We have so many people
to thank that I won't take this time to do that. But I know that
Karen wouldn't stand for it if I failed to say this: Heather, friends
just don't come any more loyal than you. Karen knew that. She spotted
it years ago. You are her fourth sister.
On Karen's last birthday,
September 11, I talked with her by phone as she sat in a restaurant
in Frederick with Katie and Jennifer, Jason, Brandon, and Stephen
waiting for her birthday dinner. I remember commiserating with her,
because we realized that the acts of terrorism that had taken place
that morning were truly historic in their proportion, and that in
the future, her birthday would always be associated with unspeakable
evil. I couldn't have realized then, just eight and a half weeks
ago, how much my perspective would change.
For the past 24 years
as I have watched Karen grow into the beautiful, gracious, caring,
compassionate young woman whom you knew, I have known that September
11 represented a great blessing to me. It was always the occasion
for celebration of a great gift. And I was briefly worried that
that date could be despoiled by evil, murderous fanatics. It need
not be. For us–for you and me–September 11 is the day God perfumed
our lives with Karen.
Most of us, when we're
in the presence of beauty and grace, don't have to be told. It just
sort of fills the room. Karen filled our rooms with beauty and grace
for 24 years as she walked through our lives with her love, her
wit, her creative touch. She blessed my life every day that she
In May 1983 when Jennifer
was seven, Karen was five, Megan was three, and Katie was in the
future, our family went to the Western Slope Campmeeting of the
Rocky Mountain Conference. As we filed into the Friday night meeting
we presented the kind of picture that prompts almost an involuntary
"aaaaahhhhhh." Mommy and Daddy and three adorable little
girls all decked out in their Sabbath dresses.
But that was when things
started going off the rails. As we took our seats in the auditorium,
we found ourselves sitting directly behind the conference president's
wife. Not only was she the conference president's wife, she was
known as the "grand dame" of the conference office-someone
not to be trifled with, if you know what I mean. And not only was
she the conference president's wife, and not only was she the grand
dame of the conference office, she was also a college friend of
my parents, and she knew exactly who we were. I had even gone to
academy in another part of the country with her daughter.
We had no sooner settled
our adorable selves into our comfortable metal folding chairs when
five-year-old Karen noticed, well, an irregularity.
"Mommy, mommy! Doesn't
that lady know she has purple hair?"
Some things change, some
things never do. Karen's gift for telling us the straight story
never changed. But now Jennifer is 26, Megan is 22, Katie is almost
18, and Karen is in the future.
Karen had the capacity
to make people love her from their very depths–to call forth that
last ounce of total commitment. If you were Karen's friend, you
were Karen's friend!
This week in Hershey,
as we looked around the packed waiting room in amazement, Cheryl
Smith turned to me and said, "She knew how to pick her friends,
"She always did," I said. "I never had to worry about
And Cheryl said, "All
Karen's qualities are coming out in her friends."
During Karen's 24 years
she was called upon to surmount far more obstacles and deal with
much more pain than she deserved. When she became ill a couple of
months ago, suffering was not a new experience to her. And yet her
life was characterized by a pervasive joy, a delight in her friends,
a deep reserve of faith in God. And there was her courage. And there
was her grace.
Karen faced death this
week with the same courage and grace she brought to life. She understood
that the end was near–that she would have to leave us for a while.
She showed no fear, no anger, no regret. Instead she focused on
and savored every single person who came to see her.
The psalmist invited
God to "teach us to number our days." The number of Karen's
days was 8,824. She was robbed. We were robbed. A just and righteous
God will not tolerate that for long.
What a privilege! What
an honor it has been to be Karen's dad! To be Karen's mom. To be
Karen's sister. To be Karen's friend.
We will go back to our
jobs and other pursuits. We will move on to other projects, form
new relationships, experience new aspects of life. But we will not
leave Karen behind, for she will always be a part of us–a better
part of us, calling to our better natures, inspiring us to exhibit
the humor and compassion and love that so won us all to her.
We have held Karen close
to us for as long as we can in this world. So now we wait. We wait
to embrace our Karen once again at another time and another place,
where the only blood we'll care about will be the blood that bought
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