Memorial Speech by Katy’s Mum, Janet.
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.