Laura Montgomery away too I see
From what I heard, she didnae do much of a job at Hibs, but had some terrible times in her life.
Laura Montgomery is speaking with a matter of factness that betrays the content of her words. She could be talking about the weather or her favourite food but instead she is speaking about the death of her partner of 16 years, Kat Lindner.
Psychologists might call it compartmentalisation of grief. Whatever, Montgomery freely admits she is merely finding a way of coping. Her days are spent blocking out the noise. Her role as head of sales and sponsorship at Hibernian occupies her for six days a week; her remaining time is spent immersed in running Glasgow City Football Club, the team she founded 21 years ago. But she is living a half-existence these days, like a spectator watching a macabre drama about her own life.
Montgomery is angry. Not at Lindner, who had suffered for much of her life from depression, but the circumstances behind her death, now the subject of an inquiry.
“She took her own life,” she says quietly.
“The very difficult thing for me is that she was in hospital at the time. And that still happened. That’s hard for me because when you’re in hospital, that’s when you think somebody is safe. She’d attempted to take her own life the week before and it was really emotional for both of us and so for her to actually take her own life when I thought she was safe and being looked after was very difficult for me.
“We were so in love – we were so great together. And that makes me so angry, I don’t get why I can’t have had that forever. The last thing Kat and I said to each other was that we loved each other and we kissed each other. So I don’t have any regrets in that respect.”
February 9 this year has left an indelible mark on Montgomery. It was the moment time stopped and simultaneously carried on. Almost every day since that fateful night, Montgomery returns to the house in Glasgow she shared with Lindner. It is filled with her things, their things. There is barely a corner of their home that doesn’t possess a frame with a photograph of the pair together.
Montgomery suspects people who visit think she has put these pictures up in the months since Lindner’s death but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Everything in their house is exactly as it was the day she died. The 43-year-old has been unable to bring herself to move a single item. Every cupboard remains untouched, with Lindner’s clothes and belongings just as they were when she was admitted to hospital in February. There are reminders of Lindner’s life everywhere.
“There’s probably not a day I don’t lie on the floor and cry my eyes out,” she says.
“It’s very difficult. I’m not going to deny that Kat was my everything and I miss her terribly. It’s by far the most devastating thing to ever happen to me because Kat was the love of my life. The past few years, it had been really difficult to see her get so ill but she was the most amazing, beautiful, intelligent person.
“You could say that, given what’s happened, I’m fortunate that I’ve got a very full-on job so I don’t really have a minute, I dread to think if I did have a minute.
“If I’m honest, I just survive now. I’m the opposite of Kat mentally – I’m really upbeat and really positive. But I’ve found I’ve been really low with this, as you can imagine. I don’t really enjoy life now. I’m not suicidal or anything but I used to look forward to every day – I’d be one of those people who would scream in the shower for no particular reason, just because I was excited – and I don’t do that anymore.
“I’m sure if there was an expert hearing me speak they’d say it’s not sustainable. And I’m sure it’s not sustainable. But I don’t know what else to do.”
The pair met in the late-90s, when they faced each other during a set of friendly matches; a long-distance relationship then followed with Lindner turning down the offer of a scholarship at Penn University to move to Glasgow to be with Montgomery in 2005. There was no other club she was going to join than Montgomery’s beloved City.
Montgomery recalls buying Lindner, a highly-respected academic, a pair of adidas Predator football boots when she arrived in Scotland. The German was puzzled by the gesture, assuming her new club would provide her equipment until Montgomery pointed out to Lindner that she would have to pay £40 a month in subs just to get a game for City. She would go on to become one of the club’s all-time greats, winning five league titles, two Scottish Cups and two League Cups and scoring 128 goals in 173 games in the process.
“Kat was one of the best players ever to play for Glasgow City, if not one of the best players to play in Scotland. She means a lot to a lot of people who played with her. It’s been really emotional for the club because of her legendary status,” Montgomery said
“Because of Kat’s illness over the past few years, I’ve not been able to give the club the focus that I used to – quite rightfully, because Kat was the most important person to me. Glasgow City was secondary to me and I’d have got rid of it when Kat was ill, I thought of doing that many times actually and I looked to see how it could continue without me because I started to resent that it was taking time away from being with Kat.
“But now, I’m glad I’ve got it because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have anything to focus on. I’m now back to where I used to be in trying to drive things forward. The support I’ve got from the club has been brilliant and Scott (Booth) has been brilliant, he’s been very understanding of the situation.”
It wasn’t just on the football pitch that Lindner excelled, however. A lecturer at Stirling University, she was published in a number of academic journals but she was equally comfortable as a confidante and counsel in her professional life in spite of her own struggles. It is a crumb of comfort that Montgomery clings to even if there is a sobering contradiction that the person who has gone has no concept of how highly valued they were.
“I’ve had people tell me that Kat was helping them through difficult times and they had no idea she was going through such a tough time herself. And I’ve had so many beautiful letters from her students saying she was the most amazing, caring, insightful, informative teacher who made a difficult subject easy,” she said.
“What frustrates me is that when someone suffers from ill health, they’ve got no idea how important and valued they are in the world. And how loved they are. Kat was respected and loved by so many people but she could not take that in at all. That’s really difficult – when someone is so ill, you tell them but they can’t feel it, they just don’t believe it.
“I don’t want Kat to ever be forgotten. Scottish Women’s Football are having an award in her honour now and there are other awards and things being named after her. When someone passes away, everyone is really kind and thoughtful but my fear is that people go on with their lives but I don’t want people to forget about her.”
There was never, it appears, one particular moment that triggered Lindner’s depression, instead it was, it seems, more like an ongoing battle that had to be fought daily.
Montgomery does, though, sometimes wonder if Lindner’s illness had been caught right at the beginning of their relationship, could it all have been different?
“She suffered really badly in the last few years of her life particularly. With hindsight, she did have challenges her whole life. Did either of us really notice or know what they were? Probably no. I remember when she was in the States, I’d send her things about having a positive mental attitude and I knew that she was approaching things in a different way to the way I would but we were young, you don’t know what that means or what it is,” she reveals.
“In the last few years of her life, she realised she was a high-functioning individual – there’s a number of things that combined to make Kat as ill as she was but it all stemmed from being such an extremely high achiever.
“If you only ever get 100 percent, you don’t really enjoy it anymore. And if you don’t get 100 percent one time, it feels like a failure. The level of Kat’s ability was incredible – she got basically 100 percent the entire way through university and so the pressure on you with that is huge.
“What makes me want to kick myself was looking back 15 years, all those tiny little things, if I’d been a bit more mature and intelligent, and had any clue what those tiny things might have been, we maybe could have sought help all those years ago.
“At the time, Kat would have said there was nothing wrong but with hindsight, there was. That’s my only regret, thinking we could maybe have changed things. But when I think about our years together, I know that Kat was the love of my life and that love we had has shaped the person I have become. If I can’t have a life with her, I couldn’t have asked for anything better than that.”