Tuesday, April 28, 2009

In memorium: my friend Karen

I got a call last night while I was putting the kids to bed; my friend Karen's name popped up on caller ID.

I haven't spoken with her in a while. We were supposed to go out to dinner three weeks ago, I didn't feel great and cancelled, and we haven't spoken since. I owed her a call.

I figured I'd get back to her after the kids were asleep and didn't pick up.

Then I heard my cell phone ring, and I figured she really wanted to talk, but again I thought, I'll call her back.

I put the kids to bed. The phone rang again; this time it was our mutual friend, Nancy. And I knew something was wrong.

"Nance?" I said. "Hi. What's up?"

"Did Robert call you?" she asked. Robert is Karen's husband.

"I didn't pick up," I said. "Nancy, tell me what's going on."

"I have some really sad news," she said, and started crying. And then I started crying and I said, "Tell me, Nancy. Tell me."

And she said, "Karen passed away yesterday." She collapsed while she was out with Robert.

Karen. My friend Karen.

She was one of the must full-of-life women I've ever known. She traveled the world alone, went back to school for a degree in interior design, loved her husband and children passionately. Years ago, she was diagnosed with scleroderma, an evil autoimmune disease that has no cure. It basically causes your skin to tighten up, so that it looks like it is stretched tight over your face and limbs. Eventually, it can make your organs harden, too. It gave her excruciatingly painful lesions on her hands. It made her exhausted.

She had three children under age 4. She was 40.

Karen, I am sorry we didn't have that dinner. I will regret it for the rest of my life.

I can't believe you are gone.

I love you, sweetie.


  1. I am so sorry, Ellen. This is such sad news.
    Big hugs to you...

  2. Oh, Ellen, I'm so sorry. Please know that we'll be thinking about you, and Robert and the children.


  3. I am so sorry for your loss.

  4. Ellen, I am so very sorry! It just breaks my heart, I don't know what I would do if I lost such a good friend. I'll be praying for you and Karen's family.

  5. Ellen, I am very sorry and sad to hear this news.

    It's not fair for a young mother with so much to live for to pass away.

    Try not to regret missing your dinner too much. Focus rather on all the special times you did share together.

    Thoughts with you and her family.


  6. OMG Ellen.....I am so very sorry for the loss of your friend.....and for the loss of a wife & mom......I will keep all of you in my thoughts & prayers!

    Sending lots of hugs your way!

  7. Ellen, there's nothing that hurts so much as the passage of someone so near, dear and vibrant. It's even worse when there was a missed opportunity so close to the passing as well. Nothing but time makes that pain less sharp.

    Those babies are going to need some help, and her husband some serious support--I hope there's family nearby to help with those daily chores. Such a sad story. Such a lovely woman.

    Life does have a way of giving us a big bite in the ass, usually right when we think all is going well. I don't understand why that is, sometimes. I do know all we can do is pick ourselves up and persevere. It's never easy, though. Nothing to it but to do it. Our little ones need us to get it together and go on.

  8. Ellen, what a tremendous loss to you, Robert, and especially her 3 young children. Our sympathy and prayers are with you.
    The Gilkes Family

  9. I'm so sorry for your loss and the loss of Karen's family.

  10. I am sorry Ellen. My thoughts are with you, and with her family. Life if just so unfair sometimes.

  11. Oh Ellen I'm so very sorry for the loss of your friend :( How unimaginable and unexpected it must be. My prayers are with her husband and kids she left behind :(

  12. Ellen, I'm thinking of you and your family, as well as Karen and her family, and your network of friends. What heartbreaking news.

  13. I'm so sorry about your friend.

  14. Not sure what to say. I know that Karen was one of Ellen's favorite friends. I met her a few times through the years and always thought that she was such a nice and down to earth person. I was very sad to hear the news. You never want to hear about someone passing away so early in life and leaving behind young kids. It really makes you think about life and puts things in perspective. I know that Ellen is very sad and I think everyone's comments will give her some comfort.

  15. Sorry Ellen,its terrible to think of someone so young passing away.

  16. I'm so sorry for your loss, Ellen. I'll be praying for all of you.

  17. Barbara from BostonApril 28, 2009 at 6:58 PM

    There is an old saying, popular among twelve step groups, that (God)never closes a door without opening a window. However at a time like this there is no apparent silver lining to that cloud.Having three types of arthritis myself I am familiar with scleroderma. Your friend was pretty courageous living her life and raising her young family while dealing with pain and increasing lack of mobility. My thoughts and prayers are with you all, especially her family.
    Barbara from Boston

  18. There aren't words. I'm just so sorry.

  19. I'm so sorry you've lost your friend!!!

  20. I am new to your blog (isn't it funny how the Internet has made the world a smaller place?) and I think your writing is riveting. When I read about Karen, I had to cry, too. :-(

  21. Such sad news Ellen.... so sorry.

  22. {{{{ELLEN}}}} I am so, so sorry for the loss of your wonderful friend. Scleroderma is such an awful disease.

    I am lifting you & Karen's family up in my prayers.

  23. I am so sorry to hear about this Ellen. My thoughts and prayers are with you and Karen's family.

  24. I am sorry for your loss sweetie and the sad news.

    I started an additional blog to raise more awareness about pediatric stroke and survivors. Stop by and email me at

    I would love for you to share Max's story on it!


  25. I am very sorry for your loss. I really can't find the right words but please know that my family and I will add you and your friend's family to our prayers. Take care.

  26. I am so very sorry for your loss Ellen.

  27. Ellen. So late to hear the news. I'm so sorry. I know you're going through so many feelings of guilt. I can't tell you not to...I think it's a normal process. The reality is, you would have gone if you've known. It doesn't change your friendship or the bond, love, you shared between you.

    Sending you and her family hugs.

  28. So sorry for your loss. Instead of the dinner you missed, focus on the times you shared, the understanding and comfort you showed her during her illness, the friendship you had. You could not have known you'd never see her again. She wouldn't want your last memory to be one of regret. Take care of you.
    (visiting from Entrecard)


Thanks for sharing!

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