Losing A Beloved
Updated: Apr 6
I am sitting here, reluctantly, in front of this computer screen, for two reasons. First being, I don’t know what to do with myself, a beloved friend just passed away. I spent yesterday wandering around in a daze unable to focus, think straight, or do anything. Secondly that friend relentlessly pushed (nagged) me to write. If she believed you had a talent, she was passionate in her determination to support you, by far eclipsing any self-promotional desires of her own. She believed I should write, regardless of the fact that I so infrequently do, being hugely resistant to taking up anything that means I will spend even more time in front of a computer and not with my toes in the dirt. Yet here I am with her words ringing in my ears, and if they can somehow reach my fingers, maybe it will lead me towards that tiny chink of light that will open the portal of grief I know I must journey through before there is any possibility of getting back to plain old gratitude for having her in my life.
Born right before a new moon, she left us just after a full one. I am in Bali, a world away from California, and haven’t even been able to put my arms around her since that vicious monster cancer arrived, taking her from us only two months after diagnosis. When she passed it was early morning here, and I awoke to a bird flying back and forth rapidly just outside my window. The next morning I found the tiny, delicate, beautiful thing, lifeless but perfect and unblemished. It may seem paradoxical but I mention this while not feeling a need to understand it, I don’t believe these signs/coincidences are meant to be analysed. I’ve never understood the human need to dissect the mysteries, because should we succeed they would become something else and lose their magic. I know she would agree, and I know exactly the conversation we would be having about it.
I met Karen professionally, with me as her massage therapist, in 1993. She had just lost her only son, a Fire fighter Paramedic, in a tragic accident. I had never seen anyone in such grief and we became instant sisters wrapped in each other’s arms. Then I witnessed her rally, dig deep within herself, find whatever healing was possible, and a way forward from the greatest loss a person can experience. Even then she was not new to sorrow, she was abandoned as a child and was shuffled around countless foster homes until the age of seven. She had a younger brother who she fought tooth and nail, successfully, not to be separated from, and they were eventually adopted together. She later lost that brother to AIDS and then cared for her adoptive mother through Alzheimer’s until her death.
She was petite, just a smidgen over 5 feet tall (and she may have exaggerated this). Her stature was small but her spirit was huge, and she embodied that magnificent combination of fierceness and kindness. She was both cute and elegant, wide-eyed but street smart, super intelligent, and if she loved you she would march through fire for you and with you, pushing or kicking you forward if needs be.
She was a horsewoman and a mystic. She was a diehard liberal who knew how to have genuine friendships with arch conservatives. She had a dynamic and loving marriage to a wonderful man, (who I am lucky enough to call my friend also). She was a fabulous cook and home creator, author in her own right, and had been a successful producer of commercials in Hollywood, and she loved all animals - horses, dogs, cats, geese, chickens, goats - all named and loved and cared for immaculately.
We were property roomies at her ranch for many years, her tolerating my travel addicted comings and goings, and us always able to give each other lots of space without ever imposing or making demands on one another. We spent countless evenings imbibing adult beverages, talking non-stop and raucously laughing. We could be very naughty, with a few prize winning hangovers under our belts to commemorate this fact.
Her list of “shortcomings” are hard to classify as such; she was a multiple Gemini who could create a magnum opus out of the shortest story, her mind being so sharp and quick and detailed that the segues could be endless. In this trait I would always see her as that tiny little girl fighting for herself and her brother in a chaotic, parentless world, with her only available weapon being her voice. But friends knew that a wry smile, an interruption, or a distraction was the best way to get her back on track. In all the years of our friendship I never once cooked for her, nor would I dare bring her a bottle of wine. Dinners out and gifts of Grey Goose vodka, yes - but she was such a gourmet cook (not one of my talents) and she had a ridiculously refined palate for wine. I hope no-one is offended, but I was privy to the fact that in her office outside was a shelf of reject bottles of wine guests had brought that didn’t make the grade. This I see as the little girl who didn’t have her own toothbrush until she was 7, mastering the world on her own terms against all odds, and deciding that only the best will do. So - if a mind so quick and mercurial that it could easily exhaust those who didn’t own the same winged sandals, and a Michelin 3 Star palate can be counted as faults, then those are the only ones I can even remotely find of hers.
Everything I ever write from now on is dedicated to her and the faith she had in everyone she loved, and every time I lift a martini in the perfect glass with the correct 2 olives it will be a toast to her elegance - and her exquisite talent for friendship.
As a mutual friend said; “what a full and vibrant life that scrappy girl lived”...
In this digital age it’s easy to think that you’re taking too many photos, and then you suddenly realise you didn’t take nearly enough. And I know that some of them are blurry or hugely imperfect but I am right now just so grateful I didn’t delete a single one.
I want Karen‘s image everywhere around me, constantly. However letting go is equally important, and includes acknowledging what I know she deeply truly believed, that with death we move on to a different place. So I will do what I know she would tell me - while I still hear her voice and see her smile - hopefully forever.
And she so wanted to visit Bali one day, (without having to take the flight)...