I am sharing an e-mail that I sent this morning to an old friend of Karlena’s. She has struggled with Karlena’s illness and has been unable to stay connected with Karlena because of it. Karlena has been so hurt by this and in honesty the e-mail played out in my mind a lot nastier at first. But I knew that isn’t what Karlena would have wanted and that it might have been an opportunity wasted to share God with this woman…so I felt led to write this instead. I share it for a few reasons. 1) that you might also pray for this woman and 2) that maybe there is someone out there reading this that needs to hear the message as well.
Please hear my heart on this – I do not set myself out as a person who has it all figured out and tries to guilt others into doing it “my way”. I have learned lots of lessons the hard way and God continues to forgive and refine me. Part of that process is recognizing that His message cannot be kept silent. There are lost people out there and if they don’t hear the truth from us because we are too afraid of making people “mad” or “upset”, they may just not ever hear the truth. The best way I know how to share Christ with others is to share my experience with Him. I hope that is reflected here….
Hey – it is Kristin. Been a long time I know. Last time we saw each other was when you guys were in ……do you remember? I maybe shouldn’t be e-mailing you and my intent is not to upset you but rather to share my own experience with Karlena’s illness recently. What you do going forward is up to you.
Several years ago my husband and I and Kerry and Karlena drove together to a wedding of her college roommate “S”. I remember noticing that she held Kerry’s arm wherever she walked but I didn’t think anything of it really. She didn’t tell me at that time that she was starting to experience symptoms of her disease. But at some point in that evening Kerry told my husband in private and it was shared with me later. I was devastated. I cried and was angry with God. She didn’t deserve this and it wasn’t fair…especially because she now had a son.
I was also scared. I will be honest with you. I remember her dad a little…you probably do even more…I remember seeing him in the local pharmacy one day and I knew who he was and he walked with a severe “gate” and he was difficult to understand. When I was 13, I spent some time working with kids at XXXX. I was left in a room alone during one of those visits with a similar aged child who had severe disabilities, drooled a lot and was very difficult to understand. At that time I was so uncomfortable. I remember not wanting to go back because I didn’t know what to say and didn’t want to have to ask the person to repeat themselves if I couldn’t understand them. I held onto this “phobia” and judged her dad in the same way several years later.
The idea of Karlena getting to this point scared me. How would I communicate with her? How would I understand her? How would I feel when she couldn’t get around like she used to… I, I, I…it was always about me and how “I” felt about the situation. Early on I thought less of Karlena and how she must be feeling and more about how it affected me.
But as I agonized and prayed about this “news” we had been given that wedding weekend, God really changed my perspective. I realized that this wasn’t all about “me” and how I felt about it or if I would be uncomfortable but more about how I could be a reflection of who God is to me….to Karlena. I decided that regardless of how bad things got I needed to make the time we did have count.
We started to have annual trips to the Women of Faith conferences together. For a few years she only needed a cane or an arm to walk with. And one year she transitioned to a walker and then the scooter. With each year she has gotten a little worse. Her gate is unsteady and her speech affected. But I don’t see the “problem” anymore….I just see Karlena. And the fear about how she is changing is gone.
Karlena is the same…no scratch that, a more amazing woman today then she was 10 years ago. She has this infectious faith and believes with all her heart that God has a plan for her. She has touched so many people because of her faith and has shown a selfish and cruel world that there are many things to be praising God for despite our worldly circumstances.
I am NO saint and I don’t begin to claim that I have it all figured out because I fail EVERY day and often my own faith suffers. But Karlena has been that shining example to me of what a Christ follower should be, and I desire to find those same things in myself. She isn’t angry about what has “happened” to her. She doesn’t blame God and say it isn’t fair.
She looks for ways to be light in a dark world…if we can’t learn that from someone like Karlena then who can we learn it from? I am so grateful for the time that Karlena and I have had together over the past several years. It isn’t enough really. I have always known that one day I would get “the call” from Kerry or Linda. I thought that call had come on June 4th. She was on a respirator and was very sick and in lots of pain. She has made clear her wishes at the end and it looked like for the first week Kerry was going to have to follow through with those plans.
I bawled like a baby when I got that call. All over again I was angry that this had to be happening and I wasn’t ready to say good-bye yet. But I knew that once again it wasn’t about me…and what was best for me…but what was best for Karlena. She is ready to go when God says it is time. She has absolute faith and assurance that because she accepted Christ as her Savior that on that day she will begin her eternity in Heaven with Him. I too have that faith and because of that I know that this time on earth for us is not the end of the story and one day… I will see her again.
One of Karlena’s passions is sharing that assurance with others and making sure that they too have the opportunity to accept the gift God freely gave Karlena for themselves. She wants us all to join her….she wants you to join her. I don’t know what you believe about God or what kind of relationship you have with Him. My prayer for you is that it is already established. But if it isn’t….Karlena would ask you what are you waiting for? If her life can be cut short so soon….who is to say that ours won’t be also? She would say don’t wait…because we don’t know the time or the hour that will be our last.
I am sure that you, like I would rather “remember” Karlena as she was. Seeing her at 85lbs is difficult to say the least. But her spirit hasn’t changed…the insides are the same Karlena you knew in earlier years..…her outsides just look a little different. She loves you the same as she did those years ago when you guys spent every day together and she misses that friendship in her life. But I understand how difficult it can be to deal with death and those that are dying….and so I know that maybe that is something you just can’t do….I don’t hold that against you at all.
But if today, right now, you don’t have the solid assurance that you will see Karlena again after this life, please, please seek out God. Karlena thinks that she has failed God, failed you in some way because she doesn’t know for sure where you stand. She hasn’t been able to tell you these things and so today I speak for her. She loves you…but God loves you more. If you don’t have that personal relationship with Him…don’t let the sun go down on another day before you do.
I will be praying for you. I am leaving tonight to see her for a few days. If you are interested in knowing how she is let me know and I would be glad to send you updates.