I wanted to share an important person in my life with you, one who has shaped me profoundly in many ways: Karen Henry. She’s been a good friend for longer than I can remember (you know those people who come into your life and you cannot remember a time without them, that’s Karen). She has mentored and loved me in so many special and amazing ways.
Karen is an activist, a humanitarian and all around amazing woman. She has won awards. Given many speeches. Been honored by many. And I find her to be the most down to earth and real person. I’m still amazed that she is my friend … I feel so very lucky to have her in my corner.
I can only visit her for a short time these days, as she is very sick and gets tired very quickly. But, when I see her, we laugh and share stories. It’s a wonderful time together!
Karen has always been so encouraging and supportive of whatever I am doing, whether it be applying for a new position, or taking on the challenge of a master’s degree, or starting my own business, or having a child—actually, that’s a funny story.
I was talking to Karen on the phone and decided to tell her that I was pregnant, as I knew it would be some time before I would see her in person, but somehow I never got around to it. A few days had passed, and we were on the phone again, when she said, “I had the strangest dream that you said you were pregnant!” Then I laughed and said, “That wasn’t a dream, I am pregnant!” We both busted a gut laughing so hard, and when we had settled down, she told me, “You’ll be a great mom.” Since then, every time I see her, she keeps telling me that and giving me specific examples of why
Karen has a gift to see clarity in every situation. Here’s an example: She was interviewing for a position, and during the interview, she realized that a friend was better suited for the position. She stopped the interview, handed the person her friend’s contact information and said, “She would be a better candidate,” and then left. Her friend got the job. Karen was thrilled. She didn’t grasp for the job for the sake of having the job. She saw it for what it was: better for someone else. She then turned it to someone else. Her friend has had the job for 10 years, and loves it.
Karen’s love is what can often sustain others. I can’t speak for everyone, but for myself, but Karen’s love is amazing. There was a time when things were very low. But, Karen was there for me. Supporting me. Loving me. Once, when things were particularly bad during this crisis time, she decided a trip to Saugatuck was in order. We loaded into the car and drove there. (About a 45-minute drive from Grand Rapids.) We shopped, ate, laughed and talked. And I will never forget one particular moment. I was trying on some jackets. Karen looked at the jacket I was wearing, looked me in the eyes and said, “You are so beautiful, Ashima. You radiate beauty.” It made me feel so very loved. And it also helped to soften my hardened heart and move past my crisis.
Karen always takes the time to see the greatness that is inside of everyone. I love that she looks me in the eye to tell me what she thinks of me or how much she loves me. It makes the connection all the more strong and real.
I’m grateful that my little girl has been able to spend time with her “Mimi.” She has been able to be in her company and learn from this truly amazing woman. Mostly, I’m grateful that the universe brought this jewel to my life. It is hard to imagine my life without her in it, but as actress Valerie Harper, who is battling terminal brain cancer recently said, “Don’t go to the funeral until the day of the funeral.” So today I will not do that, and instead look forward to spending many more precious days laughing with my dear friend and mentor.Karen has taught me so much, but first and foremost, she has shown me what it means to be a good friend and mentor. She has shown me the importance of being the voice for those with no voice. She has given me more than I can even begin to thank her for.