Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Last night I had the opportunity to meet with some very dear friends for our annual “gratitude gathering”. Every year around Thanksgiving we get together and take some time to share all of the things that we are grateful for. It is just such an uplifting time and this year the list seems so long of all the things I have to be grateful for and I wanted to share a few of those things here.

Grateful: For my God and my Savior. Knowing that I am a sinner saved by Grace is overwhelming at times but I am so thankful that God loves me that much that he would send His son as a sacrifice for my sins.

Grateful: For my husband. I am so proud of the man that Dominic is. He takes his role as husband and father very seriously and strives to be the man that God would have him to be. He is under so much stress being away from his family, starting and learning a new job and studying for, and now waiting for the results of a big test. Yet he finds ways to be grateful for each opportunity and is a positive example to his co-workers and new boss. I couldn’t ask for a better husband!

Grateful: For my kids. Each one of our sons is unique and wonderful. Isaac has been such a big help the past 8 weeks. Often times putting my needs before his wants and being such a good big brother to Elijah and Gabriel. I don’t know what I would have done without him so many times and I am so grateful that I have a teenager that is such an amazing young man. Gabriel is a joy to be around and is so excited about school and everything that he is learning. He impresses me with all that he remembers and his positive attitude. Elijah sees wonder in the little things and goes crazy when he sees the moon and bugs and puppies. We hear those words over and over every day and I wouldn’t change a moment of it!

Grateful: For the opportunity to be pregnant. And this time with a girl! I LOVE my boys, but there was always a part in my heart that longed to have a daughter. I can’t believe that I have been given this chance and that she will carry on the legacy and the name of Karlena makes this time even more special.

Grateful: For my parents. I am so lucky to have 2 parents that are so supportive and loving. My mom came down on the night of our meeting, picked up our kids and then watched them at our house until I could get home. I know that it was a long night for her too, but she was excited to give me a night off. My dad is such a good grandpa to our kids too and makes things like having pancakes on Saturday morning a big treat!

Grateful: For my job. In this economy I know that just having a stable job is something that not everyone has. So even when it gets stressful I must remember that each day is another opportunity to help provide for our family.

Grateful: For so many little things. Like having a warm and safe home to raise our family, a vehicle that gets me to and from work each day, friends that love and support me, seeing a beautiful sunset on my way home from work and the ability to laugh at my mistakes and be willing to use those as an opportunity for growth.

The list really could go on and on. I hope that in the next few days, wherever you may be and whomever you are spending your time with, that you take a moment to think about some of the things that you are grateful for. I know that even in the dark times a light of hope can be seen if we are willing to look for it! I hope you have a safe and very blessed Thanksgiving! Much love to you all!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Happy 14th Birthday Isaac!!

Can you believe that this young man is now 14??!!!
How could someone this young and adorable now be ready to get his driver's license?
Isaac has grown and matured so much over the past several years.
He is one of the most kind and compassionate kids that I know. 
He is smart and hardworking and looks out for others.
And he is an AMAZING big brother.

Isaac, your dad and I could not be more proud of the young man you have grown into. I know that we made many mistakes as parents with you over the years as our firstborn...but you are forgiving and gracious and you remind us every day how grateful we are to have you in our lives. Thank you for all that you do and all that you are in our family! We love you!!

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Final Tribute

I had the honor today of speaking and singing at Karlena's Celebration of Life service.  It was a beautiful service and something that she would have loved.  I was so nervous about getting up in front of everyone but right before it was my turn we sang one of her favorite songs "I can only imagine" and I could picture her arms raised praising God and it gave me such a peace.  I wanted to share here what I wrote for today. Thank you for sharing her with me here!

It is a difficult task to sit down and put to words all of the things that I wish that I could share about who Karlena has been in my life. There are so many memories, so many stories and not enough time to share them all. Some of the moments, conversations are ones that were private and special and just between us and those I will treasure forever. I know that standing here before you we all have those similar experiences. Each one of us here in this room has been touched by the woman that Karlena was. For some of us we remember her amazing, big smile. Others of us remember her changing hair-styles/colors and long bright fingernails, her laugh and the way that she made us feel comfortable.

My friendship with Karlena started just that way. She was someone that never judged. Someone that accepted me for me, she was reliable and trustworthy and it didn’t matter the time between conversations, I always knew that she would be happy to talk to me whenever the time came.

Somewhere in our journey as friends I started to see a different side of Karlena. When we were younger we didn’t talk a lot about God, but as we both grew up a little we started sharing our faith with each other. It is that woman that I want to share with you today because it is Karlena’s faith in God that has had such a profound impact on me.

Finding out at 18 that she did have the Ataxia gene, Karlena knew ultimately what direction her life would eventually take. Her response to that news could have gone a couple of different ways. But as we all know she embraced her life and those things that she didn’t have control over and found an even deeper faith in God as a result. I am sure that she had doubts and fears but when I would talk to her about it as her symptoms progressed she always remained positive. She would tell me that she knew that God had a plan for her and she trusted that plan.

It was this faith, this trust that challenged me to look at my relationship with God. Karlena and I had many conversations where she would remind me that she wasn’t afraid of the future and each time that things got difficult for her she would press into God. This is how I want my faith life to look. One in which I am leaning towards God when life gets tough and not running from Him. It is this legacy that I hope to be able to pass along to our long anticipated daughter – a woman that will hopefully carry Karlena’s legacy of faith along with her name.

As we chose to name our daughter after Karlena I spent some time searching for the meaning of her name and found that I couldn’t find anything specific to her unique name – it is as unique as she was. So for our daughter I will pass along these meanings that I believe embody who Karlena was.

Faithful, Courageous, Steadfast, Loving, Kind, Supportive and Follower of Christ.

You know Karlena was always more worried about all of us and the condition of our hearts. She knew that when the time came that she would be called Home and she wanted to make sure that the rest of us would be joining her. She wasn’t afraid of sharing her faith with others and she was an amazing example of a woman living out a Christ-filled life. I know this because people gravitated towards her and grew in their faith because of her example.

It is an example that I hope to model my life after. It was always easy for me to let her be the example for me – to grow because I saw growth in her, to love unconditionally because I saw that unconditional love in her, to speak out because she spoke first. I feel that loss most heavily in my life now. Who will be that example for me now?

I know what Karlena’s answer would be.

God. He was her example, He was her strength, He gave her the courage to live life even when living was painful and He gave her the peace that she would one day spend eternity with Him.

I know that having a relationship with God was something that Karlena wanted for each of us. If she taught me anything it is that time is short and we just don’t know when that last breath will be for us. Karlena wasn’t afraid of dying because she knew what awaited her after her final breath.

A friend of ours from Augie – Anna – posted on my FB page something that I have to share. She said isn’t it awesome to think that with Karlena’s last breath she was opening her eyes and standing at the feet of her Heavenly Father! I praise God for that truth today. Today she is feasting at the banquet table of Christ - one that is set with a place for each of us.

The question is will you choose to be there?

Karlena can’t ask you the question any longer….so I will ask it for her. If you haven’t yet established a personal relationship with God what are you waiting for? Today is our opportunity to secure a place with her in Heaven. And all it takes is asking God into our hearts and our lives and then trusting Him in the journey that follows.

In 2008 I went to Denver to attend a Woman of Faith conference with Karlena. On that weekend we talked in depth about her “celebration of life” ceremony. She asked me if I would sing at her service because she “knew that I could do it without crying”. In fact she told me that she wanted signs on the door of the church that said “No crying allowed”!

I shared with her that weekend a song that I had just heard that instantly made me think of her. It is called “I Will Rise” by Chris Tomlin. Because as her body continued to fail her, as she continued to struggle with some of those daily tasks we take for granted – she held onto the promise of a Savior that loved her enough to die for her and make a place for her where one day she would dance unassisted, rising in worship to a God that loves her, loves me, loves all of us.

What an amazing gift we have been given – the gift of GRACE.

I hope that the words to this song will touch you as it did me. And as I attempt to sing this without crying I ask that each of you spend some time in communion with a God that has a place saved for you, just as He did for Karlena.

** side the grace of God I did make it through the song...that and staring at the EXIT sign helped a little too! :) **

Karlena, you will forever be missed and never forgotten. Thank you for giving me the courage to stand up today. I love you!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The View from Here

First I want to say thank you to everyone for their prayers. I know that Karlena’s family appreciates them and it is an honor to share her with you here. As it stands there will be a memorial service and funeral this Thursday and Friday in Colorado and then a funeral here in Sioux Falls next Friday. I was hoping to go to Colorado myself….I promised Karlena that I would be there for her funeral if at all possible. But since yesterday morning I haven’t been able to eat anything and keep it down. I am not sure if I am fighting the stomach flu or if it is just stress. Either way I am concerned enough about my ability to travel and the stress it could put on my pregnancy that I have made the hard decision this morning that I can’t go.

I am devastated….but trying to focus on the fact that I will be able to celebrate her life here next week.

Yesterday I was going through some of the e-mails I had saved that she and I had sent back and forth and I found one that I was hoping to share at her memorial service. Since I won’t be able to be there in person I thought that I would share it here instead.

I sent this e-mail after I visited her in March of this year. I brought Elijah with me this trip so that she could see how much he had changed and we had a wonderful long weekend together.


Hey! How have things been since I left? I have been a little down I think! I don’t know, feeling like we just didn’t have enough time….I am also feeling bad because I feel like I should have helped you write out your faith story for church. I should have offered while I was there and I am sorry that I didn’t. Did you get that completed? Nick and I were talking on the way home from a meeting last night and I was telling him about how you were asked to be a prayer leader for this campaign at your church and how someone on Sunday gave you this slip of paper asking you to pray from 7-7:30pm that night.

In all honesty – had that been me I would have prayed….eventually….but I probably wouldn’t have done it when I was “supposed” to. I would have found a reason…dinner, tv, a movie…something and would have made a choice to put off my commitment. But you didn’t. You remembered – you made sure that you went when you needed to and you excused yourself to a place where you could pray and not be disturbed. That whole thing has stayed with me this week.

That whole situation is an example of what I so appreciate about who you are in my life. That example of faith. And I told Nick that I think that scares me….knowing that I won’t always have that example in my life - in a tangible way….you know? I said that I didn’t know if I would ever be ready to lose that.

And he thought about it and then said something very insightful to me…”It isn’t that you aren’t ready to lose Karlena’s example, it maybe is that you aren’t ready to be the example on your own.”

And I thought about that and he was speaking truth to me at that moment and I could feel it! He is right. It is so much easier to be inspired by who you are, then to work to be someone that inspires. Because to me it seems like “work”. And I don’t think that it is for you. It just seems from my perspective that you are in that place where loving and trusting God in a big way isn’t “work” to you. It is just who you are.

Anyways….I felt like I needed to share that with you. And maybe that isn’t how you see yourself…..but it is the view from here. Thank you again for loving me and accepting me where I am and for continuing to inspire me to better faith and bigger faith in God.

I miss you!


Today I feel that challenge – it isn’t a burden – but a challenge. Carry on that legacy of faith that Karlena had that inspired so many. If you have been touched my Karlena’s example are you ready to pick up where she left off? Instead of looking for someone to inspire you…being the one that inspires? I know that by my own abilities I am not capable of the task. But I am certain that God equips each of us with what we need to be His example….I just have to be willing to allow him to do the “work”.

Today my heart is willing….will you stand with me willing to be the light that Karlena was?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Karlena Marie Cahalan

I post this tonight with both a heavy and yet grateful heart. At 6:22pm (Colorado time) Karlena Marie Cahalan went to be with Jesus. My heart aches right now for her husband and son, parents and parent's-in-law and the entire extended family of those who loved and appreciated her.

I know that the sadness I am feeling right now is for my loss because when I think about where she is right now I am so grateful that she is in Heaven. No more labored breaths, no more pain in her legs....tonight she dances with angels and praises God in person!

I knew that eventually this time would come. I really didn't think it would come before she had a chance to meet our daughter - her namesake. She sent me an e-mail just last week asking for photos of the boys and an updated "belly" shot.  She said that they planned to come to visit her mom in SF at Christmas time and would stay "until she got to hold baby Karlena twice".   

This weekend Dominic asked me how she was doing and I shared that with him and we both laughed because we knew just what she meant when she said it.  She was so excited about meeting her...even Kerry her husband said this took him by surprise because he was sure we had until after January....that just meeting Karlena was keeping her going.

We just don't know the time or the place do we? Even if we have everything to live for here on earth - we don't know when our time will be. I have said it before but I must say it again today.

Karlena was ready. Not ready to die because she was done with the pain but ready because she was excited to meet her Maker. She KNEW with everything in her that on this day she would meet Jesus.

As I sit here right now my daughter is moving around inside my belly, reminding me that she is here - such a gift that she is. She holds a very special legacy just having Karlena's name. I haven't ever been able to find a baby name site that gives a meaning to the name Karlena.  Various forms of the name...but not that one specifically.

It is unique - just like she was.  Today I give the name Karlena my own meaning.  It is something that I will pass along to my daughter when she is old enough to understand.

Follower of Christ

Karlena's strength, her character, her love for God will be instilled in my children.  She wasn't here long enough as far as I am concerned. But she didn't waste any time being that Christ-like example to everyone around her. It is evident in the number of people from her community, her church that went out of their way time and time again to care for her and her family.

She inspired people to reach towards Christ like she did. Ever trusting what He had in store for them - even if it hurt this side of Heaven. I am forever changed for knowing and loving her. I miss her already and know that with the joy of the birth of our daughter will also come some sadness at her lost presence.

Karlena, I know that you said "NO CRYING" and I can hear your voice as I type the words. Tonight my tears are for me...I am going to be a little bit selfish just this once. You and I both know that this is not goodbye....just see you someday soon. Until that time comes for a place for me at the banquet table because I know that tonight you are feasting with God.

I love you....

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