by Josh Boschee
photo courtesy of Mitch Marr
Eight words that perfectly describe the beautiful spirit of Kim Winnegge.
"I have given my whole life to words."
Those of us who knew her remember these words as a prominent tattoo she proudly wore on her upper arm. But to Kim, this was a statement of the power that words have in the mundane and the extraordinary moments of our lives.
The web of friends that Kim made and introduced to each other was reconnected with texts, Facebook messages and phone calls that began with "I'm not sure if you heard, but Kim died." High school friends from Devils Lake. Co-workers and roommates from Fargo-Moorhead. Classmates from Northampton. Best friends spread along the coasts and within the Midwest. All checking in with one another to share the terrible news that one of the brightest souls anyone had the fortune to meet, was no longer with us.
To know Kim is to have experienced Kim. She didn't let you just walk by at a party with only a glance, she embraced you and intentionally connected with you so that she knew you. Many who read this will smile as they reminisce about their first interaction with Kim. Likely in a crowded, public place such as a bar or perhaps in a quiet corner of a downtown coffee shop or by the racks of the local thrift store was when Kim first saw you and brought you into her life. The common, polite greeting of "Hello, how are you?" was more than just nuance for her. It was her way to challenge the common response of "Fine" or "Great" that we are all accustomed to with a "No, really. How are you?" or "Are you sure you're just fine? Can I give you a hug?"
Kim saw the world in all of its colors and often found a way to wear all of the world's colors. She could read people, and no one was a stranger to her. Kim was authentic and raw. While she felt pain and was honest about her own struggles, she wanted you to know that while life isn't supposed to be easy, it can get better. Our scars define us, and our mistakes make us stronger. But we must be kind to one another. We must love more and lead with what we agree on, rather than allow our differences to divide us. Poetry and lyrics were the anecdotes that connected her understanding of the emotions we experienced.
As many of Kim's friends continue to share stories about her, a common theme is that she opened us up to new experiences. Whether it was provocative art, little-known musicians, political rallies, queer dance spaces or creative entrees, Kim didn't mind being unique. She pushed boundaries by exploring them for herself and often inviting others along with her. She questioned most anything for the sake of it needing to be questioned. It wasn't about being defiant, but rather to experience things in a different way. In fact, it surprised many of us that Kim's hometown priest shared that she attended church often while she lived back home with her mom. He loved that she was there to experience her mom's faith and then question the dogma while embracing the ritual. She could have avoided the church and simply stated her disagreements from afar, but she chose to engage, experience and push her own boundaries.
Kim wanted to live in a world where we made more friends than we did enemies. A world that celebrated our diverse humanity and lifted people up.
Kim made the world a place where words mattered, and they didn't simply define us, they united us.
You are missed greatly, darling. But you will not be forgotten.
Editor’s note: Josh Boschee, minority leader in the ND House of Representatives, represents the 44th District.
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