Remembering the Legacy of a Lupus Warrior: Honoring Kellie McRae
Memorializing the 'Hurricane in Heels' columnist who was 'blunt about her reality'
It’s hard to be mortal and reminded of your mortality. It’s one thing to know there’s an ending to this thing we call life and to let the thought pass through your mind. But it’s an entirely different thing to sit with that notion and let it bear its weight upon you.
These last few weeks have been difficult. A couple of people I know have passed. While I wasn’t overly close to either of them, at moments throughout the day I still find grief sitting by my side. It’s not that I fear death, but in these passings, I wasn’t ready to say goodbye.
I wanted to take this time to remember and pay tribute to a fierce woman, a self-proclaimed “Hurricane in Heels,” and a former Lupus News Today columnist, Kellie McRae.
In some ways, I feel unqualified to write this because Kellie and I weren’t close friends. But the time to honor Kellie, her memory, and her legacy is right now, while we feel her loss the hardest. I know that I can only do her true justice while I’m affected by her passing. And if I didn’t take this opportunity, I would regret it.
Honest and fierce
Kellie and I were columnist colleagues who lived on opposite sides of the world: me in Australia, her in Mexico. Even though we never met, we shared a mission and a purpose. In early 2016, we were both diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus, the most common form of lupus, and individually made the same decision: to stick it to lupus any and every way we could.
Over the years, I’d open our website to upload my latest column and find a few of her pieces in progress. She had so many ideas and so much to share. I don’t know how many times I saw one of her column titles and it instantly resonated with me. Mentally, we were facing a lot of the same battles, and responding in the same ways.
She was like me: blunt about her reality, defiant in her mindset, and unapologetic about the intersection between sharing the truth and making people uncomfortable. And because of that, I’ll always have so much respect for her.
Writers know how hard it is to consciously put yourself on paper, faults and all, for your audience. It takes a lot of courage to be shamelessly raw, laying out all your vulnerabilities for the world to see. Words are not like photos or videos. There aren’t multiple focal points, only characters. Your message is the entirety of the medium, with nothing to distract from it.
There are ways to do “vulnerable” right, but there are many more ways to get it wrong. Kellie always got it right. She did it so fiercely and made it look so effortless. She was a gift to every person who was privileged enough to be graced by her touch — and she touched all of us.
I’ll remember Kellie for her resilience and joy, but most of all her tenacity. She always found a way to twist whatever situation she found herself in with lupus so she was still living on her own terms. She was the boss of her own destiny in any possible way she could be. And in dire times, we all need the reminder that we, too, can be like Kellie.
Waking up to the news of her passing, I’ve found the rest of today to be a little less bubbly and a little less shiny. As I watched her farewell video on Facebook, I couldn’t help but smile while shedding a few tears.
We’re going to remember her the same way she lived her life: big and with light and laughter. She wanted each and every one of us to keep passing that positive energy on to one another. And in her name, that’s exactly what we’re going to do.
Let me paraphrase a Carol Burnett quote from Kellie’s farewell as a columnist last year: “We’re so glad we had this time together!”
Hurricane Kellie, there’s no silence in your passing. Your legacy is deafening, and it speaks volumes. There’s no doubt of your mark on the world and that we’re boundlessly better for knowing you.
Here are some samples of Kellie’s work for Lupus News Today.
Note: Lupus News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Lupus News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to lupus.