A Testament About Who Karen Was

In just a few hours, it will be the fourth anniversary of Karen’s passing. I’d like to write a post about Karen, but will also make a separate post after, inviting you to the gathering I’m holding in remembrance of her birthday. The topics of the pieces are a bit different, so I wanted to make two different posts.

I don’t know how many of you remember meeting Karen for the first time. I certainly do! But I think that’s a tale I’ve already told. Haven’t I? It’s hard for me to remember which stories I’ve actually posted. I’ve written many blog posts that I haven’t published, and quite a few that I deleted before sharing.

One of the things that I regularly joke about is about Karen helping me be human. I’m more human now, thanks largely to her, but in the past, I was really bad about it.

As an example, I had a close friend who lived outside of the Columbus area, and I remember a time where he called me and let me know that he was planning to travel to town for a few days and wondered if I’d help him arrange for a hotel while he was here. I was glad to help him with that, and got him a reservation at a Red Roof Inn. He was mad at me for more than a year, and I didn’t know why.

I was absolutely and completely oblivious that he really wanted me to invite him to stay at my house. But that’s not what he asked! Karen helped me understand how a human being would have responded to this type of conversation with a friend. She was an incredibly perceptive person, and often thought about others first. She helped me understand people better, and I’ll be eternally grateful.

An extended family member shared a story with me late last year that I haven’t posted yet, and the above was my preface to it. I started to include information to clarify who Emily (Em) and Josh are, but it’s easiest to just say that they were, and are family…

From Josh Brorby…

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In summer 2014, when Em and I were back from China for about a month, she went away for a few days with friends from college and I stayed with you, Theresa, and Karen. As you might imagine, spending a weekend with one’s mother-in-law and her closest friends—while your spouse isn’t there for that social support we all often rely on—was a daunting prospect. But as we gathered around Karen’s dinner table to play cards, and you offered me some truly amazing scotch from your collection, Karen quietly but confidently played host, asking questions of me, sharing information about you and Theresa from your collective past, and never allowing me to feel out of place or uncomfortable. The same thing happened when we all went to see a performance in the park, and all weekend, and any time we came together. In fact, I remember the first time I ever met her at Schmidt’s sausage house in Columbus before Em and I were even married; she had a way of defusing any awkwardness and making the whole table (and conversation) feel familiar.

Karen had the capacity to make one feel welcome. And she did it by becoming one’s confidante and friend, almost effortlessly. 

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Karen was secretly socially awkward, and perhaps because of this, she was very aware of how to interpret situations and help the people around her. I am grateful that Josh shared this memory. It makes me happy and sad at the same time. I smile as I remember her, and feel her presence in Josh’s words about her, and sad as I lament our loss.

It’s been four years since her passing, and she’s still influencing the world. We remember who she was, and the things she taught us, and we’re better people for it.