
everything or nothing.

Each time that I am with her,
after she has turned away or I take leave,
there is an aftertaste that ligers. It is as if
what was not spoken, done, was understood
and better than wordplay aloud or whatever.

The spoken word was surface noise not quite
obscuring the deeper thought within the groove
that was beautiful, a melody of such originality
floating on the air between us that none but we
could ken or murmur again.

So much mystery behind a much-loved face
that graces every afternoon and evening
of my passing days and will do so until I too
am absent. Such lofty music she goes on carrying
to a world needy for and awaiting song.

Here or not here she is ever here.
The sly cat watching from the distance
on her terms or none, the friendly feline
passing by and rubbing up against a leg
at feeding time and then retreating for a nap.
One eye open always, even in repose. Sly puss,
a sentinel that misses nothing that is worth a blink.

Remembered? She persists, will not go.
Though she tried her best to leave it
the world will not be rid of Kimberly
till each of us who knew her
has finally and forever gone along.

© Rod McKuen, 2005. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Response from Jo Anne on 6/27/05

Dearest, Dearest Rod:
What greater gift could I have received than to receive your e-mail with your touching words today. And then to go to the website on your 6/27 Flight Plan. Can I tell you I am touched, blown away, proud, speechless. It is such a tribute to Kimberly and a great comfort and honor to me. I know you know that she absolutely adored you. She always said, I would adopt Rod if I could!! There was a wonderful connection there.
It has been the worst 9 months possible as you can imagine, I am not sure one can ever really come to acceptance of such a tragic loss of a child. As the shock continues to wear off, the pain gets deeper along with the magnitude of what has happened.
For months I have thought of what to do on this day in order to survive a date that once was the happiest day in my life. I knew I wanted to be by myself. I thought of taking a hot air balloon ride, but alas...they were closed for the summer. A dear friend mentioned going up the Palm Springs Aerial Tram, I wasn't sure about this, but decided to give it a try. I thought of all the things that would be "Kimmi" and dressed in a pink outfit, her favorite color, wore her little pearl necklace, some gold earrings she had given me for my birthday once, wore her ring and a little pink bracelet that she love.
Well, the experience was wonderful traveling from the desert floor to top of the mountain. It was really glorious to travel straight up through the granite and greenery, almost immediately comforting. I had taken a bouquet of pink roses and a poem that a very dear friend of mine(Judi Hale) from grief support had written. It was almost spiritual to have temperatures in the hundreds to temperatures and cool breezes in the 60's from the bottom of the tram to the top. (Judi had also lost a son, Andy in the same circumstances as Kimberly a few months before)
My intention was to read the poem and throw the roses down the mountain. Well, with the wind, that did not occur, they landed on a rock not far below, but looked really beautiful just laying there against the granite. If I figure out how to get my photos on to the computer, I will forward pictures or what I called her 43rd birthday party. Attending were lizards, squirrels and blue jays!!! Hearing the wind through the trees reminded me of her soft breath on my neck when she was a baby. And she was such a beautiful little baby, I know you can imagine. I hope later to be strong enough to add her baby pictures to the website that her wonderful friend Karn created. Everytime I start to go my old photos, of course...I fall apart.
After my "rose" tribute, I then took a short hike down and into the forest. It was just lovely, the fragrance of the pines was very healing. I stayed about 3 hours meditating and hiking, then descended back down the tram to reality (about 100 degrees) today. Really not too bad, but after being in 60 degree weather at the top, was quite a change. I understand there is always about a 40 degree difference which you experience on an 11 minute ride up the mountain.
Walking back to my car, I met a wonderful lady (must have been an angel sent by Kimberly), Her name was Susan, she had noticed me walking around with the roses earlier and came to ask me why they were gone. I told her the story and she was so wonderfully empathetic and caring. As a Mom, it is always our biggest fear that something will happen to our children.................and so hard to believe when and if it does and that it happened to me.
I can not tell you how much I miss her and also how proud I am of the mark she left so indelibly imprinted on so many people. She was such a fragile little being in some areas and stronger than one can imagine in others, however there were a few people who took great advantage of her the last two years of her life. Not that they were the only cause, but their contribution definitely caused her to end her life. Everyone tells me I have to be forgiving, but I must tell you I find that very hard. I loved my daughter dearly with all my heart. I thank God or whoever or whatever is out there, that I have my wonderful son Scott and his family who have just given me a beautiful granddaughter, now just 2 months old. She was given Kimberly's middle name "Laine", you will meet Sydney Laine Pauli via a photo very soon. I can see Kimberly or "Kimmi" as she was to me, in her little face. It is a bittersweet experience.
After I left the mountain, I went directly to the mausoleum where I spent time with her, still in disbelief of what I was doing on this special day, June 27th.
After returning home, I happened to turn on my computer to find your beautiful e-mail and direction to your website for the finest gift I have ever received, the beautiful poem you dedictated to me in her honor as well as your personal message to me.
Thank you dear Rod, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I send you all my love and many hugs.............
Always your devoted and appreciative friend....
Jo Anne
I often listen to your wonderful eulogy on the tape of her funeral. It also is such a gift.
Once again I am struck by the painful, tragic loss of such an angel...

Kimberly always, yes, always, had a smile for those she encountered, even when beneath this demeanor the pain must have been deafening.

Her buguiling charm was always there, and never faded....

Darling Kimberly... How I hope your spirit is at peace...


October 2007