Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Hard Day - Prayer Requests

This has been a hard day.

Last spring we met Kim Martin in Indianapolis at the Henry Tucker Foundation's Hope & Empowerment Event. Kim was interested to meet us because she and her family were coming to Seattle for cancer treatment for two of their young adult children. They had different kinds of cancer, but one was best suited to treatment at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (the Hutch), so both of them decided to take their treatment here. The Seattle Cancer Care Alliance comprises the Hutch, the University of Washington and Seattle Children's Hospital, so this was a workable plan.

When they were here, I met Kim's husband, Ken, and son, Drew. They are a charming, bright and faithful family. It was a delight to meet them - but I wish it had been under other circumstances. Ken fell ill while they were living in Seattle. When the children had a break in treatment, the family moved home to Indiana. Their daughter is doing well, but Drew did not find a cure, and passed away very recently.

This morning, I received news that Kim's husband, Ken, has passed away from cancer. There will be a joint memorial service for father and son (Drew) next week. I canNOT find words to express the horror of the path that this family has had to travel. There is a genetic issue that has predisposed Kim & Ken's family to cancer. Their son Nolan passed away years ago; Drew just a short time ago, and now Ken. I am simply heartsick for them. If you are a praying person, please send prayers for Kim and her surviving children. They have a beautiful faith, but this is more than anyone should have to bear. Kim is the author of the Hair Fairy book and a kind and loving woman.

Later, I received a telephone call from my parents, telling me that our dear friend, Fred, passed away today. I have been fighting tears all day. Fred and my father knew one another in elementary school. Fred and his beautiful wife, Charlotte, fell in love at the University of Washington, and are two of my parents' dearest friends. We came to know them when our children were in elementary school, and I will give you a few examples of why I love them both so much.
When David had to write a report in the 4th grade, he chose the Ford Motor Company as his topic. Fred was retired from Ford, so David asked if he could interview Fred about it. Fred not only generously took time to answer David's questions, he gave him photographs and interesting historical information. In addition to that, when the day arrived for David's presentation of the report, Fred & Charlotte took the ferry over from Seattle and sat in the audience in David's elementary school classroom to support him. How precious is that?
Dad & Fred in the desert
Fred and Charlotte have a home near my parents' place in the desert. It is always fun to get together with them for dinner or a visit. They are so good with children, and were very kind to ours. I will always remember the first time they invited us to their home so that the children could enjoy swimming in a different pool.
David & Katie in the pool at TVC
And the time we went to dinner at Arnold Palmer's resturant, with Charlotte getting a kick out of David's questions about why we weren't using the valet parking. Or the time when they invited us to their beautiful club - and David brought a remote-control car along, to drive in the parking lot with the other fancy motors.

Fred & Charlotte are fun, intelligent, warm and adventurous. They have taken some wonderful guided trips with my parents and other friends. Some of their best stories come from the Stan Boreson Tours that they took together. We loved having them to our house for visits, sharing dinner at Burrata Bistro or a clam-feed on our deck, and they always appreciated a gift of lefse from our local Norwegian bakery (Charlotte is of Norwegian heritage).

Fred has a very dry sense of humor. He and my father are hilarious together, because my dad is theatrical and Fred is understated. Fred has a way of sputtering, especially in response to my father's more dramatic story-telling. We loved hearing Fred's gentle rumblings as he teased my dad. "Unbelievable!" was often all he had to say, but it was the way he said it that made it work.
Dad & Fred
Fred had some hilarious sayings. One of our favorites - and the most-quoted in our household - is, "It's not going well." He would say it slowly, quietly and with gentle sarcasm when things were getting well out of hand.

Fred was a hugger and kisser whenever we would get together. I will miss his loving greetings. He was always perfectly dressed and groomed, a very dapper and handsome man. He was a Marine who had been wounded three times in World War II, and still had his helmet with the hole in it. He was modest, but when we asked to see the helmet (and his Purple Heart medal), he showed them to us. It is impressive, as is his service record.

Fred and Charlotte came to the hospital to visit us when Katie was sick, and brought a book for her. They have been the most loyal, thoughtful, affectionate and sympathetic friends to my parents, coming all the way from Seattle to attend Katie's memorial service. They have encouraged us and supported our efforts in Katie's Endowment for Cancer Research. They have been kind, generous, always interested in David and in us. They are like extended family...and I feel as if I've lost my uncle today.
Not only this, but in February, one of their two sons passed away. Charlotte has had more than her share of sorrow this year. If you are a praying person, please send prayers for this beautiful, valiant lady, whose beloved husband and best friend of over 60 years has died. Thank you.


Elizabeth said...

Oh, Karen. Tears spill over --

Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.

Love and love and love and love to you and yours.

Karla said...

I am so sorry on all counts. It is understandable how it would be a very tearful day for you. what a blessing that you have had such wonderful people in your life.

shauna said...

I just found out about Ken today too... its sick beyond words. I can't even begin to imagine...

Jennifer said...

Sending prayers to you and your dear friends for peace and happier times soon. With love and hope,

Mary Potts said...

Let your tears flow, Karen. Sadness such as this can be overwhelming. I don't understand how some families can endure such tragedy several times over.
And what a lovely tribute you've given to Fred. Sounds like a gem of a man, and I'm certain he'll be missed very much.

deb colarossi said...

holding you in love and prayer , Karen.

and may I say that you have gifted me with so many wonderful people

it's made me think about something this morning and I am forever grateful. xoxoxo

Kay said...

There just aren't words sometimes. Just sadness for you and yours and all the many losses. Praying....

jennifer said...

My heart is with you and these beautiful, suffering families who have touched and enlivened so many -- praying for all.


Karen said...

I have not been able to comment on your blog, but will try again today and hopefully succeed. I am taken aback by your day yesterday. So much grief, it seems unbearable. I am so sorry for the loss and sorrow of all these dear friends of your family, and the personal loss you feel so intensely with all this news. I am praying for all of them and you, and know there is nothing more that can be done but to pray for comfort, strength, peace and hope for you all. I am wrapping you in a hug in my heart, Karen. I am so very sad for you all.

Anonymous said...


I'm so sorry to read about the Martin family. How sad, and far too much for one family to bear. The only consoling thought is that Ken is now together with his boys -but what a huge loss for his family.

Fred sounds like such a treasure and wonderful friend. I know you will all miss him.

I'm thinking of you during such a sad week.


Allegra Smith said...

I am not a praying person but I believe that when we send loving and hopeful thoughts to others the Universe delivers them. I believe that no matter what we call what we believe in for as long as love and compassion are the reason, by any other name are still love and compassion.

I wish I could get in the car and just drive up and be with you and with your parents and bring love and comfort and all things of goodness to make the heart lighter if it were possible. Lacking that, my love and compassion goes to Kim and her family. And to Charlotte and her family. No one really dies that is remembered with love and affection I was taught. I truly believe that.

My love as always, dearest Karen.

karen gerstenberger said...

Thank you all for your kind words, thoughts and prayers. All are deeply felt and appreciated.
Charlotte has asked my dad to give one of the eulogies for Fred, and as we had lunch together today, he read it to me. It is beautiful, simple and heartfelt. It's so hard to see that "greatest generation" passing away! Every day is a gift.

AnnDeO said...

Oh my! Unimaginable grief. I will pray for your friends and family as they find their way through this difficult journey.