This past week and a half has been tough and heartbreaking for us. Our friend Karen lost her life at the very end of a week-long mission trip to Nicaragua to a senseless act of murder. The emotions have been coming in waves and, at times, have caught me completely off guard. I can only speak for myself (though my friendship with her was first “via marriage” since her and Mtn Papa were friends before I met him), but it’s been the toughest encounter with death I have yet to experience. I think it would be so much easier to swallow had she died doing something she loved – on the mountain or the water. Instead, it was an act of evil and violence we are all now having to sift through to find the silver linings (of which there ARE many.) I believe she is in a much better place and find great peace in that.
While the details of her death are troubling and haunting and still rather muddy (thanks to the fact that it happened in another country and all that goes along with it), they matter little in the grand scheme of things. Because Karen lived. Really and truly lived and loved like few people I have encountered. She loved people (and accepted them exactly how they were) and loved the outdoors with a passion. Her gear lined up as a tribute to her is what got me more than anything else I saw this past weekend as we remembered her with those that loved her. It was who she was and how she loved life. She found joy in her outdoor pursuits and sharing them with others.
Another one of her friends quoted her saying, “I’m solar-powered!” after finding joy in fresh air time. I get that completely. The sun, the wind and the ability to move without walls is what moves me and what moved her even more.
Rather unassuming in her stature, Karen put her heart and soul into everything she did. She was a ski patroller, skied and worked with the mentally challenged and was 100% absolutely up to anything, anytime. She wasn’t the fastest or the strongest, but she had the desire and didn’t get caught up in a mental intimidation many of us struggle with when trying something new. She was ok going on a backcountry skiing trip with us when J was just a few months old (and all that entailed.) Our mutual friend, Amy, writes about an epic biking/packrafting adventure with Karen. She just wanted to be with the people she loved – and wanted the people she loved to be out enjoying life with her.
She wasn’t satisfied with a one-sport day, but rather kept everyone running to keep up with her as she blended together as much as she could (and with as many others as she could.) I love this photo of her biking out to ski…and the fact that it was something she did on a regular basis.
In an effort to remember Karen, who she was and what she stood for, friends made these slogans and stickers (shown at the top of the photo above) to help remind us what life is about. To love without boundaries, to live without inhibitions.
I write her story (just the teeny tiny bit of it) and share it here only because I think we all need a little reminder to LIVE. To not be intimidated by the challenges of getting outside, of trying something new, of pushing our bodies and minds to glorious heights. I want to live like she did – joyfully and peacefully. I invite you to join me.
Here’s another great tribute to Karen published in the Jackson Hole News and Guide.
© 2014, Tales of a Mountain Mama. All rights reserved. Republication, in part or entirety, requires a link back to this original post and permission from the author.