Cat Pausé.

Cat Pausé

By Sandra Grey (Te Pou Ahurei | National Secretary, Te Hautū Kahurangi)

I’m learning a new song – Texas Blues. And each time I sing it I think of the loud, proud Texan – Cat Pausé. It does make me blue as my beautiful friend left us way too soon and has been calling out “yo bitches” in the great beyond for over a year now.

Cat, a proud and dedicated unionist. But her strength was far deeper than most people knew. Cat lived union values every day. From paying for students to go to conferences (now in the form of a scholarship in Cat’s name) to challenging us to ‘check our privilege.’ From writing on fat shaming to mentoring each of us to listen harder to the voice of the marginalised. From doing prep for every meeting so she could create strong foundations for union action to sitting with me in the sunshine and encouraging me to keep going when I was facing the darkest days as the President of TEU (and I wasn’t the only one she got through dark days). From sending a ‘thank you’ card to getting many of us to pose for the Adipositivity project to celebrate who we are. From leading workshops to move TEU into a strong Te Tiriti space to driving co-authored pieces on fat activism, gender inequality, and so much more.

The first memory of Cat will be the warm smile that greeted everyone coming to the TEU Conference or the loud voice shouting “yo bitches.” She was larger than life. But Cat was so, so much more and so much deeper. Like the Matariki stars we are looking up at now, most people saw Cat from a distance. A few of us were privileged enough to sit alongside her in the constellation and got the heat and intensity of the loving daughter, caring friend, critical thinker, and strong activist who changed the world every day she walked on this earth.

Cat was made a life member of the TEU at conference 2022 because her union recognised her power and strength. The real award for Cat would be us all taking time at Matariki to reflect on the powerful, beautiful, courageous people around us and to recommit daily to living our shared values of aroha, togetherness, kindness, awhi, and respect. That is true unionism. Not showing up to a meeting and speaking your mind – anyone can do that. It’s about listening to others, really listening, and then taking one small action at a time.

The Texan changed another small part of my life last year, our first Matariki after Cat’s death. We were gifted Cat’s Christmas tree and decorations by her parents Megan and Paul (and when you meet her Mom and Pappa you’ll know just where Cat got her loving and giving spirit from). We put it up and called it our Matariki tree. We placed nine stars in the shape of the Matariki constellation on the tree and lit the room with little fairy lights twinkling like the Milky Way. Then we had a family dinner. We had Cat’s photo on the wall with others of our family who’d left us. We spoke gently about all she meant to us and vowed to keep her legacy of kindness alive.

Cat challenged us to be generous of spirit. She also challenged us all to learn more, so take the plunge if you need to learn more about Matariki, fat phobia, Adipositivity, inequality – that’s why I felt compelled to put in lots of links for more reading.

That moment with Cat and all my family whose feet are no longer connected to Papatūānuku is being repeated this Matariki. We will feel and embrace the depth of Matariki as a time of quiet reflection and planting of new seeds. Then throughout the year, everyday, we will honour Cat and all the amazing leaders of our union and whānau who have passed away by tending the plants we’ve sown.

So, finally, to the song I mentioned at the opening. Texas Blues has a line saying ‘It’s gonna take the dickens to get the Texan out of me.’ I will miss you Cat until my last breath and will never let them take the Texan’s influence out of me. You are in my heart forever and only I hope I can do our enduring friendship justice and live union values every day.