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  • Writer's pictureLisa Williams

To Haley and Leaning In

I was a friend and big sister to Haley Katlyn. Her ex-husband Scott and I served on the SEMpdx board and I had met Haley at an event. I was instantly drawn to her beautiful smile and easy ability to kick off conversations with people she had little in common with. Her presence at these events was always a highlight and I repeatedly sought her out when I had had enough of SEO talk or just wanted to bask in the sunshine she so easily carried around with her. 


Over the years, my time spent with them became more and more special to me. They came to Hood River to wine taste and visit, we made a point of meeting up for dinner or drinks when I was in Portland and our conversations became longer, more interesting, more personal, and always laden with the kindness and charm Haley naturally possessed and shared so freely. 


In 2012, my kids were well into college, I decided to go back East and work for a large agency. I'd only ever lived in Oregon and the prospect of being so far away from everything familiar to me was daunting. My visits home from Cleveland for the two years I was gone often included Scott and Haley, a get-together at our friends Mike and Amy's house, a long, leisurely dinner at a favorite spot, or a marketing event where Haley always fit in though it wasn't her chosen profession.  


When I returned in 2014, we agreed to meet at Nel Centro for drinks and to catch up. After the long hugs and prerequisite catching up, they told me about the decision they had made to part as a married couple and keep all the good things (there were many) between them. They joked that it had been a hard few weeks and that the order of their concern was parents, close family, and how is Lisa going to handle the news. I had always admired the kindness and comfort they shared and how it inspired hope.  


As Haley got settled into her new life, we had many adventures together. I started a LeanIn group in Portland and she was my most engaged and committed member. We pondered all of the many things we wanted to see (more Paris and Italy), to achieve (more education, more leadership opportunities at work), to experience (meditation, good food, and wine), and to acquire (real estate and shoes...always more shoes.) We spent time going to plays together or with other friends. Anne Kennedy (also a mentor to me, Haley, and countless others) and Claudette John (my best friend) held special places in her heart. The first time Haley met Claudette, we went to a spa and lunch, by the end of the afternoon they were besties who had exchanged contact info and often caught up with each other without me. She was like that, as you know. She gave of her light and her goodness so openly and freely that people couldn't help but be drawn to it.  


My last visit with Haley was at our home in the Hollywood district after our last in-person LeanIn meeting in February 2020. The meeting had been interesting and inspiring and Haley let the other participants depart one by one and then we sat on the couch, beckoning my sweet Byron (who makes a mean martini) to bring us a cocktail. We sat, cross-legged, on the couch and did what we always did...plan, share, giggle. As always, when she left, she thanked me so profusely for being her big sister and all I could think was how lucky I was that she was my little sister and how my heart was always both fuller and lighter after we spent time together.  


In April 2020 we had a LeanIn virtual meeting. Haley was slated to share on a women and leadership topic and she didn't show, something she never did. We were just a few weeks into Covid so I wrote it off and made a note to catch up the next day. When she didn't return my call I went to Facebook and saw Casey's post. Haley gone and all of us lost as to why.  


In the years since that moment, I have thought of her often. Reflected on how very much I miss her and in the amazing ways that missing sits in my heart. The joy of having known her and the pain of knowing I won't get to sit cross-legged like little girls on my couch and have her regal me with her funny stories and aspirations.


Haley was one of the best parts of my LeanIn experience, she rarely missed a meeting in 6 years. She was engaged and present. My connection to her was largely due to how she managed her relationships, truly leaning in to be more, share more, inspire more, and learn more. I am grateful for all the lessons she taught me, but the biggest was her ability to be present. Of all the things I can do to lean into what I want for my only life, she showed me that the best thing I can do is to be present for others. We miss you.

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