I’m writing this blog on the day when Karen, my close friend and a friend and treasured colleague to many others, made a peaceful transition from this life following a brief period of hospitalization.
When it became clear that Karen’s prognosis was very serious, two of Karen’s closest colleagues and friends at the University of Michigan– where Karen served with passion and enthusiasm for more than 45 years before she retired not that long ago–invited Karen’s friends and colleagues to submit letters, stories, or testimonials about her, to be shared with her and her family.
Drawing from an outpouring of responses, I put together the collection below of words, phrases, and a few sentences (with minor edits)–being careful, of course, to protect people’s privacy and hoping they would not mind my sharing their caring and inspirational words. Rising above a deep sadness, now is the time to celebrate the life of this special, inspirational woman.
Karen lived purely from passion and commitment with no concern for recognition. For this reason, she would almost certainly have been a bit embarrassed by this compilation. If you, too, knew Karen, I invite you to celebrate along with me. If you did not know her, I invite you to look over this snapshot of her essence, her best self (a phrase she loved).
As you browse this collection of people’s words written about Karen, I invite you (all of us) to ponder a few questions. What types of words or phrases might your friends use to describe your strengths? What words would you like to show up on such a list written for you–but that you may not have earned just yet? Which roles do you most want to play in other people’s lives? Who do you most want to be? What do you most want to give to others?
Thank you, my dear friend, for all you did and, more importantly, for who you are. I will carry you in my heart forever. –Glenda
Words used to describe the kind of person Karen was:
• Trail blazing
• Lit up by ideas
• A gift
• A blessing
What Karen shared or gave to those who knew her:
• Belief in the impossible
• A positive outlook
• A lively mind
• A warm heart
• Encouragement in challenging times
• Good will
• Unstinting dedication to helping people grow and learn
• An indefatigable sense of the positive and the possible
• A smile and welcoming demeanor
• A wonderful sense of humor
The roles Karen played in people’s lives:
• Grand visionary
• Envelope pusher
• Driver of institutional change
• A believer
• A “rock star”
• A great mirror
• The wind beneath our wings
• A beacon to others
• A constant guide
• A source of reasoned encouragement
• A source of strength
• An idea artist
A sample of what Karen did for those who knew her:
• Affirmed us
• Brought out the best in us
• Buoyed us up
• Re-energized us
• Gave us new ideas
• Provided us opportunities for growth
• Made us feel special
• Supported us
• Built novel solutions
• Carried a tremendous share [of the work], and did so with joy
• Cared about each and every one of us
• Fostered opportunities and possibilities for women at
the University of Michigan
• Helped shepherd innovative and unimagined projects to completion
• Facilitated collaboration
• Unlocked our greatest potential
• Enabled many wonderful things to take place
A few select quotes from Karen’s friends and colleagues.
• Through her ideas and love of others’ ideas, Karen showed many of us
the way to new sources of wisdom.
• Her successes led to spirals of accomplishment.
• She was a model of modest, generous, thoughtful, effective leadership
and a motor for positive change.
• Her visions started with a sparkle in her eye and then
seamlessly rooted across countless miles to connect
and invest in the common good.
• She had an omnipresent glow of positive attitude and joy.
• Each of us pays her a great honor by keeping close to our hearts
the question “How can I make a difference in the lives of those around me?”