This is going to be a picture heavy post.
The last couple of weeks have been spent saying goodbye to my best friend, Karson.
I am navigating new waters here, as I grieve a dear friend for the first time. I don’t recommend it. I am deeply heart-broken. I feel like I am going through the motions in my life as I move slowly through a thick cloud of sadness. Nothing feels quite right. All I want to do is sleep. The world just feels like a bit much right now.
What I really want to do is talk to Karson. I want to share with her all of the beautiful words that were said about her this weekend at her funeral. I want to laugh about a million insignificant things. I want to be with this friend that knew me and understood me and I her. I don’t really know how to do life without her there.
Karson was the best kind of friend. The friend that sat by me at my wedding and baby showers and danced with me at our friends’ weddings.
The friend that I asked to be my maid-of-honor, and asked me to do the same.
The friend that loved on all of my babies, and took such joy in them. The friend that gifted my oldest with the stuffed dog that continues to be his most prized possession.
She was forced to walk down a long road of cancer, but she kept her trademark smile and joyful spirit. And we continued to make new memories.
I was asked to speak at her funeral, which was one of the greatest honors in my life. The eulogy that I wrote is below. (Ignore the grammar. I wrote it for me to read aloud, not to be read).
The last time I sat down to write some words about Karson was for her wedding. Although the emotions involved were entirely different, I feel just as honored to be standing here today.
I’m Emily Hilimire, and I have been friends with Karson since the fifth grade. Karson and I always said that we were kindred spirits. We enjoyed the same things, liked the same people, saw the world the same way. We understood each other. We also dressed the same. Accidentally… Frequently.
Even two weeks ago I had to laugh when I was rubbing her feet and saw that we were wearing matching teal toenail polish. I guess I can never take it off.
Throughout the tough years of middle and high school, Karson was my steadfast friend.
We shared notes in our lockers, homecomings, proms, plays, parties, asthma. That last one came in handy because Karson and I got out of YEARS of running in gym together.
I was there holding her hand after she dislocated her shoulder ice skating, and she was there reassuring me after I accidentally turned on all of the lights in the middle of her church Easter Contata.
Karson taught me about Earth Day and recycling, even when that was not really a thing yet. She would even reuse ziplock bags. She was way ahead of the times.
We laughed at Dennis’ stories. We laughed when Karson blared her horn at a car only to find out that it was a police officer and we were actually the ones going the wrong way, and we laughed some more when we toilet papered our friend’s car (sorry Robbie).
When I went on my first date with my now husband, it was Karson that I wanted to share every detail with. She encouraged me every step of the way to stick with this guy who was so good to me.
We cried when we left each other for college, but despite our distance we always remained connected. We shared long detailed letters and late night long distance phone calls. She kept organized pictures of every event, and asked me to do the same so that when we were together we could share all of our important moments. It was effective. I felt like Charity, Becky, and Karen were my people too, and I’m certainly glad to have that connection with them today.
Karson and I shared a love for sign language, helping people, and children, and we helped each other figure out graduate schools and later jobs that made the most of these passions.
Karson was the one standing beside me as my maid of honor in my wedding, and I at hers. The days were only slightly different from the ones we had been planning since we were 14 years old.
When I was pregnant with my first baby, I had some complications. Karson was there at the hospital with cinnamon rolls in hand. She was always there for me…
I’ll never forget the weeks surrounding her diagnosis. Every grueling step was a torturous wait. I remember the call that came early in the morning that it was cancer. Even then, she started with, “well as you know, they biopsied 3 spots. The first two were nothing, everything was fine (and gave me all the details about what they were) but… the last one was cancer.” Even in the scariest moment of her life to that point, she was looking out for me, trying to present the news with a positive spin. Before we got off the phone she was double checking, “are you okay?”
I know that it sounds trite to say that someone doesn’t deserve cancer, but truly it seems like Karson didn’t deserve cancer. Karson, who was a light in the world. A loving, generous presence in the life of everyone who knew her.
If she was here today though, she would probably present it in a similar way that she presented her initial diagnosis. I think that she would be looking out at us and emphasize all of the positive things. I think she would point to Amber, Melissa, Julie, and the rest of the cancer posse and talk about what a gift they were in her life.
I think she would talk about First Descents, and the way that it stretched her and nurtured her when she needed it the most.
I think she would talk about the friends near and far that showed up to sit with her at chemo, send her cards and flowers, walk with her in the annual cancer walks and otherwise support her.
She would be doing her best to look out for Leigh, and Kirk, and David, and Harper, and all of us to make sure that we were doing okay.
Only after that was done would she maybe nod and agree that yes, okay, cancer IS THE WORST. But she would say it with a smile.
I can’t understand why Karson had to leave the Earth so early. But I do know that I am a better person for having had her in my life. She leaves a gigantic hole in my heart. I’m sure that many of you feel the same.
Karson always loved quotes, and we frequently exchanged quotes. This is a book of quotes that she made for me in 1991.
I would like to finish with a familiar quote that she picked out from Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“To laugh often and love much:
To find the best in others:
to leave the world a little bit better:
to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived-
This is to have succeeded”.
I think we can all agree that she succeeded mightily.
I love you forever, my dear friend.