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For Karen

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 usfor you and meSeptember 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 lived.

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 depthsto 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, didn't she?"
"She always did," I said. "I never had to worry about Karen's friends."

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 nearthat 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 usa 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 us.

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