This year, I am blessed to be spending the holidays with my family– including my precious 94-year-old mother Marjorie. With her good health and great attitude, I am so lucky to have her. For those who will be with friends and family this season, please take the time to kiss and squeeze them and tell them how much you love them. We don’t know what next year will bring. And to you, my gentle readers, I want you to know how much we appreciate you. Also, please remember the reason for the season, happy birthday baby Jesus.
Memories of Christmases past bring both smiles and tears for most of us. The smiles are for remembering happy times with loved ones, gifts exchanged and the festivities of the season. Our tears are usually reserved for thoughts of loved ones too far away to hug or for sadness surrounding those we have lost and the realization that they will not share the year-end holidays with us.
This year, our family’s Christmas will be especially somber. The reason for our collective sadness is the passing of our darling niece Kari Strichart Gray. She was just a young woman, and we had all celebrated her wedding just one year and eleven months ago to her soulmate JohnLee. This loving girl– a sister, daughter, granddaughter, niece, cousin and friend– will not be joining any of us around the family’s decorated tree this year. Sweet Kari passed away in her sleep last Sunday morning. We don’t know why, and, at this point, the whys don’t really matter. What matters is that we still can’t believe she has left us.
Not really knowing how to broach the subject in my column this week, I am grateful to Kari’s brother Scott for providing me with his thoughts and a beautiful picture of his loving sister. I share that with you below.
Kari Lisa Gray (nee Strichart), born in 1983 and passed in the comfort of her sleep this last Sunday, 12/15, would more than likely be appalled at the thought of even an inch of space being dedicated to her in a newspaper, but as her brother, this is perhaps the final act of impishness I’ll be able to bother her with. So here goes.
Kari jammed more life into her 30 years on Earth than most people manage in double that time. She saw at least 40 states and traveled abroad to Europe too. She double majored in Psychology and Film, and, when she realized those were BOTH not her “thing,” she became a manager of human resources.
Through all that, she also managed to find her perfect match, JohnLee Gray, who she married in her pajamas on the beach and then promptly honeymooned in Italy. They shared a passion for strategy and board games, a philosophy she applied to her life to great success. She was the queen of the chess board.
Kari refused to have a funeral– she wasn’t much for being the center of attention. This Saturday, we’re having a memorial service to celebrate her life and [to help us deal with] the gaping hole that her absence leaves behind. She is survived by lots of friends and family– but she would probably prefer that we mention, by name, her cat Sera, her rabbit Ms. BunBun and her skink Sydney. As for the future, don’t worry, Kari. I’ll snoot hard enough for both of us.
– Scott Strichart