- Associated Press - Monday, May 8, 2017

SAUK RAPIDS, Minn. (AP) - “How can I be a friend to someone with a friend who’s dying of cancer?”

That question was spoken by Mette Kirsch as she lay in her hospital bed, slowly dying from cancer, the St. Cloud Times (https://on.sctimes.com/2oQHP55 ) reported. She was speaking with her close friend Mandy Spiczka, who was distraught over the decline of Kirsch’s health.

“I assured her that I had other friends for that, as she was the one who was dying. But I felt completely in awe of her compassion,” Spiczka said.

That question embodied Kirsch’s spirit, friends said. She died at the age of 40 after dealing with cancer for more than a decade. Most recently, she was diagnosed with cancer of the bone marrow and had a bone marrow transplant.

Kirsch, who died in her native country of Denmark on March 28, was honored with a memorial at Trinity Lutheran Church in Sauk Rapids last month.

After a formal service, a community choir Kirsch helped create shared their memories of their leader and namesake. In Danish, the group’s name, Mettekor, means means Mette’s choir. The group of women performed songs that reminded them of Kirsch. Spiczka, a member of the choir, spoke of her friendship with Kirsch.

“Mette’s heart was filled with compassion,” Spickza said. “Her love of life, her joy in profoundly simple things was another quality I didn’t mind catching.”

Sartell resident Leslie Mulder was another member of Mettekor. She met Kirsch about 18 months ago.

“She was very thin and frail, had little wisps of hair and was wearing a hospital mask,” Mulder said. “She was the brightest spirit in the room. We connected instantly.”

It was Mulder who helped Kirsch create a women’s community choir, where it didn’t matter if you could sing. The choir was formed only in the last several months of her life. The first performance was a surprise at Kirsch’s 40th birthday party.

“We put together an impromptu choir, we rehearsed for 45 minutes, and we sang,” Mulder said. “She jumped up and down afterwards. She was so excited. She said it was the best birthday ever. And we all had such a good time doing it that we just started meeting every three weeks, getting together and singing.”

The group grew in number and in passion.

“When Mette got really sick in December, we sang to her around her hospital bed. We saw how much song brings healing and joy to people’s lives,” Mulder said. “We started having conversations about who do we want to be if Mette isn’t in her physical body anymore? It was pretty unanimous. … We were more than a choir. We had formed a sense of community with each other. So we told Mette that we were going to keep going.”

Kirsch returned to Denmark in December, so she could live out the rest of her life in her home country. The choir sang to Kirsch one last time via Skype, with the help of new director Stephanie Hart of St. Joseph.

“It was obvious to me, even through that technology, that she’s a woman who had shone a lot of light in the world,” Hart said. While she never got to meet her in person, she got a good idea of who Kirsch was by how her friends spoke of her.

“They talked about being drawn to her, kind of like moths to a flame. That’s the image I have in my head of how so many of them got connected with her. They were just irresistibly drawn to her light,” Hart said.

Mettekor has a candle with Kirsch’s name on it - signed by everyone in the choir - they light every time they sing together.

“Just as a reminder to us of Mette with us, her light in the world, because she needs to shine on, through us, her family and friends,” Hart said.

Kirsch leaves behind her husband, Jason, and children Elsa and Karl, among many family and friends. She and her husband met in Iceland, married and lived in Denmark until 2010. During that time, Kirsch worked as a biomass research coordinator at the University of Copenhagen. In 2010, they moved to Central Minnesota, where Jason had spent time growing up, and settled in Sauk Rapids.

In Minnesota, Kirsch connected with the community as a stay-at-home mom and volunteer. She was active in the local MOMS club, volunteered at the St. Cloud State University community garden, and as a VISTA volunteer at Pleasantview Elementary. She was also connected to Prince of Peace Lutheran School, where her children attended school.

“Above all, Mette’s heart was filled with love,” Spickza said. “The profound love a human being who’s so very alive, radiating light and infecting us all with this love that will continue to grow and connect people for years to come.”


Information from: St. Cloud Times, https://www.sctimes.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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