I lived with Karen for a year back in 1996, in a household here in Berkeley. That's probably when I knew her best, but our lives have intersected in big and small ways many times since then. As part of Church Without Walls, she was an early and faithful member of the tutoring group that we started for kids in the neighborhood. She was so giving of her time and ability to her tutoring student, and stayed in touch with her for years afterwards. She became a Rosa Parks parent just as I was moving on from being a teacher there, but I've loved hearing about the ways that she and Rich were involved, and especially how she brought her love for science into fruition in real and lasting ways at the school. When she heard that I was going on sabbatical to Finland last year, we had several conversations in which she excitedly asked me all about what I was planning to do and what I was hoping to learn. As many have said, I love that she was someone who knew how to truly listen in conversation, how to ask questions that showed she cared about the answers.
Last summer, I had the privilege of taking Karen to radiation appointments. At first, despite just having had brain surgery, she was so much the Karen I'd always knew. Funny, self-deprecating, full of research and questions for the doctors. Over the course of a month or so, symptoms of radiation began to pile up, and one day especially, she was chagrined to find that her hair had started falling out. By the time I dropped her off at home, there was hair all over the passenger seat of my car. It was a rare sunny summer day in Berkeley, and I'll always remember driving slowly home, with Karen's hair sort of flying around me, drifting out the window into the breeze. I remember wondering that day how this would all turn out; would she beat the odds? How long would she have? It was so hard not to know.
One of the strongest impressions I have after listening to all those who shared about Karen today is that she was someone whose best, truest self was evident to people in all the communities she was part of. That is a really powerful thing. I'm so thankful that I knew her, that she was my friend, and that I was able to be part of her life as well as her death. That may be a strange thing to say. But I'm moved by how many were cared for and touched even as they cared for her in her last days with us. I'm going to miss her so much. I love you, Karen. Thanks for loving us so well, so honestly and bravely, while you were here. May you rest in peace.
|Our household, circa 1996 or so. (Full disclosure: It was my birthday, and we went to Chevy's, and I wanted the hat, but I was too shy for all the singing and fuss, so Priscilla did it for me, at Karen and Sue's urging).|
|CWOW Tutoring Group, June 2001|