After a moment with her, you felt accepted’
We lost Kim Young today, a woman whose life was defined by love, dignity, compassion, generosity and laughter. She had electric blue eyes and rainbow-coloured toenails and a laugh that filled the room. She had a rare integrity — at home in any household with friends in every walk of life.
She led by example in every way and rarely spoke about herself and never advertised her many accomplishments, a picture of humility. Through her actions, she showed us how to treat others with respect and compassion and how to champion those who needed it.
Born in Australia to a schoolteacher, she travelled the world as a nurse — a profession she was designed for — eventually finding a home on our little island and leaving this world an undeniably better place than she found it. She fell madly in love with our dad, Ward, and set a gorgeous template for marriage. They had 52 years of rarefied love together and created a family that would become her enduring passion.
Her former students from Teen Services would stop her on the street throughout her life and they would share a laugh like old friends. She truly cared and gave her energy, her smarts, and her love to help others, whether as a Human Rights commissioner, a member of the Family Court or through the strangers who were given her name as someone who would listen.
Her public life was defined by her leadership on behalf of the rights of women and children. At the Women’s Resource Centre, she counselled women in their worst hour with effortless compassion.
As president of the Women’s Advisory Council to the Premier, she fought to create a world where we no longer needed a women’s advisory council but had more women leaders of our own.
She became one of those leaders as an MP for Paget East and a Cabinet minister. In the House, she fought for and won rights to equal pay for women and equality for the rights of children of Bermudian women.
She saved a woman’s life in front of me, providing life-saving CPR to a tourist in a bike accident without a moment’s hesitation.
And without any hesitation (or even asking my dad), she appeared one day with a foster child whom she loved as one of her own. She unofficially adopted many women who had lost their mothers or who just needed someone who would be there for them and accept them for who they were.
She was a goofball, too, who was herself no matter who the company. She would lip-sync Fats Domino to my dad, get into a water fight with her grandchildren and teach countless unwilling participants to loosen up and learn the Electric Slide. With many others, she holds the world record for the most number of people performing the Macarena.
She would never see herself this way, but she was an intimidating presence: a beautiful, classy, vivacious, stylish lady with perfect diction. But after a moment with her, you felt safe and fully accepted. One of the many kind notes we received today said “even though I am nobody, she always made me feel I was someone”.
We were fiercely proud to share Mum with so many other people but it doesn’t mean we got less because the role that truly defined her was as an impeccable wife, mother, and grandmother. Children were drawn to her. She could sense who needed a hug, who needed to talk, who needed a tickle, and who needed her first-class chocolate chip cookies.
We are so very proud to be her kids. She was the best listener in the world and a loyal Mama Bear to her cubs, always in our corner. In her final days, she never showed anything but gratitude and spent much of the time giving specific instructions on how to help those she was leaving behind. Ever the mother, she asked for her final resting place to be with her daughter, Jeness, who we lost too soon.
The arc of her life was ultimately a love story between two smart, funny, caring, and goofy people who deeply appreciated and respected each other and worked each day to love one another. She had an amazing life and was grateful for all of it. Every night before she would go to sleep, she would kiss my dad and say: “Thank you for a wonderful life.”
If you wish to honour her memory, please give your time and love to someone who needs it.
• Jonathan Young is one of four children to Kim Young. She also had two stepchildren
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