Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Memory of Karen - Erin Schweng (Friend and CWOW Member)

Today we buried Karen.  We sang, and cried, and shared stories, and actually laughed a lot too.  All day, little thoughts kept coming unbidden to my mind.  "I wish Karen were here to enjoy this beautiful afternoon in her garden", or "Karen would love seeing all these people from all of her worlds gathered together in one place".  A few times, at the memorial, I caught a glimpse of her mom or one of her sisters and just for a tiny second recognized something of her in them; it was startling.  I think overall she would have loved what was shared of her and of Jesus today, and that makes me really glad.

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

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Memory of Karen - Jim Thieman (Co-worker)

I noted that many of the memories posted were about Karen's home life and interactions through her Church activities.

I was privileged to have known Karen through the work that she did for NASA's Sun Earth Connection Education Forum (SECEF), a group with the calling to promote the science of Heliophysics (study of the Sun and its dynamics and how that affects the solar system and the Earth in particular) to the education community and the general public.  SECEF was a partnership between a group at Goddard Space Flight Center and a group at UCB.   When SECEF was first formed the word Heliophysics barely existed and not many knew about the amazing and beautiful interactions happening on the Sun that affect us in our daily lives.  Thanks to the dedication of people like Karen striking satellite images of the dynamic Sun
are now commonly seen around the world and space weather is not such an unusual term.

Karen was the manager/coordinator of the logistics for the group at Berkeley and I was her counterpart for the group at Goddard.  It was a pleasure to work with her since she was always so well-organized and knew exactly what was due where and when.  She was also enthusiastic when it came to working with teachers, students, etc. in spreading the word to our audience.

The best times, however, were when we brought together the East and West coast groups in a retreat to come up with still better ways to work together and accomplish the purposes of SECEF.  The attached pictures are from the retreat in Estes Park, CO in May, 2005.  Karen had particularly advocated that retreat given her Colorado ties.  The retreat was very successful in building teamwork, but also allowed us to better know the Meyer family.   It was a beautiful setting with wonderful people.  Karen mentioned in particular her fond memories of seeing lightning and thunderstorms in Colorado, but it was the wrong time of year for that.

There are dozens of other memories of such a happy, unique, and fascinating person, but not enough time to write them down.  My thanks to Karen for her influence on my life.

Jim Thieman

Memory of Karen - Marguerite Fa-Kaji (Friend and CWOW Member)

Unlike a lot of those who have posted, I did not know Karen in school or even before her motherhood days.  I mostly know Karen as a fellow mom, so these are my reflections.
  • When we 1st moved to Berkeley, Rich & Karen took my 2nd daughter Noelle on a beach outing with their housemate at the time (Claire) to celebrate Claire's BD.  We didn't really know the Meyers at all but the girls had such a good time that day.  I remember thinking what great parents they'd make - outdoorsy, fun & so attentive.
  • One year later, when Rich & Karen did become pregnant with their 1stborn, I was pregnant with my 5th.  We were in a Mom's group together:  4 baby girls in the same church all born within a few months of one another.  I recall Karen as such a good researcher - debating with herself long & hard about buying that Britax carseat - but finally deciding to do so. I also recall her showing me articles about the importance of buying certain fruits organic (even before the "dirty dozen" became widely known).  She was so careful in these details of her family's life.
  • Before Karen and Rich moved to West Berkeley, one of her concerns was about the neighborhood and whether it would be a good and safe place to raise her children.  Karen prayed a lot about this decision and God was faithful in answering those prayers -- providing wondeful neighbors & a supportive school community -- even as the Meyers were faithful in how they spent their time ("Mr. Rich" initiated our church's Middle School Group, Karen contributed greatly to Rosa Parks school, and together they started neighborhood movie nights).
  • We were in small group together for a number of years (Moms met one week, Dads met the other) - this was when Karen taught me so much by how persistent and faithful she was in praying for physical healing and emotional healing (of loved ones and church members).  Her stubborn & bold faith really inspired me.
  • We lost touch for awhile, but started spending time together again when Karen became sick.  I have some really clear memories from the past year - Karen's concern as our daughters started middle school and we discussed the increased importance of peers/friends at this age; Karen's eyes glowing with joy as she described seeing the Red Panda (her son's favorite animal) with him at the San Diego Zoo; and, less than 1 month ago, our Mother/Daughter Reunion weekend with those 4 girls (12 years later) - how her daughter helped her pack and brought her breakfast and how Karen was able to tell her what she treasured about her.
I am so thankful for Karen and her companionship along the way -- I will miss her deeply (I already do).  My hope is to tell her children again & again of their mother's great love for them.

Memory of Karen - Darlene Yan (Co-worker and CWOW Member)

I must have met Karen back around 2001 when I joined CWOW fresh out of college, but I didn't really get to know her until I responded to an all-church email she sent out mentioning a temporary two week cash job at her work stuffing brochures. I don't usually respond to those sorts of things, but it was summer and I needed rent money, so I signed up. That temporary job evolved and they kept me and I've been with this group ever since - doing what I love and what I'm good at and with wonderful people above and beyond what I ever, ever could have imagined for myself. She told me once that she wasn't sure whether to send that email out or not, but knowing her I bet she prayed about it, and knowing her I bet she did what God asked her to do, and my life is significantly different from what it could have been because of that small act.
It is funny that I know Karen more from a work perspective than a church one, although I do remember clearly her bringing one of our work's "solar pizzas" (a distance-size scale model of the Earth and Sun) to lay on the altar on our annual Labor Day service. I think other years she brought up other work stuff, like mission patches or a book we worked on, and it always made me smile to see them on the altar. Last Labor Day I happened to glance up and catch her as she quietly and reverently lay her worn Bible on the altar, and I found that change in her concept of "work" extremely moving. She loved science and geeked out on anything Sun related, especially solar energy stuff, and she had just finished setting up solar energy activity at our lab's open house last year when she had her first seizure, right next to the solar-powered water fountain. At one of our Christmas parties we did a white elephant gift exchange, and she zeroed in on the cutest little Lego space rover kit and got it for Joshie the first chance she got. The look of wide-eyed dismay she gave me when I hesitated by her was so exquisitely poignant, who could steal from that! She took that kit home for her Lego-loving boy with such gladness it made your heart warm to see it. 
At work she was a wonderful and thoughtful manager, very balanced in her approach to everything, coming at things from the logical and rational side as well as the heartfelt side. She had a way of rubbing her forehead when she was worried about something, and covering her face in her hands when it was a "how on Earth are we going to do this??" sort of a moment, but she was always calm in the midst of chaos, never hysterical, never frenetic. She was incredibly hard-working and a model for me of how to be a working mom, a supportive wife, a breadwinner. Even during periods of what must have been immense stress and tribulation she never complained or sought blame, was never negative or downhearted, never lost her temper or even raised her voice. She was the epitome of "Keep Calm and Carry On," and carry on she did - she was the budget queen, writing proposals, knowing the ins and outs of education and public outreach at NASA, thorough in her spreadsheets, lucid in meetings, always with a touch of humor or light-handed insight. I always had a bit of trepidation when she came around my cubicle as she often had fairly large and complex projects for me to do, usually with quick turnaround times and almost always involving Excel, but the way she went about it always made me want to do it even bigger and faster and with more worksheets, because she would have done exactly the same for anyone else in the group. 
She loved science and she loved Jesus, and after she was diagnosed she really wanted to bridge that divide that spirituality, religion, and faith often has with scientific reasoning and the scientific process. Because of her illness, we have had a ton of spiritual conversations at work, and the time she came to a team meeting to share her faith after her first surgery she was so full of fire, one of our coworkers amazedly said he'd never seen her more alive. She actually geeked out on her own brain MRI's, excitedly showing us her scans and sharing that her favorite class in college was a brain anatomy class. 
Because of her, I've also prayed at work like I've never prayed before - out loud, holding hands in the outdoor courtyard where we all stood to watch the space shuttle Endeavor make it's last flyover, hearing the voices of delighted kids wafting up from the Lawrence Hall of Science. I will always think of her in that place, peaceful, at ease, at the brink of the most cutting-edge space research, and yet so grounded, loving things that grow, the sky, the Earth. Perhaps one day we can put a solar-powered water fountain in that courtyard in her memory, it suits her so perfectly. She will be dearly missed at the lab and in the NASA Education & Public Outreach community, and I know I will miss her coming around my cubicle. 

Memory of Karen - Martin Yuson (Friend)

I had the pleasure of meeting Karen during undergrad and getting to know her through InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.

Before describing my memory of Karen, I first need to mention her husband.  Rich discipled me in college.  He dug into Scripture with me, mentored me to do the same with others, cooked for me (numerous times), challenged me to be a more authentic person (numerous times), visited me while I studied abroad, and accompanied my family at my brother Rick's bedside before Rick died in 1990.  Rich was relentless in showing his love for me.

And if Rich cared for me the way he did, I could only imagine the lengths he would go to show his love for his wife, Karen.

I recall Karen and Rich visiting my wife Aura and me at our home in Pasadena.  As we shared breakfast, I was reminded of Karen's kind and peaceful spirit.  Her voice, her gaze, her ability to listen - there was a purity of heart and gentleness about her.  Karen exuded these spiritual fruits, showing that she genuinely cared for the human beings and the world around her.

I love you, Karen and Rich.

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God." (Matt. 5:8-9)

Monday, August 19, 2013

Memory of Karen - Pat Wang (Friend)

There are so many special memories I have of my friendship with Karen.  Whether it's putting together a recipe book for Cathy Gutjahr's move, or taking Karen to get her wisdom teeth removed (and her excitement later showing me the removed teeth, roots and all!), or teaching her to play guitar, or the joy she had one morning upon hearing birds chirping outside her window, or making calzones or buckeye balls together, or the many conversations we had about God and friendship.  But the greatest memories I have of her were spiritual and life changing;  times when the Spirit of God intersected our lives and Jesus showed us that He still speaks and does miracles, even across time and distance.

Having had these spiritual experiences with Karen makes it just a little easier to see her off.  Yesterday, as I worshiped at church and thought of her, a smile came across my face even as tears welled up in my eyes.  It was the realization that her race was run and I got to see her cross the finish line.  She trained hard and as I envisioned her crossing that finish line, I cheered her on and celebrated with her because she made it!

Upon her arrival in Heaven, I saw childlike wonderment upon Karen's face, hearing her say "Am I really here, in Heaven?"  And one of the saints of old made a joke, teasing her.  Her laughter was full.  Next thing I knew, she was dancing, dancing in Heaven.

Oh, to be there with her and Jesus.  I can't wait.  I'll miss her here on this earth, but right now I can celebrate.  I don't know if my tears are of joy or sadness, but I can celebrate because she crossed the finish line.  She ran well.  She didn't quit.  She made it.  She finished the race.

And from 2 Timothy 4:6-8 and Hebrews 12:1-2:
The time for Karen's departure has come.  She fought the good fight, she finished the race, she kept the faith.  Now there is in store for her, the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, awards to her on this day.  And now, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses and one more has been added to their midst, let us run with perseverance the race that is set out before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

Memory of Karen - Deanna Lee (Friend, CWOW Member and Neighbor)

I have been slow to contribute to this compilation of memories because I just haven't known where to start or where to end (as you can see by the length of this post).  But having enjoyed every word contributed so far, I wanted to join in in feeding our grieving hearts with a few of my memories of Karen.

I first really got to know Karen when Lynn and I, as recent grads, moved into Sue's house back in 1997.  Priscilla lived with us for part of that time too.  The first couple of pictures below were from those early days as housemates. And while we have shared so much life since then - buying the duplex we live in now - somehow that "first Karen" - dating Rich, no kids, no cancer - is the one that comes to my mind first in these recent days.

While we lived at Sue's, there was the time when you, Karen, wanted to have a barbeque party at the house - which required buying a grill. You were really excited about making this purchase, envisioning all the hospitality opportunities it would afford us all.  And I think you were especially motivated to throw this party as a way of welcoming me and Lynn and the desire to have some of your co-workers over too. As I remember, it was late one Saturday morning when you decided this. You invited us, some co-workers and some friends, and then set out to buy a gas grill for the party that would take place that same afternoon. You were excited, but just a little worried when you came home with a big box that housed an unassembled barbeque! Once home, you quickly summoned Rich to start assembly while you went shopping for ingredients, started food preparation and then became Rich's sous assembler.  After at least 3 hours - poor Rich - it became clear that this barbeque was not going to be ready in time.  After a couple of phone calls, Rich went home or over to a friend's house to wheel over a barbeque along the Berkeley city sidewalks back to our house.  It was a little stressful up to that point, but the party was great. And I still remember the dessert you made of grilled bananas with butterscotch sauce... and how Rich returned the next day to complete the assembly.

After one of your ultrasounds when you were pregnant with Erica, you guys came back and you reported, "This girl is going to look like Rich!" The bunch of us you announced this to, probably all thought, and some maybe even said aloud, "Really? How do you know?" And sure enough, when you produced the latest ultrasound, there she was with a profile that looked A LOT like Rich.  After that, no one disagreed...I remember how happy - joyful - you both were when we came to visit you in the hospital after Erica was born - and thus, the middle name, Joy.

Nearly 11 years ago, we became "housemates" again - but this time, instead of living across the hall from each other, we lived in upstairs and downstairs units. It was a 6-month saga getting this duplex and, at times, it was most certainly a spiritual battle. We prayed and there was many a time you shared a prayerful picture and reiterated a desire for our home to be a house of prayer, a beacon in the neighborhood, and also a part of those prayers was the vision Rich had gotten for outdoor movie nights. I am grateful and proud to say that our home has become and continues to become what God had envisioned (in your presence and, now, we will press on in your absence).  Many, many a prayer meeting has been hosted here - upstairs and downstairs  - and so far 5 or 6 CWOW 24-hour prayer vigils, not to mention our latest vigil at your bedside last week.

I will miss seeing you from my bedroom window, you in the garden with Joshua, "your little gardener" by your side. And how many a spring, you would excitedly come and check in with me about new vegetables or fruit trees you wanted to plant in the backyard. Never an objection from me - I have always felt blessed by your love for gardening which has yielded such a great venue for quiet contemplation and boisterous entertaining - annual Memorial Day BBQs, birthday parties for young and old, casual sunset dinners, and now Wednesday's reception.

I shared this briefly on Facebook last week... Two years ago (well, before your diagnosis), at my birthday party soccer game, you showed such tenacity and a real skill for throw-ins (throwing them in high and long, but even more impressive to me, your ability to earn them for our team, a.k.a. relentlessly kicking the ball off our opponents - a less-gentle Karen :-)). I didn't realize until Marguerite shared it that soccer was your favorite sport to play. And now knowing that, how heartened I should have been (versus perplexed) when you had signed up for our CWOW family-friendly soccer game last month, even though you were in no condition to play. But as Dana L. said, even though you weren't bodily able, your spirit was willing and eager.

I am already missing you, friend, in so many ways - your easy friendship, your sense of humor, your ability to laugh at yourself, your prayers, your faith, your partnership in the Gospel, and those wicked throw-ins.  I love you, Karen, and I am terribly sad that there won't be any new memories for us to make. But I am simultaneously rejoicing that you are now with Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith.