Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Celebration of Life

Karen and I on a random dirt road in Kyrgyzstan
Monday evening my husband and I attended a funeral for a dear friend of ours who we’d both worked with at Malibu Presbyterian Church, and we had a wonderful time. Is that ok to say that we had a wonderful time at a funeral? I’m sorry if that offends you, but it’s true, the funeral was filled with lots of laughter, big hugs, tons of smiles and a few tears – that was exactly who Karen was. Anyone who knew her knew her huge hearty laugh. The walls shook when Karen laughed (which was often) and you couldn’t help but laugh too. Her hugs were simply bone crushing as she physically expressed her love with all that was within her and although you might have walked away from Karen’s hug wondering if you’d just cracked a rib, you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that you were loved. Karen radiated the love of Jesus. She beamed. She glowed. She was completely filled with the love and joy of Christ and nothing was better than a moment, an afternoon or a trip with Karen.
Karen was the Associate Pastor at MPC when I came on staff as the Director of University Ministries and it was a gift to have a woman in full time ministry walk me through my first year. But what was even better was that through that year, she not only was my mentor, but she became my friend. A dear friend. A treasured friend. Karen was a woman that I wanted to be like in many ways.
In Karen’s last days of fighting ovarian cancer, she planned out her funeral service, or “celebration of life.” And her service was completely “her.” This is my third funeral in one year and there is something radically different about going to a funeral for someone who lived with every ounce of their being for Jesus Christ. Someone who longed for heaven, knowing full well that this life on earth is temporary, but real life is with Jesus. Someone who wasted no time and devoted all of their gifts and talents to knowing Jesus and making him known. Karen was this person and in so many ways her funeral was a total celebration that she made it, she achieved the goal, she won the prize, she was where she longed to be and we couldn’t help but celebrate. I know many funerals are titled, “celebration of life.” But there is little to no celebrating. The room is dim, the music is slow and weepy, the whole mood is heavy and low. I understand that death is hard and in no way am I being insensitive or inconsiderate. But Karen’s service was a complete celebration from her smiling parents that greeted everyone that walked into the church, thanking us for coming, to the Northkirk Church Choir that sang their hearts out and led us in worship that was celebratory and upbeat. Karen chose the scriptures to be read at her service and the pastors who shared words that were amazing and wonderful. I’m sure she chose the music too.
Karen laughing harder than I was at my wedding
I miss Karen. And I do well up when I think of her. But my tears are quickly met with a smile and laughter and the conviction to live my life like Karen. Love intensly, laugh hard, smile big, and most of all tell the world about Jesus everyday, all day, as though their very life depends on their knowledge of Him.
Crammed into a Krygyzstan bus with our college students, always smiling
I miss you dear friend, but I’m celebrating you home. Heaven just got a little bit better.
In the spirit of celebrating, Bird's Party featured our Fairy Garden Party!


  1. WOW! I want a Funeral Service just like that! What a representation of Jesus, by celebrating her life and celebrating her union with her Savior!

    I pray I know someone like her in my lifetime!

  2. Oh my goodness! I just stumbled onto your blog from Rebecca Cooper, and as I read on-I read this and am so sad. My husband and I went to Malibu Pres off and on for several years 2001-2004 before we moved away and we LOVED Karen! We were just raving about her a few days ago to someone. What a woman, what a life. Thanks for sharing this.



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