Posted by: Elizabeth Anne Mitchell | February 26, 2014

BOAW The most beautiful woman I ever met

Closeup decorative grunge vintage woman with beautiful long hair

This year I am taking part in August McLaughlin‘s Beauty of A Woman BlogFest.  She will list links to all of the blogs participating in the fest on her blog. Stop by for fun, inspiration, laughs and more. You may also win one of two $50 gift cards, so go on over—after you’ve read this post.

Among her topics, August suggested the most beautiful woman you’ve ever met.  I met that woman, whom I will call Kathryn, when I was a sophomore in college, at a small women’s college in the South.  I had gone to college a year early, and felt a bit like a misfit, so when I noticed Kathryn sitting alone in the dining hall, I asked if I could sit with her.  When Kathryn looked up at me, I realized in part why others were avoiding her. Her face was oddly misshapen, with a very small jaw, and her hands were knotted as though arthritic.  Although several women stared covertly at her, no one was obvious, and all were well-mannered enough not to say anything mean to her.  However, it was clear from the space everyone left around her that they were uncomfortable.  While I noticed this difference about Kathryn, I am drawn to people’s eyes.  Her eyes were clear and beautiful.  My mother always said the eyes were windows to the soul, and that old canard was true in Kathryn’s case.  There were depths of pain and wisdom in them, but her wit and kindness also shone through them, pure and blue as the sky after a snowstorm.

Kathryn smiled and invited me to sit at the table.  I learned that she was several years younger than most freshman, which created a further bond between us.  Intelligent and quick-witted, she seemed to ignore the combined avoidances and sideways glances of the women around us.  We found several areas of common interest and similar backgrounds during that meal and many others that followed. We came to be friends, although several of my other friends continued to avoid her.  There was always a space around her, a sort of benign neglect zone that moved with her.  Despite this reaction, Kathryn never felt anyone was unkind, saying she realized how different she looked and it was normal for people to shy away from her.

After a few weeks, she told me that she suffered from Progeria, which is a rare, rapid-aging disease.  Most people with the disease do not live beyond their teens, which is why she had gone to college early.  When I replied that I couldn’t imagine bothering with college in her case, she shrugged and said she had nothing better to do. In the time I knew her, she never complained about her pain, never felt sorry for herself, never felt slighted.

Instead of feeling sorry for herself, Kathryn concentrated on doing whatever she could for her small group of friends.  At the end of that year,  an acquaintance asked me in private how I could stand to look at her.  I was stunned, because I had truly forgotten Kathryn didn’t look like the rest of the freshmen. I saw Kathryn, not what her disease had done to her. She  was the kindest soul I ever met, and a far better person than I could ever be.  She taught me volumes about self-confidence, acceptance, and striving for one’s goals.  She was hands down the most beautiful woman I have ever met.

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Responses

  1. Oh my gosh, you made me tear up at the part about her eyes, but then reading that she had such an awful disease, that’s truly heart breaking. I can see why you wrote this post about her. She sounds like such a beautiful person, and so are you.

    Thank you for sharing this post about Kathryn. This one’s a winner.

    • Thank you, Lynn. I’m not special, but Kathryn certainly was. She did live long enough to finish college, but passed away the year after graduation.

  2. What a unique and wonderful story, Elizabeth. I love how fated it seemed that you two should have met and bonded in your early college experience. In addition to Kathryn’s own beauty, so is your friendship. 🙂

  3. What a gorgeous tribute to a truly beautiful woman. Thank you, Elizabeth. This post is memorable, touching and ever so poignant! We can all take Kathryn’s lead—I sure hope many do.

  4. I’ve known one or two people who, like Kathyrn, remind me of the highest reaches the human soul can reach. These people have truly reached beyond the shell we live in, even as they tend to be trapped in them to far greater depths than we “normal” people are.

    I’m both in joy of your experience and sorrow for the briefness of her time with you. But I’m glad you were able to have that time, Elizabeth.

  5. […] to write for August McLaughlin’s Beauty of a Woman blogfest, but I just started reading Elizabeth Anne Mitchell’s “The Most Beautiful Woman” post…  and it got me thinking about how impossible that would be for me to nail down that title […]

  6. I can’t believe someone had the nerve to ask you that question, but it sounds like you responded graciously. How wonderful that you saw your friend as no different than anyone else. Isn’t it amazing when we get something from a relationship that we never expected but is so rewarding, like you did?

  7. Bravo for you! What a wonderful friendship you both gained after that chance meeting.

  8. Wow! She sounds wonderful, and what a rich friendship you gained by taking the chance to talk to someone others were avoiding. Good for you, Elizabeth!

  9. What a simply gorgeous post, Elizabeth! Kathryn spread tons of joy while she lived, and that’s what’s most important.

    Do you know how long she was able to hang on?

    • Yes, Jenny. She actually graduated from college, then passed away eight months later.

      • Good for her. That makes me so happy, that she achieved a goal she wanted. I’ll bet you still miss her.

  10. Elizabeth,

    What a beautiful gift for both of you your friendship was! I’m so glad that you didn’t pass up the chance for something lovely and powerful, something that still moves you, today.

    My first fiance had cystic fibrosis. At a time when people were just managing to live into adulthood with it, he was 27 at the time he was diagnosed. I am sad to say that, after our first date, I shied away from him for a year – he was sick enough for it to be scary.

    Fortunately, I got a second chance, and was wiser and kinder. We had a beautiful 11 months and 6 days before he died. And I know that I was changed forever, and in wonderful way, because Tim was a part of my life at the end of his.

    Like you, I see eyes first. And, having seen yours up close and personal, I argue your assertion that you aren’t special.

    You are, you know.

    Special, and very beautiful, in all the best ways.

  11. I could imagine you both gave each other just what you needed. Strength, friendship, love and self confidence!!
    What a wonderful, special and unique post!!

  12. What a dear friend she had in you! Beautiful post, Elizabeth!

  13. What a beautiful story. We are too often taught the value of physical beauty, but the people who have defined beauty in my life rarely fit that definition. Loved your story. I’ve always sensed your beauty in your words, and now also in your actions–for it takes a beautiful soul to recognize another one. Hugs to you!

  14. Gosh! Another post that brought tears to my eyes. Both because of your friend’s beautiful soul…and your innate kindness (and intelligence to overlook the obvious). I, too, find more beauty in the subtleties and find the eyes really do the best job reflecting beauty. Thanks for sharing this.

  15. Beautiful and inspirational story, Elizabeth. It’s so amazing to find people like Kathryn. They are rare gems for sure, but make their mark in the world that lasts forever. What’s great about gems like that, is that they cause others to evaluate their own contributions to the world and challenges them to do more for others. Happy BOAW

  16. Beautiful story, beautiful woman, and you were a beautiful friend.

  17. What a great story, Elizabeth! The simple act of offering friendship is a beautiful thing and I’ll bet you enriched her college experience as her friend. Sounds like it enriched yours as well. It is a lovely thing to enjoy another person so much that you forget she has flaws.

  18. […] “My mother always said the eyes were windows to the soul, and that old canard was true in Kathryn’s case.  There were depths of pain and wisdom in them, but her wit and kindness also shone through them, pure and blue as the sky after a snowstorm.” — Elizabeth Mitchell […]

  19. […] I checked in. Although I managed to stir myself into replying to my sponsor post, and even wrote a post for August McLaughlin’s Beauty of A Woman BlogFest, I have been hibernating. However, […]


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