Last night I opened an email from the church administrator. It started with, ‘As most of you may have heard, Karen Green passed away Saturday night…’ I actually hadn’t heard, because Ben has been cutting molars for the last 2 weeks and last Sunday he was a wreck – totally unfit for the nursery, with his non-stop screaming and needing to be cuddled and held non-stop. When I read the news I felt what I can only describe as dread. Please don’t let it be who I think it is, I thought. I clicked on the link and confirmed it was, in fact who I thought. And so I have been crying pretty much all day, and I really didn’t even know this woman.
When we moved to Bothell two years ago, we looked into several churches. Grace was only about the age the boys are now, 15 months, and was, shall we say, discontent, to be left behind. Well, that may be understating things. I could pretty much count on being summoned from service due to her inconsolable separation anxiety. Part of what decided us to stay at Mill Creek Foursquare was Karen. She ran the nursery, and from the check-in, she was so warm and welcoming and real. Grace immediately settled in. Karen never made us feel like strangers, or looked askance when we showed up sporadically. She was a gracious, gracious example of servant leadership and she set the tone of our experience at church. I never told her that. Her son works in the nursery too, and all my kids adore him. He’s one of those young men who is truly a credit to his family and I often thought how proud she must be of him. I never told her that either.
One service her the pastor talked about the family. I was shocked to hear that she and her husband had six kids and also ran their own business but especially that she was battling cancer. To know what she was going through and still she showed up every week and made it all about us and our kids. I developed a little case of hero worship, which of course I never told her.
My first reaction when I heard the email was, how could God let that happen? That was very brief, and I don’t really think that. First off, I don’t think God gave her cancer and second, since I don’t believe our time here is all we have, I remembered very quickly that she is in a wonderful, wonderful place and I am truly happy for her. She ran the race true and faithful to the end.
But I think about that awesome kid in the nursery, and five daughters who won’t get to experience their Mom as their children’s Grandma. And her husband. I have a really soft spot for what her husband is going through, because my husband lost his wife of twenty-five years before we got together so I can’t help thinking of that.
And I think about Karen’s legacy, and how many people love her and want to celebrate her life, and I feel, I don’t know, ashamed at how much time I’ve wasted self-destructively, and how cavalierly I’ve treated my own life. I’ve been in gratitude all day that my kids still have their Mommy and that I didn’t get what I ‘deserved’ so many times. And I feel a renewed sense of desire to make my life count for more than just being busy, and accomplishing tasks, and keeping order. I want to be like Karen, and I wish I would have told her that. My heart goes out to her family and I thank them for all of their unselfish service and the example they and their mom and wife provided. Karen will continue to inspire me for the rest of my life.