Karen's Day at Shands

Karen wanted a place for family and friends to be able to see how she is doing each day at Shands. This is how she is making that happen.

Christmas memories

December25

Christmas is love and happiness. God has blessed me with plenty of both every year of my life and I do mean EVERY year. Today is Christmas morning 2012 and a few memories have surfaced that bring a laugh and a big smile. I thought I had shared one particular memory with my Facebook friends or the followers of www.KarensDay.com, but as I went to find it to read it again I was very surprised that it was not to be found. So let me share it with you today.

Let’s back up to a happy healthy 2008 (maybe 2007). It is November and a little chilly, but not too bad. Karen wanted to go on a trail ride. We went to the barn and loaded up our horses into the horse trailer. We headed off down the road and when we get to our destination in the woods we realize it is deer hunting season. Neither of us have on the official “don’t shoot me” riding gear and didn’t actually have any at home, so we pull back out to the highway and head to Karen’s parents’ house. Ken and Madeline started looking around for some appropriate apparel. Ken gives Karen a new super bright orange sweatshirt to put on and then hands me a camouflage jacket to put on and offers to let me wear his white hat. While Karen’s outfit would help keep any over anxious hunters from mistaking her for a deer, it would seem that my outfit would just increase the chances for hunting mishap. Obviously Ken was just having a little fun at my expense. It was pretty funny really. He did manage to find me an orange shirt before we left. Remember the old saying, “You reap what you sow?” Now let’s jump ahead to Christmas.

Christmas gifts to or from Karen’s family were usually either a gag gift or something found on the “As seen on TV” shelves at Walgreens. This tradition just emphasizes the fun kind of family they are. I think we re-gifted to Laura something that she had given me the year before. She didn’t even notice! Ha ha. We needed something extra special for Ken, as the safe riding outfit was only a few weeks ago. It came to us rather easily. Karen liked to sew. We got some camouflage material and white fuzzy material and she made him a Santa hat out of it. No red material, just the camo and the white trim. That was pretty good but then we took it another step. We took a dark colored t-shirt and applied patches of the camo. This was shaping up to be a funny moment. I kept thinking about what they had said about the white hat and how a hunter watches for the white tail of a deer. The next thing you know, Karen had finished making a deer’s tail with the white stuff and sewn it onto the back of his shirt! Ken proudly wore them around the house all morning. The joy and happiness that we all were sharing that Christmas morning sticks with me today, along with lots of other memories of Christmases past.

Merry Christmas! I hope yours is a joyous one. God bless you all.

Brunty Family Reunion 2012

July21

Don: If you were a long time follower of Karen’s Day, you may remember that there has been a Brunty family reunion each year around the 4th of July. Karen’s sister Ginny along with John, Michael, David and Brandon come down from the D.C. area. The rest of the family all live here. Other attendees would be: Karen’s parents, Ken and Madeline Brunty; Karen’s sister Laura, Darren and Kody; Dennis, Jacob and Dylan; Randy and Heather. Include me, Karen and usually a visit from Big Randy and you could have 18 people in the house at once. The last reunion that Karen was with us didn’t happen in Panama City. Everyone made the trip to Gainesville. You can read about that one in the July ’10 archives.

Karen not being with us for the second time now made for a bittersweet reunion, but we know she wants these reunions to continue. She was very big on family and making sure that her children had strong relationships with the cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents! Everything went as expected and they did all the things that have come to be traditions at past reunions. Shipwreck Island one day, another at the jetties of St Andrews State Park and Cobra Arcade another day. This year they added a visit to Wonderworks and taking Grandpa’s new waverunner to Deer Point Lake.

Karen continues to live in our hearts and memories. The love for her, as well as the pain of her being gone, was very evident throughout the week long gathering. There were many more smiling and happy memories made last week as our lives and the reunion tradition continue! So here’s to the Brunty Family Reunion in loving memory of Karen Brunty Wright Gallagher Cornelius!!!

Farewell Tish

August1

Tish Benton passed away July 17, 2011. When Karen (www.KarensDay.com) first arrived at Shands in October, 2009 Tish was one of the first people she met. Given both Tish and Karen’s personalities it is not surprising that they met and became friends. I have many fond memories of visits Tish made to Karen when she was “in” and Tish came to Shands for outpatient appointments. We met her daughter Donna once when she accompanied Tish to Shands. Donna and I stood out in the hall and had our own visit as well. We also saw Tish many times down the hall in the outpatient clinic. It was always amazing to me how all the patients lifted each other’s spirits as they chatted while often sitting for hours to get their needed goodies. Tish had printed up some business cards with her contact information to give to people she met. Her full name was Roberta Leticia “Tish” Elmore Benton. On the card she had her name down as Tish “Sunshine” Benton. I am not sure if there were people in her life that called her Sunshine, but I do know the name fit her very well.

I am sorry for her family’s loss. Please know that I am a first hand witness to the warmth and love that Tish extended to those she met as their hard path crossed her own. She had invited us to her church and when Karen and I finally did get the chance we did attend (www.gatorchurch.com) we were immediately welcome by many of the people. Karen had to wear a mask at the time and people seemed to know what that meant and were quick to offer comments of support. After Karen’s passing on Jan 1, 2011, I went to Gainesville three months later and was baptized at that church. Tish invited me to stay with her when I came down for the event. She had company that weekend though so I missed seeing her that trip, though I talked with her on the phone. The pain I feel daily as I continue to miss Karen is slowly easing as the memories of our life together and the people we met fill my mind. Thank you Tish for your positive part in Karen’s hard journey.

Happy Birthday Karen!

April18

Happy Birthday to a beautiful woman, wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend to many! We love her and miss her, but still feel the joy she brings into our lives – even since her passing. Karen showed us how to live, long before she found out about her cancer. Her tag line on Skype sums it up completely: “Life is good… and God loves us. Take time to enjoy your day, everyday.”

I would like everyone who comes by www.KarensDay.com or Karen’s Facebook page to know that your visits are very helpful to all of us who are still missing Karen and grieving daily. It touches us in the same way as the hundreds who came to the visitation and/or the funeral in January. It helps us all to know that Karen is thought so well of and so much by so many. She will be in the minds and hearts of many of us for the rest of our lives. She made such a strong impression on those she met. Karen treated people the way we all wish we could treat everyone we meet.

I thank her and ask God to bless her for what she taught us, for sharing her life and for the way she loved us all.

Don got Baptized Sunday 4-3-2011

April1

Don: I promise, this is not an April Fools Day prank. I may be 53 years old and have always believed in God, but I have never been baptized. Most of you who will read this note have already read the rest of this blog. You know that it seems that Karen and I posted everything that ever happened during our 15 months we were mostly in Gainesville. Well I looked today and see at least one thing we didn’t mention. It was during our last stretch at Shands, over two months. They were not letting us out on day passess so Karen had to stay in the hospital the whole time. I called Pastor Calvin Carr of North Central Baptist Church of Gainesville (www.GatorChurch.com) and asked if he would visit. He came out on October 30. I did mention having a visit from him in my post of that day. What I didn’t mention was that during that visit Karen told Pastor Calvin that when we got out, we were coming back to his church so that I could get baptized. He said he would be honored to do that for us.

We did get out but…well you have read what all happened the last two weeks. The important thing to let you know today is that I had let Pastor Calvin know about a week after Karen’s funeral that I needed to fullfill Karen’s request and we have been trying to make that happen ever since. This Sunday, April 3, 2011 is the first time they have baptized anyone since that phone call. So, if you are in Gainesville on Sunday night at 6:00pm, you can see this important moment of my life. It is important to me and God and was one of Karen’s remaining things she wanted for us both.

I love you Karen. I love you Jesus.

Widowed Persons Service

April1

Don: I love you, Karen.

It has been 3 months today since Karen passed. I now understand that there are many things in life that those who have not experienced them can not truly know how they feel. Think about the first time you fell in love. For many, the first time may not have really been love, but you thought it was. Nothing compares to the feeling of deep and true love. However you will never know it, until you experience it. No one is ever going to be able to explain it to you well enough that you can feel it. Some of you may be nodding in agreement as you read this.

The same holds true for the death of a spouse. One that is lost at what seems to be the hieght of love built in a few short years and that was forged the last year into something even bigger, higher and deeper by joining together to battle Leukemia. There may be a few things that come close, but I have never experienced any others myself . To be honest, I never would have thought it could hurt this much. No matter what I write here, those of you who have never experienced this can not know what it feels like. So how can I possibly share my feelings and find comfort in the words of encouragement that the unexperienced offer? The truth is, I can’t.

Last week a friend confided being in a similar situation before and told me that, for them, being able to talk to people who shared the experience was the most helpful. They were going to make some calls to find a contact for me to get some help. As I had almost reached this 3 month mark, my grief was seeming to intensify and the phone call from my friend was right on time. God knows our needs. Two days later, I got a call from Widowed Persons Service (http://www.knology.net/~wpsemeraldcoast/). It is on the corner of 12th and Grace Avenue in Panama City. I went to their Tuesday Grief and Support Group meeting. I believe it is exactly what I need. To anyone having trouble in their life, I want to strongly suggest finding a support organization of people who have been there. When I got the call from WPS, I called my friend to thank them for their help. They told me that they had not been in touch with anyone yet and did not know how WPS knew to call me so long after Karen’s death. I know why they called.

God knows our needs.

We love you Karen

March7

So many people continue to let me know that they still think of Karen. She touched many more lives than I think she knew. Certainly more than I knew. When she touched a life it was deeper than we could have known, also. Her soft, loving spirit had a way of helping to put the rest of us a little closer to peace and a lot closer to happy. Her smile for her family and friends was infectious and her empathy for those that were hurting did so much to heal. Becoming a Registered Nurse was one of her most prized accomplishments. While acheiving the status of RN meant that she stood up strong to the classes, labs, tests and training; the pride that came from the title of RN, paled when compared to the fact that it meant Karen could help people in their times of difficulty. I know for a fact that Karen really “got it” when it came to what a nurse’s duty is and who it is to, the patient.

I was reminded yesterday of these things about Karen, when I got an unexpected and much appreciated card from the 5th floor of Bay Medical Center that had been signed by many of the people that she worked with for almost 2 years. Some of them had also been with her at GCCC in the Nursing Program. While it has been a little over 2 months since Karen passed, it has been since October 2009 since she worked at BMC. That makes it over a year, about 17 months, since these people have seen her. The card really helped to show me that Karen’s spirit is still making an impact. Thank you to all those that had a chance to sign the card and included not only words of encouragement, but also passed on how they felt about Karen.

“Dear God, thank you for using Karen to show us all the peace and love that you would have us show to each other. We love and miss her daily. As she now sleeps, watch over her friends and family until we can all meet again.  Help those of us who still feel the pain of not having her with us. Take that pain and leave us with only our joyful memories and the lessons taught us by our beautiful friend, mother, daughter, sister and wife. Amen.”

Ginny’s Dream

February8

Ginny Sprague says:
After my 16 hour shift, sleeping on the couch from midnight to 6a.m., and trying in vain to slurp down a cup of coffee to shake away the sleepiness…I decided to return to bed and catch an extra hour of sleep…and I dreamed…

….I was walking alone in a shopping bazaar of sorts, thinking about how I didn’t really “have time” to be shopping when I had so many other things to do (should be doing) and trying to remember where I parked the car (and wondering if I could give my husband the directions to the shopping place so he could come and get me as I was not familiar with it…because it was my dreamland shopping mall) when all of a sudden I looked up and saw a beautiful radiant and obviously happy young woman who looked like Karen. I was so startled…I yelled her name across the bazaar’s gardens to the other side where she jumped and looked at me with such surprise! I couldn’t believe my eyes!!!! Without taking my eyes off of her, I ran to her. Iumping over the retaining wall, and running around beautiful rose bushes and flowers. With my body trembling and hands shaking, I touched her beaming, smiling face. I let my hands drop to her tiny little shoulders and then ran my hands down her arms to her hands….they were so small and warm! I remember thinking about her funeral and touching her beautiful hands. I became so confused and asked her, “Are you real?!” She laughed and told me, “Darren (her brother in law/Laura’s husband) had acted strangely when he saw me too!” I remember questioning “Darren sees you?”…”How?”…”Why hasn’t he said anything?”…”Why would he want to say anything?”…”We would think he was ‘touched’!” and then when she still seemed to be laughing at my stammering and shaking while squeezing her hands, I asked her, “Karen, do you know that you have passed away?” She instantly giggled, shrugged her shoulders and looked down sheepishly. With a voice just barely above a whisper said, “Yes, and I am probably not supposed to be here…but….!” To which I answered, “Well, I am probably not supposed to talk to you either…Oh! But Karen, I miss you so much! I love you sooooooo much! My heart is broken! I have never felt so much sorrow”…She seemed so surprised by this and then she looked confused. Almost like she couldn’t understand because she was so happy! Then I awoke in my own bed, in my own room, and started to sob! I do miss my precious sister, I can’t wait to see her in heaven! Thank you God for giving her to me for 43 years…

I dreamed the week before of Karen…In my dream I found myself in an area that was unknown to me (like a field)…with a feeling of impending danger…and Karen was there…she told me to “get ready” as she reached down and picked up a bat! I remember being so glad to see her! I didn’t know what was about to happen but it was going to be a fight…I remember telling her I didn’t want to hurt anyone…but there was such a sense of urgency! She yelled at me to “pick up the bat” and then she stepped into a protective stance with her back against mine, facing outward. I reached down picked up my bat and made ready for an unforseen enemy…knowing that she had my back and would fight to the death for me as I would for her! Karen was a tiny thing…but a fighter for sure! She fought hard for the “time” that she had with her children and her loved ones!

I called my mom and dad after I awoke and told them of the vivid dream…they felt in their spirit that it depicted the spiritual battle we are in daily. We must all pray and edify one another that we may all be strong for the battles ahead…putting on the armour of God…carrying the sword of truth…and letting His word be a lamp unto our feet…until we are home with Him. As my heart mourns the loss of my dear sweet sister…and my memories are filled with loving remembrances of her…I am comforted by a loving Heavenly Father who takes me into his arms and fills that now empty space. Thank you, God for saving me through the sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus. I can’t imagine selflessly sending my son to die for anyone including those that I found worthy and deserving of saving! And You sent Yours that ALL who would believe in him would not perish but have everlasting life and relationship with you (irregardless of being worthy or not)! Thank you, God, for saving my sister, that she now has eternal life with you…thank You for healing her…and thank You for the Peace that passes all understanding…God, please comfort and bless everyone that knew her and loved her…Lord, reach out to those who do not know You. Speak to their hearts that they may come to know our Awesome Heavenly Father…that they may experience forgiveness the depths of which cannot be measured, and love that has no bounds. May they have abundant life here on earth and share in heavenly gift of eternity with Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. Amen

Prayer to God

January22

“Dear God. We love you Father. We come to you today to praise you for all that you do for each of us everyday. For things that we might not even notice. Things that we don’t understand to be blessings, but when we look back it is clear that, Yes, that was a blessing too. Lord a common thread in all of us that are sharing this prayer to you today, is the love we feel for Karen. That love will never stop, Lord. You made Karen into such a special person. A person so unique to us; in her spirit, her love for others and how she showed so many of us how to love You even stronger, that it is hard to imagine how we will ever replace her in our lives.

Father God, we need your help today. We are all very happy that Karen’s spirit, absent the body, has gone to Jesus. The pain of not having her here with us is a very, very heavy load for some of us to handle on our own. We can only get so much help and comfort from the family and friends that each of us have reaching out to us. We thank You for that support that you have surrounded us with. Right now, Lord, we turn to you for the extra help we need to lift the pain from our hearts. We give it to you, God. We give you our pain, so that we may remember Karen only for all the good things about her, with no regrets that she is with you now. We praise you that she was part of our lives for what ever time we had her. Please take our pain, Father. Take it from her family, her friends and all the people that Karen’s journey of life touched here on Earth. Leave us with only the happiness that was given to us by You when you placed Karen in our paths. We know you will lift those of us with heavy hearts today, God, and we thank you for it. We love you, Jesus. Our love for your child, Karen, will live on as an example to us all.

As we remember Karen, we thank you, Jesus. Amen”

Thinking of Karen

January5

To my Karen: I love you.
To her followers: Thank you. The funeral services were this morning and I have stayed busy ever since and it is almost midnight. I wanted to get home to and write this message to thank everyone. And I do mean everyone. Those that were there and those that were thinking of us. It was an amazing service from where I sat. Some people didn’t have seats at all. The chapel was filled to capacity. People were standing along the walls. Even more were in the hall looking in. I have video but have not had a chance to watch it yet. I have still shots, too. Special thanks to my brother Darrell and his wife Holly for helping with that. Thanks to our pall bearers; Darren McIver, John Sprague, Gene Cornelius, Mike Giese, Keith Furbee, Bill Fitzgerald and Carlos Isaziga. Jack Reese of Jenks Avenue Church of Christ led the service. He has known Karen for a long time and extended family (Randy Wright) and her children Randy and Heather still go there. Jack did a great job and delivered a wonderful eulogy that honored Karen’s life but mostly her strength through the past 15 months. He remembered, as well did I, that when Karen was being taken on a gurney to surgery on September 23, 2009, both he and Carlos Isaziga caught up to us in the hallway before we made it into the surgery area. The transporters stopped and gave the four of us a moment to have a prayer. Surgery went well but two weeks later we found out that there were Leukemia cells in the tissue they had removed. He also recalled seeing Karen and I as we joined church service one of the Sunday’s that we were able to be in Panama City after her treatments had been going on a few months. What he noticed the most was not the colorful scarf but her smiling face as many of her old church family gathered around her, letting her know how much they loved her and were praying for her. That happy, smiling and beautiful face is what most people tell us they will always remember. Her family and I are very pleased that so many of you think of her that way because it is how we will always remember her, also.

There was a very heavy rainstorm happening at the end of the service which I felt was perfect! Seriously. It meant that rather than load up and go to the grave site, we were able to stay at Southerland. This gave people one more chance to see our sweet Karen and then talk with the family in the lobby. Another blessing for our family. We would like to let every single person who attended the service know what your presence meant to us. Whether it was because they knew Karen personally or were just there to show how much they cared for one of the family and felt the sadness that comes from losing a loved one, we were very touched by your support and love. I wish I could stand in front of each of you one more time, look into your face and hug you again. Especially the people who I did not actually get to greet last night or today. Wow! It was so crowded!!

If you don’t mind I would like to recognize three other specific groups that many of our guests belonged to. Eastgate Christian Fellowship is another church family that Karen has belonged to and still had ties to. Jacob, Dylan and their Dad Dennis Gallagher still go there. It is a fantastic church and their pastor, Rob Woodrum, was at the service as well. Karen’s parents have been part of the church family at Youngstown Baptist Church for a few years. There were many from there that came to see us as well. We were blessed to have Campus Pastor – Joe McLendon, there, too. The local Realtors turned out in mass. I had been a Realtor myself for 11 years and then worked at the Association office for 5 years prior to Karen’s diagnosis. Karen was able to attend one or two events a year with me for about 4 years. Not that many times when you think about it, but she had met many of the members with me. Both members that knew her and those that did not attended to offer me words of encouragement, understanding and support.

There were over 40 beautiful floral arrangements and plants. Thank you all so much.

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