Karen was my single friend, you know, the one who met me at the clubs and bars after work when we were both single in a large city in the mid 1990’s. We originally met at work and hit it off immediately, spending time with family and friends and getting to know each other better. This was during the time that my guy and I were not together, after calling off our engagement and being apart for almost three years, but when we started talking again, and working towards getting back together, Karen was our cheerleader. Hopeful and positive, my friend encouraged me to go for it, moving across the country to take a risk.
That risk paid off and when planning our wedding, I knew who I wanted for my Maid of Honor; our cheerleader, Karen. You see, we had a small wedding in a state where we knew very few people, so most everyone who attended had to travel a distance. And they had to want to be there. We didn’t want anyone witnessing our event who didn’t fully support us. Karen was the only woman in our wedding party. My guy had two best men. We didn’t worry about being lop-sided or non-traditional, we just wanted to be intentional.
In the years that followed (22 to be exact) Karen and I stayed in touch, with me moving all over the country and her staying in one place. She got married, we had babies and we continued to be friends from a distance, checking in at holidays and commenting on each others pictures through social media. One thing that remained constant was Karen’s hopefulness and encouragement. I knew she had fought breast cancer years before, and when we communicated a few months ago she said she was still in remission. I was completely shocked to learn over the weekend that my sweet friend died of cancer.
I feel an ache that I cannot explain. The friendship that we had was so special for me, Karen did something that most don’t do; she encouraged me to leave her. Although it would mean a major shift in our relationship, she selflessly pushed me towards the future that she knew I wanted, and taught me how to love someone with open hands. How I wish I could have been there for her in the final days, cheering her on to the future that awaited her in heaven. I can’t imagine how her family and closest friends must be hurting right now, but I am sure that they all have stories that are similar, of a very special woman who encouraged them and showed them hope. I’m really going to miss my cheerleader.