December 18th, 2008

I don’t know how to sum up all that I wish to say about my sister in just a few minutes. There are no words to describe what she meant to me and the person that she really is. I will probably look back on this in the future and think that I had left out so many things. But for now I shall do my best.
Katy is my big sister, confident, beautiful, intelligent, funny, cheeky, charming, brave, loving, strong and she had one (pardon me) hell of a temper, and when she wanted something she was gonna get it; she would never take no for an answer!  Basically she was a lot for a little sister to live up to!.
She took the path ahead of me in life so that I had someone to learn from. (She didn’t make it easy for me though, as sisters never do and I thank her for that in some ways because it helped to make me the person that I am).  I learnt from her mistakes as much as her accomplishments, and I hope that she had learned from mine.

I always said that Katy and I were polar opposites. She liked five star hotels and I was always happy to go hostel hopping.  She would save her money for shoes and dresses and handbags and I would be saving up for the next piece of equipment I would want or the next airplane ticket. But I see now and probably have always known that in so many ways we are alike. We both love a challenge, neither of us could or would ever take the easy road, even though we both always complained about the amount of work or stress we were under. We both have a passion for the work that we do and would find life somewhat less interesting without it. Katy would put her heart and soul into everything that she did, be it decorating a house, climbing a mountain, writing an article or smiling for a picture. In school she sailed through her subjects always, getting top grades without ever really studying. She could have done or been anything she wanted. But Katy was a people person. She loved being around people, she loved the interaction, and she always wanted to help. This was the path she chose.

I always admired her for being so openly able to show her love and affection for people; she never held back.  This is a characteristic so amazing and rare and few people may claim to have it.  Her sheer bravey and emotional fearlessness is incomparable. She lived in love, she is love and she is loved.  In this way I believe that she lived a full life and accomplished more in 24 years that most accomplish in ninety.  I would like to make a promise to her now and that is that I will always aspire to show and experience life and love in the way that she did, to never hold back, never regret, never lose faith and to love without fear.

I am so thankful for those last few days that I had with my sister in the hospital. She held on and fought for life even though she did not have to, so that her family could have the time to say goodbye.  I always knew she was strong but I really saw in that time the power of her life force. It was a difficult time for our family but as I lay with her I felt surrounded by a strange but familiar peace. There was no need to talk about past regrets, but rather I found myself talking to her about the present and the future. I felt a happiness in singing our favourite songs and remembered with her and laughed at the silliest stories in our past. I remembered how even though we would bicker like old ladies (well more like WWF superstars) we would always be there for each other when everything seemed to crumble around us. When one of us would fall weak the other would stand and protect. When one of us needed a little help, but was to proud to ask for it, the other would know and would quietly support.

My sister to me is not the person that everyone see’s in the magazines – perfectly styled, gorgeous and beautifully groomed (even though she is all those things), but she is the person who would get up in the morning and have somehow managed in her sleep to have sculpted her hair into the most eccentric of styles that would sometimes resemble a still frame of a bomb going off in the ocean.  She is the person who made the most dreadful jokes that you had to laugh at because they were that bad or because she would be rolling around in laughter no matter how many times she had told them to you.  She also had a fragility that she rarely let people see but could only be seen in her in her silent moments. Katy is my sister, my blood, she is all of me and I am all of her.
And so I would like to share with you now a few words of comfort offered to me in the past week by a great friend. She told  me that my sister was not gone but was living on with me now and so I have to have courage and live for the both of us now.
So Katy, you have influenced so many people and touched their lives, but none more than me. I am your biggest fan.
I would like to invite you to live on with me now, experience with me, travel with me, love with me. I hope that you will guide me and give me the the strength to live life with the same spirit, passion and fearlessness that you  did yours.  May your soul live on with me. I love you so much.

December 18th, 2008

It is a lot more difficult for me to get up and speak now about my sister one year on. I suppose now I have a little more awareness of what is happening around me, but it just seems to be all the more difficult as I am not sure that what has come to pass is something I will ever understand.

Each day I am reminded that Katy is gone or not here, though I still do not know what that means.  All my memories of her are still so fresh in my mind that it is unfathomable that someone so vibrant with such an inexorable life force is no longer right here … it actually doesn’t feel right to call them memories at all because her presence is so strong. It is as if those memories themselves are living beings.  I guess this is sometimes why in moments of absence I pick up my phone, dial her number and expect her to answer or spot a gift or trinket and think of buying it for her.

Something I have said before is that Katy is Love.  I would like now to explain to you,  perhaps a little, why I say that Katy is Love… it seems like a strange sentence… How can a person be love? A person can love and can be loved but to describe a person as being love is a bit of a whimsical notion.  So I will attempt to describe this to you in a very honest way…

There have been so many times when I have questioned: why Katy and not me?  Now this may seem somewhat narcissistic.  But it is not until you lose a sibling that you realise just how strong that bond is,  not just emotionally but physically Your blood is their blood, your muscles, lungs, bones…. your organs….. your skin and your heart  is one and the same as theirs.  And so it is incomprehensible to even try to understand that their lungs are not expanding and contracting like yours and that their veins do not pulse with blood as yours do or that their heart does not beat with the same rhythm as yours.  And truthfully that is why I can not grasp why my body lives whilst hers has faded.  There is a deep wound that my sick body tries to heal but cannot for it knows that a part of it has died.  My life and body… so wholly apart of her as hers was mine.

I guess it is these things that force upon me that question:  why am I not with her now? What made her life complete? What knowledge or understanding, experience or skill has she gained to have fulfilled her purpose, if one may put it so, and yet I who have walked beside her and having been made of her have yet to learn?
We all have our hardships in life and in a short period of time Katy and I went through quite a few. And I know we both questioned as many people do… why? Is there some bigger meaning to it all?  And I often thought  it was because fate had some great task in store or that I had to prove myself or my strength in some way so that I may be worthy of something good and wonderful in the future.

But it is only now that I see the truth… that reward was in the knowledge, understanding and acceptance of each of life’s struggles and this is the last lesson that Katy, my big sister, taught me – which is never to stop loving, never to stop giving love even if it has been taken away from you . It is only in this way that we are indestructible. Life can take a person away before they die, it can harden them, close their hearts and make them reject the world. Only in loving can we be loved and even if we do not receive that love we continue with an open heart without expecting in return. This is love. Katy not only knew this, she embodied it and lived it with passion. She never let the hard times cut her down or make her cold.  And though she is gone her flame burns just as bright as it did in life. Love is an energy it can never die. And so Katy is Love.

I love Katy and miss her so much and hope that perhaps someday when I live as she has done that I may join her and be with her again.

by Katy’s mum Janet at Katy’s funeral service.

December 18th, 2008

She was oh so beautiful, my Katy. Her eyes sparkled. She laughed and smiled from the moment she set foot on this earth. Her face beamed sunshine and her eyes pierced you with that sparkle that said ‘Here I am loving you, loving life’.

When she was 12 months old her Swiss nanny, Doris, told me that when she was out with her on the tram that everyone would look at her Katy and say ‘What a beautiful baby’. And Doris confessed to me that she pretended she was her mother. ‘I just wanted people to think she was mine’, she said.

Throughout her life many felt a need for this kind of close connection to Katy. Why? Because it really is beautiful to be loved. And Katy loved – everyone, her pets, her horses, stray dogs, her friends, her family, those she worked with and those who just passed by.

The more I think about it, and I’ve thought about it a lot, the more I realise that Katy seemed to have been born like this. It’s funny that the words to her favourite song, which will be sung today, were
‘I was born like this I had no choice, I was born with the gift of a golden voice, and 27 angels from the great beyond. They tied me to this table right here in the tower of song’.
She did have a golden voice. She had a golden heart that revealed itself in the words she wrote and the way she spoke to all, young and old – with love, with respect, with understanding.

Strangely enough, Katy only became aware of this song 12 months before she left us. She was staying with a friend of mine in London whilst studying TV presenting at the London Academy. She felt an immediate connection to it. When she returned home it was almost the first thing she told me about. She had bought the Leonard Cohen CD and couldn’t wait to play it to me. From then on we used to sing it together using coffee cups or hairbrushes as microphones. And after that Katy would sing it or play it to anyone who would listen. These lines so much depicted where she felt she was in life and her strength and determination to carry on.

So you can stick your little pins in that voodoo doll
I’m very sorry, baby, doesn’t look like me at all
I’m standing by the window where the light is strong

Katy’s light was very very strong. She was open and spontaneous. She told it as it was, in the press, on the radio, even on TV, never pretending she was some perfect specimen but knowing that she was human and admitting to the same life’s struggles that we all undergo.

Without any plastic veneer or illusion of perfection she admitted to friends and to the media to mornings of waking up battling with last night’s Chinese, to adoring chocolate brazils, to raiding the fridge too often for a model’s figure, to buying knickers €5 for a set of 3, to smiling at speed cameras, to having loved and being hurt, to smoking, to drinking, to enjoying sex and so much more…all the things that many of us do yet feel we can’t admit. She shocked some people, not by what she did, but by her ability to admit her human traits.

Some called this being controversial. Some said it was to create publicity. To Katy it was just all about being her and doing her best to get on in life. When questioned about the enormous break-up publicity she quite frankly and matter of factly admitted ‘I made hay while the sun shone. I did not orchestrate it but I didn’t look a gift horse in the mouth either. Condemn, criticize or condone. I did what it took to build a new world around me’.

And Katy did build a new world around her in the same way she had done all her life. She continued to be herself. Anyone who met Katy immediately noticed that her openness and spontaneity came from a natural sincerity. She just couldn’t help being like that. She liked everyone.

A friend of hers said to me recently that Katy had not a bad bone in her body. That’s true. I never heard her say a bad word about anyone. She used to say ‘you get more with a drop of honey than with a bottle of vinegar’.  And this natural sincerity and love of others was her greatest strength. Everyone from old to young felt somehow they had known her all their lives.

This old soul with oodles of personality and an intelligence to match managed to create wonderfully warm relationships with everyone she met. The words written in the hundreds of condolence cards and letters we received revealed how Katy had made everyone feel just that bit better and happier when they were with her. And I think she was sending a modern-day message which captured the hearts of many young girls – to be able to say this is me warts and all, to admit who you are and what you are up to and feel proud of it.

My Katy was a beautiful human being. And being human, like each and every one of us, she battled at times with belief in herself. She was young. Of course she was vulnerable. Like every other human being, she found herself affected by negative criticism whilst dismissing the positive praise. She got hurt because she loved and she trusted perhaps too much. From her same favourite song, she would often sing..
And all the bridges are burning that we might have crossed
But I feel so close to everything that we lost
We’ll never have to lose it again
Yet she was resilient. She wrote only 9 months before she left us   – ‘I’ve taken knocks and struggled against people and situations. Dealt with everyone telling me what I should and shouldn’t do, but at the end of the day every woman has to live her life as she sees it, as she wants it. There are lots of people who will tell you what is right and wrong but the only thing that’s right and wrong for any individual is to do what their heart and soul tells them to do. It’s to follow their love of life and the need to discover life for themselves. It’s not easy and quite often it’s scary.

And it was sometimes scary for Katy. It’s scary to have to confront yourself with the question, who am I? As only Katy could be she opened her heart and soul to everyone as she wrote in her article in Life Magazine ‘I had to ask myself who is Katy French? If I am what I have and I lose what I have then who am I? If I want to be a power to myself then I have to be myself.

And she was herself with her usual flair. We sat together one night and we read a chat website in which all the imputers were doing her down. Apparently she was vain, false, thick, transient. They were fed up with her and what they construed were her publicity stunts. Someone wrote I wish Katy French would just f off. Others thought this was great idea. They penned her pseudonym, FOKF standing for ‘f off Katy French’. I tell you it takes some guts, the guts Katy had to have a t-shirt made with the logo FOKF and appear on national television wearing it. It was Katy’s way of sincerely, honestly asking why. Why should any human being have to f off?  Katy knew only too well and often was heard saying ‘Some days you’re the bug and some days you’re the windshield’. Sad that we have to be either.

I don’t think Katy ever fully realised how much she was loved and how much she had to offer, but it seems that God did. He has ensured that Katy will never have to lose it again and that we will never have to lose her. I sense she is all around us. This little girl of mine has opened up my mind and heart. She has given me a faith in God, and an awareness of what is far greater than our lives here on earth. So many of her friends have told me of how they still feel her presence, how she is looking after them from up above. And you know, whatever our faith, whatever our belief, if you know someone who has got you to feel a connection with humankind, with love, with God, who is influencing how you feel and what you believe in, then isn’t that wonderful. Isn’t that the greatest accolade Katy could achieve?

I believe that God is protecting my Katy, that He has brought him to her, just as he has brought to him before all those who love his children. I believe He has and will continue to raise her up on eagles’ wings and bear her on the breath of dawn, and make her to shine like the sun, and hold her in the palm of His hand.
There is a season to everything. A time to weep and a time to laugh. We are here today to remember Katy and the joy she gave us in life. Thank you all for being here today to give your support. It confirms what I believe about her. This wonderful imperfect little being, daughter of mine, who was just like us, who felt like us and yet could see the majesty in us all, has made our lives very special. Katy is and will always be a breath away from us as long as we can continue to be inspired by her very very natural and sincere love she had for us all.

I am privileged that God chose me to be the mother of this very special person, who for the rest of my life will bring me memories of love.

December 18th, 2008

Thank you all for being here today to help my little Katy on her way to heaven. And thank you all for helping us also to celebrate her life on this earth.

Katy’s was a life of sunshine and sparkle, of fun and daring, of taking on challenges, of blazing trails. Life with Katy was about loving it, embracing it and giving it socks. It is the reason why we felt that the only way to dress today was brightly.

Who is Katy French, someone once asked? So I thought I might try to answer that by sharing with you, in the slide show produced by her sister Jill, some of the joy and love she has given to me, to her family and to her friends throughout her life.

And I don’t want to just share that with you, I want to shout out loud from the tree tops how from baby to woman this daughter of mine remained the child, – wanting and receiving, crying and laughing, giving and taking, solving problems and causing them, and always with an openness of heart and freedom of spirit. It was that love of life, that openness of heart, that childlike naturalness that intoxicated me. I could forgive Katy anything and she was always so ready to forgive me.

I read last week the article in the Times by Terry Prone. She was trying to make some sense of the Katy French phenomenon. She asked whether there was really any meaning to all of this or whether anything would change. I think she concluded that nothing would. And maybe she is right.

In a week or so something else will hit the news and many will forget our Katykins. I won’t of course. And neither will anyone in her family. For any woman to have a mother – daughter bond is meaning in itself. We have a heartfelt connection and an undying trust. We know we are there for each other for all our lives come what may. And you know, that is enough for me. That is enough for any mother.

But the wonder of Katy is that she got me to realise something else. I got to realise it through her very personal experience with the street children of Calcutta. Let me put it in her words, the article she wrote after she returned from her visit to them only a few months ago

‘It took only five days of working with GOAL to get me to appreciate the deep sense of humankind within all of them, that everyone of those homeless victims had a heart and a soul and a yearning to experience the essentials of being human, of living and loving life in some way. It is not terrifying to see or experience these sights; it is terrifying to realise that the smallest amount each one of us can give can make such a significant difference. Just like us they want a chance to live and they will rally to every opportunity we can give them.

‘It took just five days for me to truly understand that anyone who is worthy to receive his days and his nights is worthy of all else from us. And I came to the realisation that every thing we can do to assist the fallen, the destitute and the needy, no matter how big or small, could give us an inner peace in not forgetting that we all belong to each other.  Importantly, my journey to Calcutta helped me to build on my own sense of self worth. I realised that we are all here under the eyes of God to help each other, and that He doesn’t require us to succeed, only to try.

‘Mother Theresa once said, “The biggest disease is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted”. She also said, “We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do”. I thank God that GOAL gave me the chance that day to know that. I not only learnt what a smile can do but also I came to realise that it’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving that matters – a smile, a touch, a hug, though seemingly small gestures, create endless echoes of belonging throughout these children’s lives’.

I believe that each and every one of us is in some sense a homeless victim with a heart and a soul and a yearning to experience the essentials of being human. I believe that was what Katy’s smile and sparkle gave to so many of us, mother father, sister, friend and lover. Her fight for the life she held so dearly and her eventual death got me to believe and to see even more. The hundreds of letters we received from people who never had met her, the prayers offered, the masses held, the relics brought to her bedside, the tears of the doctors and nurses who attended her, the compassion and protection of the Gardai, all of these, I believe, represented our natural human response to feeling cared for ourselves and somehow being touched by love.

To me Katy was an angel. Every mother’s daughter is an angel. Thank God I still have one other angel left by my side. But perhaps it was not Katy’s angelic love that enchanted and intoxicated. Perhaps it was our realisation that she was only human. I used to call her my little Persephone, my daughter who spent some of her time in Hades, on the dark side, whilst I, mother Demeter cried my tears to water the flowers and the trees and make everything beautiful for her return to the brightness and light. Every mother knows that is what we do. Every mother knows her daughter has strengths and weaknesses, hopes and fears, angels and demons. Every mother knows her child will struggle with some emotional or moral conflict here on earth as he or she has a job to do, a living to make, a life to lead. What my Katy said and felt was, ‘ Ok so lets get on with it, let’s get the show on the road, let’s not blame and let’s respect the humanity in each and everyone of us’.

Perhaps if each one of us can learn to do that just a little bit more then each one of us may succeed in a life with some meaning. Perhaps we can create a few more endless echoes of belonging.

April 16th, 2008

“Was it vulgar? Perhaps. Was it scandalous? Apparently so. Did I along with the rest of the Irish media lose sight of what really mattered? Yes. The story had all the makings of a circus – acrobats, clowns, dancing horses and tigers jumping through rings of fire. It excited, baffled, bemused, entertained and sometimes bored its audience, and it continued to tour, provoking good, bad and sometimes ugly reactions. Truth of it is, to me the only reaction that really mattered was mine. I had to ask myself, ‘Who is Katy French’?”

“Yes, my life was being played out in the media; but the press fuel my career. So I made hay while the sun shone. I did not orchestrate the publicity. Many believed I did. However, I’ll admit to this: I didn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”

“My world had changed; it was filled with new friends, new enemies, opinions and challenges. And it was confusing. I was questioned, belittled, begrudged, congratulated and commiserated with on a daily basis. Increasingly I felt the need to stand firm in the belief of who I was. Put on a pedestal of interrogation and judgement, I had to ask myself whose opinion mattered. It’s easy to say only your own does, but that’s not entirely true. Other people’s opinions do affect us. I had to work out whose opinions mattered to me and why.”

“At the end of the day, or press call as it may be, if you can’t be light-hearted and see the funny side of the situation you may as well just give up and crawl into that dark dingy hole called depression.”

April 16th, 2008

“The only way to stay healthy and slim is to eat all you want of everything that you don’t like. That’s awfully difficult when my idea of vegetables is carrot cake, onion bread and pumpkin pie.”

“The closest I have to a balanced diet is holding a biscuit in each hand.”

“Put it this way, if every packet of smokes had a warning label that said, Cigarettes Contain Fat sales would drop to zero overnight in the modelling industry.”

“Eat, drink and be merry girls, for tomorrow ye may diet.”

“I thank God that the size zero phenomenon, imposed by the distorted views of gay men and loony stylists, and sanctioned by the continuing popularity of celebs like Victoria Beckham and Nicole Richie, has not entirely crossed the Irish waters.”

“One of life’s greatest mysteries is how a two pound box of chocolates can make you gain five pounds. Even Einstein didn’t work this one out, so why beat ourselves up over it? Cake is nature’s answer to Prozac. So let’s not feel guilty about the calorific content, face the fact that diets don’t work. But worry, chronic depression and panic attacks shed pounds. So what are we waiting for? Just get neurotic.

“Forget about Exercise. We should just grab our wallets and go for some retail therapy. Walking from shop to shop is strenuous enough. While we’re at it, we can invest in some body shaping underwear. Figures don’t lie, girls, but Lycra redistributes the truth.”

If we love whiskey why drink sparkling water? If we crave Camembert, why eat tofu? Let’s stop worrying about what others think and how we seem to them. If you’re a Greyhound, why try look like a Pekingese? Starve not and regret not. The good life is waiting..”

April 16th, 2008

“It’s not easy courting the media, some days you’re the bug and some days you’re the windshield.”

“The whole media industry is full of low self esteem. Anyone in entertainment or show business, you know? It’s based on really superficial values that really there’s not much behind.”

“I have confidence in who I am and what my opinions are. I don’t think they are bad – but, at the same time, I don’t expect everyone to agree with them. I have got comfortable in my own skin, to be able to voice that.”

April 16th, 2008

“Modelling is probably one of the few occupations that makes you analyse your self worth on a regular basis. Every day we need to be mentally strong in order to face the constant rejections that are awaiting us. We lose more jobs that we get for reasons such as, you’re too fat, you’re too thin, the photographer didn’t like you, and the client thinks you don’t have the right look.”

“I battle with being a model. Massively. I have a huge chip about it because it’s seen as really shallow. But I got into it and I did well at it and I kept going.”

“I always liked the academic. I always liked learning. Coming from a business family I liked business, I liked working. I thought modelling was two dimensional or even one-dimensional. And it is.”

“A model not only has to negotiate negative responses in her working environment but also in her day-to-day life. Let’s be honest here, you ask a girl what her line of work is and she answers ‘I’m a model’ what’s your first impression? We get stereotyped as dim witted, self centred, egocentric women.”

“Facing constant rejection and denunciation is as habitual to us as applying lip-gloss.”

“Beauty may be skin deep, but models have to have incredibly thick skin.”

“Snigger, they may, but there is nothing easy about posing in a bikini down Grafton Street in the freezing cold. That takes guts.”

“Oh to be able to systematically budget my bills or have the reassurance that if I break my leg tomorrow I’m not going to go without a pay cheque for 3 months. It can be easy for others, sitting fat and happy, to joke about our profession. But it’s no laughing matter to me. It’s my living. And a living I will make of it.”

“In this country you don’t make money from being high fashion. You’d be eating jam sandwiches for the rest of our life.”

“Those press calls are bread and butter. You earn better money doing them than you do from a full day editorial fashion shoot. You might look more fantastic in these shots but at the end of the day I’m here to make ends meet.”

April 16th, 2008

“Perhaps it’s not our looks that make us ‘beautiful’ but our smiles that make life more beautiful for us.”

“Sure some kick-ass super gloss lipstick may make you look gorgeous, but it doesn’t really matter whether you’re in your pj’s or a Galliano gown or a punk rock outfit as long as you’re confident in being you and feeling beautiful inside.”

“Yeah I’m aware of the power that good looks give you. I’m also aware of the negatives it gives you. You get pre-judged too quickly.”

“Life and love can be hard enough as it is, so if being good looking makes it easier, count me in.”

“Fortunately I was born from a good gene pool and personally I think I would be a fool not to use it.”

“When it comes to matters of the heart I’m happy enough to use my looks as the initial bait.”

“There are plenty of fish in the sea, you know, and any girl who has the bait can always hook them in. Not that I’d go fishing first thing in the morning. The state of me – they’d probably swim away!”

“One day my looks might just catch me that big fish who’ll fall in love with the person inside me”.

“The answer to appearing younger is simple, start dating older men. If you can’t find any in a hurry, we can count our age in dog years instead or tell people we are older than we actually are. That way they’ll be impressed at how young we look.”

“Now I know we’re told that smoking and drinking causes wrinkles, but just remind me again – which one was Mother Theresa doing? Enough said.”

April 16th, 2008

“To me a friend is like a bra, close to your heart and there for support, not someone who takes your bra off.”

“Friends aren’t jumper cables. You don’t throw them into the trunk and pull them out for emergencies.”

“I’ve never had a really big birthday bash before. I hope they turn up. Guess I’ll see who my real friends are.”