Karen and the Big C, Karen Series Part 10 of 10

Note: please see previous posts to catch up – they are a series that all tie together!

I hope you have enjoyed this series dedicated to one of the special people in my life – my sister-in-law, Karen Daubenmire Wohrer. This is the final installment and I am so sorry that she was taken from us at an early age. There could have been nothing better than this bright beautiful soul careening through life while dragging her family and friends along with her. But it was not to be so we have to look back and treasure all the experiences we had with her.

I’ve told you how I met her circa 1970. And we didn’t get along. We fought. We threatened to scratch each other’s eyes out. Then we would have a few good times before things would explode again. But that was all surface crap because we were young and immature. The day Karen had Tara, everything changed. Tara was a delicate preemie born too soon. And two weeks later I had Ellyn. That could have been a constant reminder to Karen of what she lost. But it wasn’t.

Karen treasured Ellyn. And it was a good thing since Ellyn looked more like her than me!

Then Karen had Jamie and Julie. By this time we were past all our mean-girl spats and doted on each other’s kids. I loved hers and she loved mine. And oh what fun we had taking picnics down to the Hocking Hills with our families. Not only that, Karen was always an instigator. After our picnic we would want to ride through the hills and enjoy the scenery. But we didn’t do it in a traditional way… oh no…

Karen made Jim get in my car with my husband Bill so they could ride together and I would get in the passenger seat of her car so we could ride together. The kids landed wherever they did. We took a count to make sure they were all there and off we would go. “Why would I want to ride with that old goat I see every day?” she said to me. (meaning Jim, of course.) “I’d much rather talk to you and get the scoop on my brother.” And then she would laugh loudly as though this was perfectly normal. I would look at her in amazement as I would never have thought of this arrangement myself, but I knew she was brilliant. We had SOOO much fun on those car rides through the hills. And if I remember correctly, she had a few treats hidden away that we could snack on while the guys didn’t know any different! Yes, brilliant, I tell you!

All that pretty much ended when Bill and I moved to Middletown in late 1990. And I’ve detailed a few “Karen” stories that happened after that in previous installments of this series. Even worse, Bill and I got divorced in late 1994. It wasn’t my idea and I talked to Karen a lot during that time. I was broken-hearted over the loss of my own nuclear family and my Daubenmire in-laws. (Who knew I would really miss them for real?) Karen and her oldest daughter Beth and her parents Bill and Betty stuck firmly by me. They were devastated as well.

Here’s a sketch of the gorgeous Beth Anne from that time period…


But divorces happen and lives change and time goes on. I got myself back on track and moved forward and my former Daubenmire family never left me. They still never have even though we lost that close touch we once had. It’s life. And I will tell you this… once I got through that shocking time I was better for it. I got to keep my family AND have a freedom I had never known before. It really worked out for the best and I love my life now.

Lately I’ve connected with Jamie and Julie on Facebook.

Here’s Jamie who has her mother’s twinkling eyes and mischievous smile…

Jamie2Note… Jamie named her son Christian, so Karen got her way after all!

And Julie, who has the same firecracker personality as her mother…


Julie also has her mother’s passion for life and is active in raising money for the National MS Society since all three of these sisters suffer from that malady. If you want to donate check out my previous blog post about my Warrior Nieces. They are awesome!

But let’s go back to the late 90s. I was divorced and had gone back to work for a Fortune 500 company. Painting just didn’t pay the bills. I very often talked to my former in-laws as they cared about me and would call to see how things were going. One day I got a call from Betty and she told me that Karen might be in trouble. When I asked why she told me about the dreadful mammogram results and that things weren’t looking so good.

“That’s not possible!” I insisted.

“I know,” commented Betty. “But I don’t have a good feeling about this.”

We kept in touch and it turned out that Karen did have a rare, aggressive form of breast cancer. I didn’t know what to think. So I got in touch with Karen personally.

Karen called me back at work and sounded like her usual self. “OMG,” she said. “Mom and Dad are freaking out about this and it really is no big deal.”

“How can you say that?” I asked.

“Believe me,” she said. “I go the hospital and get radiation treatments and go right to work. It’s a piece of cake! I’ll be cured in no time.” And I believed her. Then she went on to say that she was trying to plan her mom and dad’s 50th wedding anniversary party and she couldn’t believe I wouldn’t be there to help her. “How can you do this to me?” she cried. “You always know how to do the best parties and get the perfect gift and I don’t care if you aren’t married to my brother anymore, you owe me!” We both laughed and hung up and I knew that was her way of saying she missed me and was going to be ok.

But she wasn’t.

My dear Karen went down that awful dark, lonely breast-cancer path. She took the poisonous meds. She lost her hair. Her beloved husband and daughters and parents had to watch this happen. She did her best to get them through it.

One day I got a call from Betty.

“Karen’s in the James Center and she’s asking for you. If you want to see her, now is the time.”

First I cried. Then I called my best friend and asked her to go with me to Columbus so I could visit Karen. She did.

My friend waited in a nearby room as she had never met any of my former in-law family and I gathered my courage to go see Karen.

I remember walking into the room and there were a lot of people there. But all I really saw was Karen in the bed with her dad on one side and her mom on the other. I hadn’t seen her through this illness and she was almost unrecognizable to me. Karen looked up and our eyes met. “Come here,” she whispered.

I crossed around to the far side of the bed because she was leaning that way and I wanted to get close to her.

Big Bill let go of her arm and put her hand in mine. I felt my throat swell and tears start to come on. I had no words. But Karen did…

“What do I look like?” she asked in earnest.

I was flooded with emotion but I knew just what to say.

“You look like Big Louie to me,” I replied with all the love I could muster.

A wan smile crossed Karen’s face and Big Bill turned his head away as the tears streamed down his face.

I leaned over and kissed Karen for the last time. She slowly closed her eyes and let me go. We both knew it was all we could do.

Some time later when her obituary was published, all her family was listed. And one small sentence after that said she was survived by “special friend, Starr Daubenmire.”

That meant the world to me and still does. Our story was this… Girl meets Girl. Girl hates Girl. Girl marries Girl’s brother. Girl hates Girl even more. Girl experiences the joys and sorrows of life with Girl. Girl eventually becomes friends with Girl. Girl learns that life is better if she loves and depends on Girl. Girl forms bonds with Girl than can never be broken. Girl loves Girl till the end. Girl left behind wants to share the love she felt with departed Girl’s family. Girl writes Girl’s story so it is never lost. Girl loved Girl with all her heart after all.

Karen Sue Daubenmire Wohrer – January 17, 1949 – April 12, 1998


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Charlee Upp Schrader
    May 03, 2015 @ 21:45:31

    What a beautiful tribute.


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