Last night, I experienced a first in my short career as a journalist when I learned that Kristin Katich Sumbot, who I had the opportunity to interview and feature in a story early last year, passed away on Tuesday. Sumbot was 26 years old.
“Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful daughter; beautiful, beautiful, beautiful wife; beautiful, beautiful, beautiful mama; beautiful, beautiful, beautiful life,” Sumbot’s mother, Leslie Gould Katich, wrote on GoFundMe along with the dates, 9/15/1990-6/13/2017.
I celebrated my 28th birthday on Monday and upon reading these words, it hit me that Sumbot, who is a year younger than I am, would never celebrate a 27th — and my heart began to hurt. I had the opportunity to interview Sumbot for a story that was published in April 2016 and in one brief conversation, Sumbot made an impression on me. She was fighting for her life with a grace that was difficult to comprehend. She was void of fear and instead was determined to live.
Nathan and Kristin Sumbot welcomed August James Sumbot into the world on October 12, 2015. | Provided by Kristin Katich Sumbot
In her 26 years on this earth, Sumbot battled cancer twice. She scaled Mount Kailash (18,000 feet), part of the Himalayas. She devoted her time and attention to advocacy work for cancer research. She graduated from college. She got married. She gave birth to a beautiful baby boy days before she was diagnosed with the most aggressive form of brain cancer.
Sumbot was given 15 months to live in October 2015. She outlived that diagnosis by five months because as she told me, “there are just so many things to fight for.”
“She has put herself aside,” Katich said of her daughter. “She does what she has to do so that she can have more good days with August. ... She doesn’t know how many days she has, and she doesn’t get do-overs, so the fact that she makes every day beautiful is what I admire the most — and being the very best mom she can be. Even when she doesn’t feel good, she thinks of him.”
In the 20 months that followed her diagnosis, Sumbot and her husband shared a message of faith and hope. She appeared in a video released by the LDS Church as part of its Easter initiative, #PrinceofPeace.” The video has been viewed 87,327 times on YouTube.
“I feel like both of us have made that decision to not slip into despair but to live with this enabling faith that gives us the strength to face each day,” Sumbot’s husband said in the video.
“If I didn’t have faith then life would be so much darker,” Sumbot said. “We have our faith in Christ. We know that we will be together forever despite the timeline we may have.”
One month ago, in the last update to Sumbot’s GoFundMe page prior to her passing, Katich wrote that Kristin’s tumor had grown significantly and that doctors had given Kristin just weeks to live.
“I watched her sleeping on the bed the other day and could not take my eyes off of her,” Katich wrote of her daughter. “I admired her courage to face this even when I know she is frightened beyond words. I admired her beauty in the awfulness of this all. Then I was reminded of when Darren and I brought her home from the hospital and laid her in her little bassinet. We stood back and stared as she slept. We admired her beauty and the great potential that was snuggled up in that little bundle of newborn wonder.”
Katich then wrote that a doctor recently made reference to “a life without purpose” and said that she finds comfort in knowing that her daughter has “a clear purpose and direction.”
“It is toward eternal life,” Katich wrote. “As her mum, and I know that her father, Nate and brothers feel the same, that I cannot think of a greater calling than to help her achieve that goal.”
In 26 years, Sumbot lived the kind of life that many of us will strive to achieve over the course of many decades, “a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful life.”