Matt’s words cover so much ground for those of us who love Karen. I thank him for evoking so many memories and for continuing to be a wonderful brother. And I join him in appreciation for three Australian men who devoted such loyalty to Karen: Andrew, Errol, and Kevin. Her faraway family felt such dissonance about our inability to help, but their faithful presence offered reassuring harmony. You can tell that Matt and Karen were close as brother and sister. What you may not know is that they were psychic twins. When they were paired in the word-guessing game, Password, Karen could shout out the answer before Matt finished giving the clue. Their common experiences account for some of this ability, but we who always lost the game to them were sure that some deeper phenomenon was at work. And when Matt described Karen’s facility with languages, I remembered that it was never a surprise to me. She and Matt were the funniest little mimics you’ve ever heard. Karen’s hearing failed her in the end, but as a child, she had perfect pitch for foreign accents and regional dialect. I believe I am just about ten years older than Karen, so when I was a teenager, she was my adored little cousin… a bright little wit in a skinny little supercharged body! It was painful to learn about the decline of that body, over quite a long stretch of years we now realize. What a mystery to know that Karen was plagued with a lack of energy during those years after college and before the diagnosis of her brain tumor. Impossible to think of this bouncy girl slowed to a listless pace. But, as everyone confirms, the wit prevailed, her humor trumped the tumor. Between college and graduate school, Karen worked in New York. In those years I had some freelance work that took me there several times a year, so we had some city experiences together. She and my brother-in-law, Howard, introduced me to Indian food, and we tromped through the streets exploring. I don’t know if it was an early effect of the tumor or just the stress of navigating New York life, but she already expressed some frustration and fatigue. One rainy night, we ducked into a movie theatre and watched “The Trip to Bountiful” with its lovely opening song about being called home. The film had a calming effect on Karen, and that evening has remained important in my memory. Some years later when our grandmother died, Karen and I rode together through the flat landscape of west Texas and eastern New Mexico to attend the graveside service in Santa Fe. Karen called it a sentimental journey; I was touched by that phrase. A biblical writer asks, “O Death, where is thy sting?” I can answer that question today - I feel the sharp sting of losing my beloved little cousin. But I hope that when Karen returns to New Mexico, it will be not only a sentimental journey but a bountiful trip home.
i'll admit that my memory isn't the best... and that i don't have many specific remembrances of karen. what i will always hold on to, though, is how much my mother, stephanie, always adored her. i feel like she always lit up when she found out that karen would be able to make it to the beach. and for the kids my age, i think we all remember karen's most recent trip to emerald isle with fondness. she was definitely older than us, but not a real adult --at least, not in our book -- so, getting to play with her was a unique treat. i think i speak with most when i say that seeing pictures of her on the balcony of the lighthouse always makes me smile. and, deep down, we've always known that those pictures were special -- just like her.
When I think of Karen, I think of her humor. She sent me a letter last year around the time I was getting married. I know how much pain she was in on a daily/hourly/ secondly basis, and yet she was able to write me a letter with her perfectly dry wit that had me smiling and laughing, but left me heartbroken that I couldn't be with her in person. I miss you Karen. Lots of Love.
Karen was certainly a unique human being. Her american drawl, cheekiness in her eyes, and a sly grin showed a dry sense of humour and doggedness that was always apparent. I remember my final visit to see her in hospital earlier this year, she still showed spunk. Although restricted with a lack of hearing, poor vision and limited speech, she had the ability to understand my efforts of communication using written messages and gestures. At the end of that visit I was particular amused and reminded of her stubborn tenacity, when although physically restricted she still had the ability to weld her command on things that mattered; in this case the return of a photo of her dog on the pin board near the foot of her bed. The photo had to be returned just so. There are many other stories I could share about Karen but this final memory, for me, best sums up her character – throughout adversity she still had an unyielding strength. I'm sorry I can't be with you all today and are there with you in spirit. Finally, my love and thoughts are with Karen, her family and friends on this day to celebrate her life.